LAHORE - The Indian government likely to issue a multi-city visa to Pakistani cricket fans wanted to witness forthcoming Pakistan-India cricket series beginning from December 25 if they could provide return traveling tickets of cities where matches would held besides having an Indian sponsor, it has been learnt.

A committee formed within the Union Home Ministry has suggested that tickets to the venue and the return tickets would ensure regulating the visiting Pakistani cricket lovers, Indian official sources reportedly said.

“There will be no relaxation of visa rules for the cricket fans. We cannot compromise our security as it is our prime concern. So, whoever seeks a visa, has to name a local sponsor,” a Home Ministry official said.

Union Home Ministry, while giving a go ahead for Indo-Pak cricket series, had conveyed to Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that it would have to strictly abide by the rules framed for allowing Pakistani spectators to enter into India.

The Home Ministry has made it mandatory for each Pakistani cricket fan wanted to witness the forthcoming cricket series to have a local sponsor for obtaining Indian visa. The Home Ministry will also seek advance list of special guests of Pakistan Cricket Board who will be issued multi-city visa, the sources said.

This strange Indian condition of local sponsor is apparently inspired by the concept of ‘sponsors’ used in visa laws of Gulf countries where foreign visitors need local ‘sponsors’ to become eligible for a visa. This method is used in the Gulf mainly to discourage immigrants, and as a way to generate income for citizens. Most foreigners informally pay local ‘sponsors’ to get a visa.

In India, it appears Indian authorities want to generate funds from Pakistani visitors through indirect ways. Instead of imposing a large tax on each visitor, which could infuriate Pakistani government, the Indian government has resorted to the ‘sponsor’ concept, where Pakistanis will pay Indian citizens informally to get an Indian visa to watch cricket matches where Pakistani team is playing on Indian soil. In the Gulf, sponsors are paid anything from $1,500 to $6,000 depending on the type of visa. In the crazy world of cricket, die-hard fans would be ready to pay to get a visa to watch a match and root for their team.

Most Pakistani visitors to India are only interested in attending cricket matches involving their home team or to visit Islamic historical landmarks like the Taj Mahal, a relic of Muslim dynastic rule in India that spawned Pakistan.

The Indian move to introduce local ‘sponsors’ can only be explained as a diplomatic way of limiting the number of Pakistani visitors and an attempt to levy an indirect tax on Pakistanis willing to pay to watch their home team play in India.

The visa applicants will also have to attach a copy of the ticket purchased to watch the series that would comprise three ODIs and two Twenty20 Internationals from December 25 this year and January 6, next year. The ODI matches will be played in Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi and the Twenty20 games will be held in Bangalore and Ahmedabad.

Meanwhile, it has been learn that Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik reportedly had talked to Indian counterpart for accommodating maximum number of Pakistani fans for the Pak-India series and relaxation of the conditions of visa on Monday. The Indian counterpart assured Rehman Malik that they will discuss the issue with the concerned authorities for his request and later will inform him accordingly. Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is hopeful that the resumption of bilateral cricket ties with India will also lead to people to people contact.

The Pakistani premier made these observations when the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Zaka Ashraf called on him to brief him about the upcoming tour to India and cricket matters.

"The Prime Minister praised the PCB chairman for his efforts in the resumption of bilateral cricket ties with India," a source revealed. "He is also confident that when Pakistan will tour India it would also lead to better understanding and increased contacts between the people of both countries," he said.

The media also reported that Raja Pervez Ashraf had made it clear to PCB chief to make no compromises on discipline. "The PM said that the board should follow a strict policy of merit only when selecting teams as the most deserving and best players could represent the country."

The PM also directed the PCB that in matters of discipline and code of conduct it should make no compromises regardless of the player involved, the source added.