Hockey diplomacy: Pakistan junior team arrives for World Cup

New Delhi: India and Pakistan have stepped up people-to-people engagement — from reopening the Kartarpur corridor recently to restarting hockey diplomacy after three years.

The Pakistan men’s junior hockey team reached Delhi last Saturday to participate in the Junior Hockey World Cup being held in Bhubaneswar from November 24 to December 5.

The last time a Pakistan hockey team was in India was for the senior World Cup in 2018. Before that, they had travelled for the Champions Trophy in 2014. That was the year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reached out to all SAARC leaders, including  then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, for his swearing-in ceremony.

Officials said the Pakistan players were not issued visas for the Junior Hockey World Cup in 2016 – the year of the Pathankot (January 2016) and Uri (September 2016) attacks, which was followed by the surgical strikes (September 2016).

In 2019, Pakistan’s shooting team missed the Delhi World Cup for the same reason – they were not issued visas. This happened in the shadow of the Pulwama terror attack, in which at least 40 security personnel were killed.

But, following a warning by the International Olympic Committee, Indian government gave an that sportspersons from Pakistan would not be stopped from coming to India.

A senior diplomat of the Pakistan High Commission received the members of Pakistan Men’s Junior Hockey Team at the IGI Airport in Delhi.

Since February this year, back channels between the two countries have been working overtime to keep the Line of Control peaceful. But in the last few months, targeted killings in Kashmir queered the pitch.

Image courtesy of (Photo: Hockey India/Twitter)

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