Former India opener Gautam Gambhir on Monday said the BCCI should either snap all cricketing ties with Pakistan, including multi-lateral events, or engage with the arch-rivals at every level as 'there can't be conditional bans.'
Gambhir, who called for snapping ties with Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack which killed more than 40 CRPF personnel, said the Indian board has to decide and be prepared for the consequences. The responsibility of the Pulwama attack was taken by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed.
"There can't be conditional bans. Either you ban everything with Pakistan or open everything with Pakistan. What has happened in Pulwama is absolutely not acceptable," Gambhir, who was recently conferred the Padma Shri, told reporters on the sidelines of a promotional event.
"I am sure it's going to be difficult for India to boycott them in ICC tournaments, but stop playing Pakistan in the Asia Cup," said the left-hander.
Outspoken in his support for the armed forces on social media, Gambhir reiterated that there should be a blanket ban on engagement with Pakistan even if it comes at the cost of being ostracised by the sporting community.
The BCCI had appealed to the ICC to snap ties with countries from where terror-emanates in a veiled reference to Pakistan. But the request was turned down at the ICC Board meeting in Dubai.
Gambhir cited England's forfeiture of their 2003 World Cup round-robin fixture against Zimbabwe in protest of the Robert Mugabe regime.
"England decided in 2003 and they wouldn't go to Zimbabwe, they forfeited. If BCCI decides not to play against Pakistan, everyone should be mentally ready to give those two points," he said.
"There could be repercussions and we may not qualify for the semi-finals. No media should blame the Indian team if they plan to boycott playing Pakistan," he said.
Asked what should be done if the two teams meet in the final, Gambhir said in that case, India should forfeit the final.
"Two points are not that important. Country is important, those 40 soldiers who lost their lives are far more important than a cricket match. If we let go of a World Cup final, the country should be ready for it. A certain section of society says that don't mix sports with politics but Jawans are far more important than a game of cricket," he added.
India drew the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ire after Pakistani shooters were denied visas for the Delhi World Cup owing to the Pulwama attack.
The IOC suspended all discussion on hosting of major events in India and told other international federations to halt interactions with the country.
The IOC demanded that the Indian Olympic Association must provide government assurance, that none of the participating countries would be denied visa in case India host any event.
Recently, the wrestling world body withdrew the Asian junior championship from India owing to the unresolved matter.
Asked if India's stand could lead to a sporting boycott of the nation in the near future, Gambhir said that he wouldn't mind that.
"All of us need to decide if the sport is more important or lives of our soldiers? I am all for facing backlash if the international sporting federations decide to ostracise us. The sentiment of the country is far more important than sports, Bollywood, art or culture. If we get boycotted at sports events, we should be ready for it," the 37-year-old said.
Amid speculation that he would be getting a BJP ticket to fight the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Gambhir said he is still undecided on taking the political plunge.
"All my life I have only played cricket and and my family needs to be convinced. I have heard from people that full time politics can change people," Gambhir signed off.