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Rajnath Singh allays Pakistan's World T20 fears

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Pakistan need not worry about the safety of their cricket teams in the ongoing World Twenty20 in India, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Friday.

President of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajnath Singh pauses during the release of his party's manifesto for the April/May general election in New Delhi April 3, 2009. REUTERS/B Mathur/Files

The March 19 clash between the neighbours has already been shifted to Kolkata following Pakistan’s security concerns over the original venue Dharamsala.

Pakistan said on Thursday its men’s and women’s cricket teams would travel to India only after New Delhi gave a public guarantee of the safety of its players.

“Why only Pakistan? Whoever comes here, India provides them security. There is no reason to be worried about security here,” Singh told reporters.

On Thursday, junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju promised foolproof security to Pakistan, a country shunned by top teams since a 2009 attack on a bus carrying a visiting Sri Lanka team near Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.

Outside of international tournaments, cricket matches between the neighbours have been suspended since gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai in a three-day rampage in 2008, which India blames on a Pakistani militant group.

The latest developments threaten to further sour relations between the cricket boards with the powerful BCCI in India accusing its counterpart of looking for a reason to skip the ongoing tournament.

“Unfortunately, Pakistan is looking for an excuse not to come,” BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur told CNN-IBN channel.

“We are providing security to everyone and Pakistan will be given adequate security. They should not be worried about security,” said Thakur, also a member of parliament representing from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

The International Cricket Council, the game’s governing body, said on Wednesday it had been given assurances on security from all the Indian state authorities that are hosting matches.

Former champions Pakistan, who lost to India in the final of the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007, are scheduled to begin their campaign with a March 16 contest against a qualifying team in Kolkata.

Editing by John O’Brien