NEW DELHI: India will issue a record number of visas to Pakistani cricket fans when the arch-rivals meet to play their first series since ties were broken after the 2008 Islamist attacks in Mumbai, an official said yesterday.
The Indian government is to issue 3,000 visas to fans attending the series of limited over matches beginning next month, an official in the interior ministry said.
“We will happily host 3,000 Pakistani cricket lovers for the matches. This is the first time that we have decided to issue so many visas in one go,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
India is to host Pakistan for two T20 internationals and three 50 over matches from December 25, beginning in Bangalore. Matches will also be held in Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata and the last game will be played in New Delhi on January 6.
The rivals have not played a series since Pakistan’s tour of India in 2007, after cricket ties were snapped following attacks by militants from Pakistan in Mumbai four years ago that left 166 people dead.
However, the teams have met in international tournaments, including a semi-final at last year’s ODI World Cup in the northern Indian city of Mohali -- a match attended by both countries’ prime ministers.
India won the game comfortably and then went on to win the trophy. “One thousand Pakistanis will be able to watch the Delhi match and 500 will be allowed to attend each of the other games,” said the official. “The BCCI (Indian cricket board) will be given all the necessary instructions to speed up the visa process.”
Another interior ministry official said the Pakistani visitors would have to report to a designated police station immediately after their entry into India.
“Pakistani fans cannot cross over on foot in (the northern state of) Punjab. They can either choose to fly down or board the border train,” the official said.