NEW DELHI: India’s Davis Cup team, which has been drawn to play an away Asia-Oceania Zone Group 1 tie against Pakistan in mid-September, will in all likelihood be allowed to travel to the neighbouring nation by the Indian authorities, government sources informed TOI on Thursday.
The government has no intention of throwing a spanner in the All India Tennis Association’s (AITA) plans to make its Davis Cup team members travel to Pakistan in their bid to re-enter the World Group qualifiers. India slipped back to the Group 1 of the Asia-Oceania Zone following their disappointing loss to a formidable Italy in the World Group qualifiers last weekend in Kolkata.
“It’s an important tie for India since we are expected to comfortably beat the Pakistani side. Otherwise, a no-show would mean the ITF imposing a heavy fine or sanctioning India from competing in a few ITF events. It would also mean India would have to fight it out in the lower group of the Asia-Oceania Zone,” a government source said.
Sources said the government doesn’t see any problem in the Davis Cup team making a short trip to Pakistan (matches are now played over two days as per the shortened Davis Cup format) since a tennis fixture may not attract the same political and public attention generally reserved for high-profile team sports like cricket and hockey.
Moreover, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has awarded the hosting rights to Pakistan only after conducting a thorough security review of the possible venues in Pakistan. Also, since 2017, Pakistan has hosted Iran, Thailand, South Korea and Uzbekistan for Davis Cup ties under tight security cover and the ITF sees no threat for the Indians.
“We are waiting for the AITA to submit a proposal. Once that comes to us, we will examine it and send it to the ministry of external affairs (MEA) for examining it. The MEA will have to look at it both from the political and security part. If they are OK with it, the sports ministry too will clear it. In case they have an objection, the ministry would explain to them the repercussions of not sending the team to Pakistan since it’s the equivalent of a World Cup tie in tennis and not a bilateral engagement. Nonetheless, the final call will be that of the sports ministry and, at this stage, we don’t see any problem. However, in case there’s a war or a terrorist attack in future, then that’s a different issue,” the source added.
No Indian Davis Cup squad has travelled to Pakistan since March 1964. India had won that tie, held in Lahore, 4-0.
In 2017, Hong Kong had refused to travel to Pakistan citing security concerns and the ITF had fined them $5,000 for the forfeiture. They also had to pay $10,971 separately to the Pakistan federation.
It’s the tense diplomatic relations between the two countries, which has resulted in the Indian government snapping all sporting ties with its neighbour, be it the cricket or hockey. But that has largely restricted bilateral series and not events held under world governing body’s umbrella.