Spat over visas for Indian Asian Games athletes sparks diplomatic row between New Delhi and Beijing

HANGZHOU, China (AP) — A long-standing border dispute between India and China has left three Indian martial arts competitors stranded at home and unable to make it to the Asian Games in Hangzhou, while sparking a diplomatic row Friday between the two countries.

The three women wushu athletes are from India’s eastern Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety. Unlike the rest of India’s athletes competing at this year’s games who were given Asian Games badges that also serve as visas to enter China, the three were given visas stapled to their passports.

Olympic Council of Asia official Wei Jizhong told reporters in Hangzhou on Friday that the three athletes, Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu, had refused to accept them because they differed from those given the rest of the team.

“According to the Chinese government regulations, we have the right to give them different kind of visa,” he said.

In July, the same athletes did not compete at the World University Games in Chengdu, China, because they were given similar visas.

With the Asian Games opening ceremonies a day away, the OCA’s acting director general, Vinod Kumar Tiwari, who is Indian, said officials were working to resolve the issue.

“This has been brought to our notice yesterday and we are taking up this matter with the organizing committee and will try to find a solution very quickly,” he said.

But disputes over the long border between the two Asian giants run deep, with the countries fighting a war over it in 1962.

More recently, in June 2020, a clash in the Karakoram mountains in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh sparked tensions after soldiers fought with stones, fists and clubs. At least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed.

Asked about the visa issue, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said “China welcomes athletes from all countries” to attend the Asia Games, but also doubled down on Beijing’s position.

“China doesn’t recognize the so-called Arunachal Pradesh province you mentioned,” she said. “The southern Tibetan region is part of China’s territory.”

India responded by filing a protest in New Delhi and Bejing, said Arindam Bagchi, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, who accused China of violating “both the spirit of the Asian Games and the rules governing their conduct.”

“In line with our long-standing and consistent position, India firmly rejects differential treatment of Indian citizens on the basis of domicile or ethnicity,” he said. “Arunachal Pradesh was, is and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India.”

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

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