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Diplomacy

Pakistan Backs Out of Chess Olympiad Over Torch Relay Passing Through Srinagar

'By passing the torch relay through IIOJK, in utter disregard of the globally acknowledged 'disputed' status of the territory, India has committed a travesty that the international community cannot accept under any circumstances,' Pakistan said.

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New Delhi: Pakistan, which had until yesterday been set to participate in the 44th Chess Olympiad being hosted by India, has now backed out, saying that India is “politicising” the event.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate the Olympiad in Tamil Nadu’s Mamallapuram on Thursday, July 28. This is the first time India is hosting the marquee event.

This year’s Olympiad has attracted a record number of entries in the Open (188) and women’s (162) sections.

The torch relay, which has passed through 75 cities in the past 40 days and will reach the venue before the official opening, has appeared to be the bone of contention.

“Regrettably, India has chosen to politicize this prestigious international sporting event by passing the torch relay of this event through the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK),” Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a release on July 28.

Pakistan calls the area within the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir ‘Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir’. India does not agree to this nomenclature.

“The torch relay passed through Srinagar on 21 June 2022. By passing the torch relay through IIOJK, in utter disregard of the globally acknowledged “disputed” status of the territory, India has committed a travesty that the international community cannot accept under any circumstances,” Pakistan said.

Calling India’s decision to carry the torch relay through Srinagar “provocative and indefensible,” Pakistan has said that it will raise the matter with “the International Chess Federation at the highest level”.

It has also condemned what it calls is India’s “mischievous attempt to mix politics with sports.”

“Pakistan also strongly urges the international community to call upon India to end its gross and systematic violations of human rights in IIOJK, revoke its illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019, and free all political prisoners including the true Kashmiri leaders,” Islamabad noted, in a press release that also accused India of ‘tyrannical occupation’ of the region for ‘over seven decades’.

Reacting to Pakistan’s decision, the ministry of external affairs’ (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said it was surprising that Pakistan had suddenly taken the decision not to participate in the event.

“It is highly unfortunate that Pakistan has politicised the prestigious international event by making such statements and withdrawing its participation after its team has already reached India,” he said.

Bagchi asserted that the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh “have been, are and will remain an integral part of India”.

Note: This copy, published at 11:00 am on July 28, was updated at 5:53 pm on the same day with the reaction from India’s ministry of external affairs.