New Delhi, Aug 8: Amid rising diplomatic tensions with Pakistan, India's national tennis federation is likely to approach the sport's world governing body ITF, seeking a neutral venue for the Davis Cup tie against the neighbours which was originally planned in Islamabad.
Following the revocation of the provisions of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir by the union government, which took away the state's special status, Pakistan on Wednesday downgraded diplomatic ties with India. The Indian envoy in Pakistan was asked to leave the country.
"It might affect the tie. It's too early to say but what I intend to do is to wait for one or two days to see what turn the situation takes. Then we will ask ITF (International Tennis Federation) to look into the situation and take a call. And if required, consider a neutral venue," AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee told PTI.
The tie is scheduled for September 14 and 15 in the Pakistani capital and the federation had begun the process to procure visas for the players. "If they (Pakistan) don't issue visas, how do we go to Pakistan? They might not issue the visas. And if they give visas, will they be able to give us proper security so that we feel comfortable?" he elaborated on the many predicaments that AITA is dealing with right now.
No Indian Davis Cup team has travelled to Pakistan since 1964 and bilateral cricket ties between the two countries have been dormant since the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai.
"Pakistan has played a lot of ties at neutral venues. So we will definitely approach the ITF for a neutral venue because the situation is very sensitive at the moment. They have to take a call. But we will not say that we will not go to Pakistan. I don't want to take that road, I don't want the team to be penalised," added the AITA official.
What if the ITF refuses to shift the tie, Chatterjee said, "Security parameters are set by the ITF, not us. In case of any mishap, the responsibility will be with the ITF. That's why they have to look into it in a proper manner."
Chatterjee said in the current scenario, they will also seek the central government's view. "The relations with AITA and Pakistan Tennis Federation are very cordial but it's an issue between the two countries. We will wait and then approach both the ITF and our government," he said. Earlier, the AITA had maintained that the Sports Ministry has not raised any objection to the team travelling to Pakistan.
It had also asserted that AITA did not need either the Home Ministry or the Ministry of External Affairs' approval to send players to Pakistan. When Hong Kong had refused to travel to Pakistan in 2017 for the Group II semifinals, their federation was fined USD 10,000 by the ITF, which also demoted the team to a lower Group in Asia/Ocean zone.
If India forfeit the tie, the team will be left to fight it out in Group II next year and make its way up in the following years. There are four groups in Asia/Oceania zone, with I being the highest and IV the lowest. However, if visas are not granted to the Indian players and officials, then the ITF cannot hold AITA responsible for the tie not going ahead and the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) will be answerable for such a situation.