BANGALORE – Security fears that always arise when traditional adversaries Pakistan and India contest each other in international sport were evident today as police bomb squad officers and sniffer dogs combed Bangalore stadium as part of a massive security operation for the start of the first Pakistan cricket tour to India in five years.
Hardline Indian nationalist organisations including Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena have both threatened to hold protests outside all the venues for the five-match series which begins in Bangalore tomorrow evening.
The Indian government has said it will issue a record number of 3,000 visas to Pakistani fans attending the series – the first since the 2008 Mumbai attacks which led to a complete breakdown in relations between the two countries.
“As the governments of both the countries have agreed to hold the bilateral series, no organisation will be allowed to disrupt the match,” Bangalore police commissioner Jyotiprakash Mirji told reporters on the eve of the first match.
As many as 5,000 security personnel, including a 100-member bomb squad, have been deployed to cover the match, fearing attempts to disrupt the game or even stage an attack.
Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist party based in Mumbai, has branded the tour a “national shame” and accused Indian cricket authorities of “betraying the country for sake of money”.
The same organisation dug up the wicket at the Feroz Shah Kotla cricket ground in the capital New Delhi in 1999 ahead of an India-Pakistan Test although the match did go ahead.
Cricket has been used in the past to mend diplomatic ties.†