New Delhi: A day after Pakistan's National Assembly condemned the hanging of terrorist Afzal Guru, India Friday reacted strongly by cancelling the bilateral hockey series slated for April-May.
Both Hockey India (HI) and Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) had planned a two-legged bilateral series after seven years.
Pakistan were scheduled to play a five-match series in India April 5-15. India were then slated to tour the neighbours for the second leg of the series, also comprising five matches, from April 23.
"The series was cleared by the sports ministry and the home ministry. But yesterday (Thursday) the external affairs ministry informed us that the series has been cancelled," Hockey India (HI) secretary general Narinder Batra told IANS here Friday.
Pakistan were scheduled to play in Ranchi, Lucknow, Delhi, Mohali and Jalandhar while India's matched were slated in the Pakistani cities of Lahore, Faisalabad, Karachi and Sialkot.
The two teams last played a bilateral series in 2006 when both the countries hosted three matches each. Pakistan won three, lost one and two were drawn.
Sporting ties between the two countries were snapped after the 2008 Mumbai attack by Pakistani nationals. While cricket remained off-limits for the Pakistanis, hockey wasn't.
Six Pakistanis were part of the unsanctioned World Series Hockey (WSH) held in 2012. Nine Pakistanis also grabbed lucrative contracts in the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) held earlier this year but they were sent back home following strong protests by right-wing Shiva Sena after tensions flared up in the border.
And now the cancellation of the hockey series comes close on the heels of an abandoned snooker series earlier this month.
The government has taken strong objection to Pakistan's decision to condemn the hanging of Guru.
Guru, who was found guilty of plotting the attack on the Parliament House Dec 13, 2001, was hanged to death Feb 9 after remaining on death row for about eight years. He was buried here in Delhi's Tihar jail.
The National Assembly, or the lower house of the Pakistani parliament, had Thursday passed a resolution condemning the hanging of Guru, a Kashmiri, and expressed concern at the situation created in Jammu and Kashmir after the execution. The resolution was moved by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads a special parliamentary panel on Kashmir.