Tense India pulls stumps on Pakistan tour

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The Independent Online

India has called off an upcoming cricket tour of Pakistan in the latest fall-out following the Mumbai terror attacks - underlying the simmering tension between the two countries.

The Indian team had been due to travel to Pakistan next month for a series of international matches between the cricket-obsessed neighbours. While India had previously expressed concerns about security for its players, the decision to cancel the tour will seen as much as a diplomatic decision. The government has said it cannot currently have "normal" relations with Pakistan.

"The final decision has been taken. We have got the letter from the Sports Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs not to proceed with the tour," said Rajeev Shukla, a senior official with the Indian cricket board. "The government has declined permission to go ahead with the tour, taking into account the recent developments in Mumbai as well as the overall circumstances prevailing at present."

At least 164 people were killed during the attacks on Mumbai last month. India has said the 10 militants involved - nine of whom were killed - were all from Pakistan. It has subsequently demanded the Pakistan government hand over 20 fugitives it says are hiding in the country.

The Pakistani authorities, led by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani, have moved to detain some senior members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a banned militant group blamed by India for the attacks. It has also closed some offices of a charity associated with the LeT.

Yet the Pakistani authorities continue to insist that India has yet to provide it with evidence that shows Pakistanis were involved in the Mumbai attacks - something it say it requires before it can take action. Mr Zardari recently told the BBC: "If that stage comes, and when it comes, I assure you that our parliament, our democracy, shall take the action properly deemed in our constitution and in our law."

The announcement by India represents the third major tour of Pakistan to be cancelled this year on security grounds. Australia pulled out of a scheduled visit while the International Cricket Council also postponed the Champions Trophy one-day tournament. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has already invited Sri Lanka as replacement opponents. India had been due to play three Tests, five one-day games and a Twenty20 international.

Yesterday meanwhile, the Indian parliament debated a series of anti-terror measures that have been tabled in the aftermath of the attacks. One measure would double the number of days police can detain suspects without charge from 90 to 180 days while another bill would create an FBI-style investigation agency.

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