Pakistan has withdrawn from the 44th Chess Olympiad scheduled to begin in Chennai from Thursday. Citing India’s torch relay through Kashmir on July 21 as a reason for withdrawal, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar said in a statement to Radio Pakistan, “India chose to politicize this prestigious international sporting event.”
He also said, “Pakistan was invited by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) to participate in the Chess Olympiad. A Pakistani contingent was already training for this event.”
Reacting to Pakistan’s decision, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said it was surprising that Pakistan has 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 in New Delhi.
Bagchi asserted that the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh “have been, are and will remain an integral part of India.”
Meanwhile, the marquee event is being hosted by India for the first time and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Olympiad in Chennai on Thursday.
Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi, Chief Minister M K Stalin and Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Thakur among others will be present during the opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor stadium in the city.
The sporting event will be held in the nearby Mamallapuram, about 50 km from Chennai.