NEW DELHI: India on Friday strongly protested China’s decision to issue invalid visas to some of its athletes for the Asian Games, India’s foreign ministry said in a statement, a day before the competition begins in Hangzhou.
The three athletes, competing as wushu fighters from the state of Arunachal Pradesh, were issued stapled visas instead of stamped ones, according to India’s foreign ministry.
India does not accept stapled visas as valid. Wei Jizhong, chairman of Olympic Council of Asia’s ethics committee, told reporters that China did not refuse entry to the athletes.
The practice of issuing visas on loose sheets of paper has been seen as China’s way of questioning India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh, which is situated near the border between the two nations.
In protest, India’s sports minister, Anurag Thakur, cancelled his visit to the games, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The Chinese government has never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh, and the South Tibet region is part of China’s territory,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters on Friday, responding to a question about the Indian athletes.
The Indian Olympic Association and the Wushu Association of India did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Beijing has issued stapled visas to residents of India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, claiming it to be part of China’s southern Tibet. New Delhi vociferously rejects the claim, saying Arunachal Pradesh has always been part of India.
China and India have been uneasy neighbours for decades after a war over their disputed Himalayan frontier in 1962. Relations nosedived in 2020 after a border clash in which 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed.
This year, China ratcheted up tensions by giving Chinese names to 11 locations in Arunachal Pradesh.
With more than 12,000 athletes from 45 nations competing across a programme of 40 sports, the 19th Asian Games opens in Hangzhou on Saturday after a year’s delay because of the Covid-19 pandemic.