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Security extremely tight for match

March 28, 2011 at 1:55 AM   |   Comments

NEW DELHI, March 28 (UPI) -- The India-Pakistan semifinal World Cup cricket match is likely to surpass any sport battle in history at least in terms security and fan following.

The match set for Wednesday has already turned the venue Mohali and adjacent Chandigarh in north India near New Delhi into security fortresses with even a no-fly zone in place, the Times of India reported Monday.

Fan following for cricket, a powerful legacy of British colonial history, is already the largest in the world, with most of the people of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka so passionately devoted to the sport they sometime bring routine life in their countries to a virtual standstill when a major game is on.

The cricket rivalry between India and Pakistan magnifies this mania severalfold as both also are traditional political rivals with their current bilateral relations deeply strained by the deadly November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.

Even as the two countries are trying to improve their political situation, there has been much talk on television channels that Wednesday's match could be a cricket diplomacy tactic to achieve that goal.

Indian security authorities, also aware of terror threats, have mounted extremely tight security in the Chandigarh area as among those expected to witness the game are Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his Pakistan counterpart Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and other important people from both countries.

Tickets to the match have been sold out long ago and every hotel room in a wide vicinity is booked solid. There is also hardly any place to park the private jets of the wealthy.

The Times said as part of the no-fly restrictions, anti-aircraft guns have been deployed strategically and India's air force would be on standby for air surveillance while fighter jets from nearby Ambala base would be on the ready for any emergency.

Other layers of security also are in place.

Wednesday`s match will be the first between the two countries on Indian soil since the Mumbai attacks, which India says were masterminded by terror groups based in Pakistan.

Last week, a man suspected of plotting a terror attack at the World Cup was arrested, visiting Interpol Chief Ronald Noble announced in Pakistan, noting thanks "to the cooperation of Pakistan and other countries we were able to make sure that the World Cup remains safe."

The secretary-general of the international police organization, however, did not identify the suspect or the location of his arrest, saying only it occurred after the man left Karachi, Pakistan's largest city.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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