China issues stapled visas for India’s Wushu athletes from Arunachal Pradesh | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Politics derails sport: China issues stapled visas for India’s Wushu athletes from Arunachal Pradesh

ByAvishek Roy,
Jul 28, 2023 06:41 AM IST

Stapled visas are meant to indicate that China doesn’t recognise India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh.

New Delhi India on Thursday lodged a strong protest with China over three Arunachal Pradesh players in the national wushu team being given stapled visas instead of regular ones, with New Delhi saying the practice is unacceptable and could draw a suitable response from the Indian side.

Three women players – Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu – are from Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China even as India strongly rejects this position. (AP file)
Three women players – Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu – are from Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China even as India strongly rejects this position. (AP file)

The wushu team’s departure for Chengdu, China, to compete in the World University Games (July 28 to August 8) was put off by the government on Wednesday night because three members were issued stapled visas. The 12-member team included eight players, a coach, and three officials.

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Three women players – Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu – are from Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China even as India strongly rejects this position.

“It has come to our notice that stapled visas were issued to some of our citizens representing the country in an international sporting event in China. This is unacceptable and we have lodged our strong protest with the Chinese side, reiterating our consistent position on the matter,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a routine media briefing on Thursday.

“India reserves the right to suitably respond to such actions,” he said, reiterating that India’s long-standing and consistent position is that “there should be no discrimination or differential treatment on the basis of domicile or ethnicity in the visa regime for Indian citizens holding valid Indian passports”.

Stapled visas are meant to indicate that China doesn’t recognise India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh.

The development came against the backdrop of the military standoff between India and China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since May 2020, which has taken bilateral ties to a six-decade low.

People familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named, said visas for the team were applied for on July 16. While the other team members got their visas on time, documents for the players from Arunachal Pradesh weren’t accepted.

They were finally asked to submit their documents again on Tuesday, and the Chinese embassy returned their passports with stapled visas on Wednesday, the people said.

The three players were scheduled to depart for Chengdu on Thursday night. The other members of the wushu team were to fly out at 1 am on Thursday. The people said the entire team has said it will boycott the event in China.

The government, after being apprised of the issue, directed the wushu team to put its travel plans “on hold”. The team came back from IGI airport in Delhi at around 2.30 am, while those from other disciplines left for Chengdu.

All the three players from Arunachal Pradesh are also part of India’s Asian Games squad. The Asian Games are scheduled to be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23. An official aware of the matter said the accreditation numbers (which are sent to a National Olympic Committee confirming entries) of the three players have arrived, but with the latest development, there are concerns about their participation in the Asiad.

The development was, of course, a big blow to the wushu team, which was expecting to win medals at the World University Games. The team included 2018 Asian Games medallist Roshibina Devi Naorem of Manipur.

The Indian contingent for the World University Games is sent by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), which organises selection trials for athletes from universities across India.

China has in the past refused visas to sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh or issued stapled visas, effectively barring their travel.

In 2011, the Chinese embassy issued stapled visas to five karate players from Arunachal Pradesh for a championship in Quanghou. In 2013, two archers, Maselo Mihu and Sorang Yumi, were stopped from participating in the Youth World Archery Championship for the same reason.

Allowing Indians from the state with stapled visas to travel to China would amount to acknowledging that Arunachal Pradesh is disputed territory, and immigration officials at all airports have instructions not to allow anyone with a stapled visa to board a flight to China, one of the people cited above said.

China began the practice of issuing stapled visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh in the mid-2000s and it extended the practice to residents of Jammu & Kashmir in 2009. During a visit to India in 2014, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi contended that stapled visas do “not undermine or compromise our respective positions on the border question”.

In response to these practices, India stopped referring to the “one China” policy in official documents more than a decade ago.

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