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FHockey: India scraps Pakistan series after tensions spike

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

India's national hockey team announced Friday that it was calling off a series against arch-rivals Pakistan planned for next month amid growing tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Narinder Batra, the secretary general of Hockey India, said that the decision had been made at the instigation of the government less than three weeks before the start of the five-match home series.

"The foreign ministry did not give permission (for the series)," he told AFP.

Pakistan, which had been due to host a return series straight afterwards, deplored India's decision, saying sports events were in the wider interest of both countries.

"Pakistan believes that in the larger interest of maintaining peace between Pakistan and India, sustained and uninterrupted implementation of confidence building process including sports events is required," its foreign ministry said.

Asif Bajwa, secretary of the Pakistan Hockey Federation, threatened that Pakistan could pull out of the junior world cup to be staged across the border in December this year.

The cup is being held under the auspices of the International Hockey Federation, which could take action against Pakistan for not participating.

"We condemn India's policy of mixing politics with sport and if they continue to do so it will be a big loss for hockey fans and for hockey in Asia," Bajwa told reporters.

"We will not play the hockey series on a neutral venue and now, if they agree to play a hockey series in the future, then India will have to tour us first," the former Olympian added.

India and Pakistan had been due to play five matches from April 5-15 but the sport has now become the latest victim of tensions between the two countries, particularly over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Five Indian paramilitary police were killed in an ambush on Wednesday in Srinagar, the main city in the Indian-administered part of the territory.

Indian officials have said the attackers -- who were themselves shot dead -- appeared to have come from Pakistan, despite denials from Islamabad.

The Indian government has also been angered by a resolution passed by the Pakistani parliament on Thursday, denouncing the recent hanging in Delhi of a Kashmiri separatist convicted of plotting an attack on the national parliament.

Last week, Pakistan was forced to put off a snooker series after India raised security concerns after a bomb attack killed 50 people in Karachi on March 3.

Several Pakistani hockey stars were also forced to pull out of the inaugural Indian Hockey League in January following a spate of killings across the de facto border in Kashmir.

The two sides last played a bilateral field hockey series in 2006 although they recently faced off in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup at Ipoh in Malaysia.

The countries have won 11 Olympic field hockey titles between them and dominated the Games arena for decades, with India winning eight and Pakistan three.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130315/fhockey-india-scraps-pakistan-series-after-tensions-spike-1