ISLAMABAD - An Indian delegation met with Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) minister Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada here at Pakistan Sports Complex and invited him at the opening ceremony of 12th South Asian Games, scheduled to be held in India from February 5 to 16.

The delegation was led by comprising by Member Indian Parliament Bhubaneswar Kalita while others members include Deputy High Commissioner of India JP Singh, Indian Olympic Association (IOA)’s secretary Rajeev Mehta, Joint Secretary Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports Government of India Onkara Kedia, Secretary to Government of India Ministry of Skills Development, Entrepreneurship, Youth Affairs and Sports AK Patro and a few other members of the Indian embassy in Islamabad. From Pakistani side, IPC secretary M Ali Gardezi and PSB Director General Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera were also present in the meeting. Bhubaneswar extended invitation of sending Pakistani contingent to participate in the forthcoming 12th South Asian Games scheduled to be held at Guawati and Shillong, India from February 5 to 16 but also come as guest of honour which Mian Riaz cordially accepted but also clarified that Pakistani contingent participation in the Games subject to approval by the government.

Riaz said: “We should separate politics and sports. Pakistani contingent is ready to participate in the forthcoming South Asian Games in 21 different categories and it consists of around 440 players, coaches and officials.” He showed great concern over the security issues. Bhubaneswar assured that foolproof security would be provided to the Pakistani contingent. He said Pakistani participation would improve the bond between the two neighbouring countries, although there were a few minor nature of issues, yet they could be resolved through dialogues. Talking to The Nation soon after the meeting, Bhubaneswar said the Games would be conducted in free, fair and transparent manner. “We will not only provide security to all the visiting nations, but also ensure special security for Pakistanis. We must separate sports from politics.”

When asked about security issues and whether BJP and other extremist organisations exist, where the games would be held, Bhubaneswar said: “Yes, some minor issues do occur, but BJP or other extremist are not in such numbers where the games would be conducted. We will ensure no untoward incident occurs. I am highly grateful to the IPC minister for accepting our invitation of visiting India during the Games. We have enjoyed great hospitality of Mian Riaz and PSB DG Dr Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera and enjoyed our stay here. We also have meal at PSB premises and it was very really wonderful. We would cherish these moments and looking forward to welcome Mian Riaz and Pakistani contingent in India.” When asked only four routes were allowed to Pakistanis while entering India, whether some special arrangements would be made for Pakistanis, Bhubaneswar replied: “We will conduct officials meeting and discuss in detail about exploring other ideas and providing special route to Pakistani contingent.”

It will be the biggest sports extravaganza in North India, as 228 events in 23 disciplines will be conducted during the Games. Total 16 disciplines will be held in Guwahti, which include athletics, badminton, basketball, volleyball, handball, swimming, triathlon, hockey, weightlifting, wrestling, squash, shooting, kho kho, kabbadi, cycling and tennis, while six disciplines including archery, boxing, judo, table tennis, taekwando and wushu will be held in Shillong. Men football to be held at Guwahti and female soccer at Shillong.”

Sharing his views, Mian Riaz said Pakistan always supported healthy sporting activities. “We have never stopped our players from travelling to India or any other part of the world. It is my strong belief sports help in bridging gaps amongst communities and under present tense environment, the players can help ease tensions and people-to-people contact is also in great benefit to both the neighbouring countries.”

“We have a very fruitful meeting with the Indian delegation and I will discuss it in detail with Prime Minister and other relevant persons. I am quite sure Pakistan will take part in the South Asian Games. We have established long-training camps at the PSB and I am quite hopeful our athletes will perform well,” Riaz concluded.