India on Thursday criticised Pakistan for pulling out of the 44th Chess Olympiad in Tamil Nadu by saying that the torch relay passed through Jammu and Kashmir, PTI reported.

The International Chess Federation had invited Pakistan to participate in the Olympiad, which is being held in Mamallapuram from Thursday till August 10.

However, in a last-minute decision, Pakistan withdrew from the event. The country’s players are due to return on Thursday night, Olympiad Director and General Secretary of the All India Chess Federation Bharat Singh Chauhan told PTI.

Earlier in the day, the Pakistan foreign ministry issued a statement announcing its decision to boycott the game.

“Pakistan condemns India’s mischievous attempt to mix politics with sports,” it said. “As a protest, Pakistan has decided not to participate in the 44th Chess Olympiad and will also raise the matter with the International Chess Federation at the highest level.”

Pakistan cited that the torch relay of the event passed through Jammu and Kashmir, which according to it is a disputed territory. The torch relay passed through the Union Territories on June 21, The Hindu reported.

“By passing the torch relay through IIOJK [Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir], 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,” the foreign ministry’s statement added.

Pakistan said India can neither seek nor claim international legitimacy for its “unjustifiable, illegal and tyrannical occupation” of IIOJK.

At a press conference later, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said it was “highly unfortunate” that Pakistan has politicised a prestigious international event by making such comments.

“It is surprising that Pakistan has taken the decision to not participate in the Olympiad, particularly after its team has reached India,” he added.

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

This is the first time that India is hosting the Chess Olympiad after it was moved out of Russia.

During the opening ceremony in Chennai on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Olympiad is “coming to Asia for the first time in three decades”.

Relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated since terrorist attacks at the Pathankot air base in January 2016 and on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama in February 2019.

India’s move to remove the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution and to bifurcate the erstwhile state into two Union Territories also strained ties between the two countries.

In April, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that Islamabad wants good relations with New Delhi, but “durable peace” is not possible until the Kashmir dispute is resolved.