Police were out in full force in Bangalore on Tuesday as part of a massive security operation ahead of Pakistan’s first cricket tour of India for five years.
The tour, the first by Pakistan since 2007, begins with a Twenty20 international which will be played under lights at Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy stadium later on Tuesday.
Iron barricades were lined up and riot control vehicles on duty as security men patrolled the stadium in the heart of Bangalore, the capital of the southeastern state of Karnataka.
“We have completely sanitised and secured the stadium. We are confident that the match will be played without any disruptions,” a security officer on duty said.
Police were seen carrying out heavy frisking at the imposing stadium gates with as many as 200 surveillance cameras mounted on mastheads for constant monitoring of all activity in and around the ground.
A crack police force, including Indian army commandos, were guarding the luxury ITC Gardenia hotel, where both teams are staying.
The teams are set to play another Twenty20 match in the western city of Ahmedabad followed by three one-day matches during the short series, which is the first since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The Islamist attacks which killed 166 people led to a complete breakdown in relations between the two countries before efforts were renewed last year to bring their fragile peace process back on track.
Hardline Indian nationalist organisations including Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena have both threatened to hold protests outside all the venues, slamming the Indian government’s decision to host Pakistan.
New Delhi has defended the move by stressing the need to move the “clock forward”.
Cricket has been used in the past to mend diplomatic ties between the two nations, which have fought three wars since they gained independence in 1947.
In a show of diplomatic bonhomie, the prime ministers of both nations symbolically shook hands as they watched their teams in the semi-final of last year’s World Cup in the northern Indian city of Mohali.
But the prospects of a diplomatic dividend this time round appear slim and there has been no announcement of a visit by a Pakistani leader for any match.
The local press on Tuesday lamented the lack of buzz that usually marks the build-up to India-Pakistan encounters.
The Indian Express newspaper noted that the series had been put together more as a “neighbourly gesture than anything else, leaving the tour in many ways fighting for context”.