The Sports Ministry on Friday officially came out with a policy on Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI), saying, "Only Indian citizens could avail of government assistance to represent the country."
The move, ministry officials said, would block players holding foreign passports from representing India, and the names of those currently in the list of 2010 Commonwealth Games probables would be struck off.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Secretary (Sports) Sudhir Nath said that there was no ambiguity in the policy. "No foreign passport holder will be allowed to don India colours even if he is spending from his/her own pocket. Only Indian citizens will be allowed to represent the country," he said.
But as HT reported on Friday, the move has, however, not gone down well with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). Its secretary-general, Randhir Singh, reiterated on Friday that the decision to represent a particular country rested with the international federations, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC)." He had said on Thursday that the IOA was not even consulted on the matter.
However, in an SMS sent out to journalists, a Ministry spokesman stated: "The Ministry wrote to IOA and federations twice on November 4 and December 1. The IOA didn't offer any comments despite (our) writing twice and (their) being given sufficient time."
The Ministry's press release further stated: "The issue of PIOs and OCIs representing the country in international sports events has been a subject matter of debate in some of the National Sports Federations (NSFs), and in the absence of a uniform national policy on the matter, different federations have been following different rules in this regard.
"The majority opinion has emerged in favour of restricting the representation of India in international sports events to players who are citizens of India. Some federations have not offered any comments on the matter and have indicated that they would adhere to the policy laid down by the government in this regard," the release said.
"Based on the responses received from the federations, the entire matter has been carefully examined by the government and, after taking into account all relevant considerations, including the general and specific rights conferred upon PIOs and OCIs as also other considerations such as the limited availability of resources to invest in building world class athletes and the long-term interests of the country to emerge as a frontrunner in the field of sports, the government has taken the decision to provide assistance only to those players who have Indian citizenship. The IOA and all the recognised NSFs have been advised accordingly," the release added.