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Explained: Why athletes from Arunachal face visa issues for events in China

Three karatekas from Arunachal Pradesh have qualified for the Asina Games to be held in Hangzhou, China. They are now worried about making it to the Chinese capital without visa issues

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Abhishek Singh New Delhi
With the Asian Games 2023 barely three months away, Indian athletes are gearing up to take part in it and boost their chances of making it to the Paris Olympics 2024. The continental event holds provides opportunities for the players to make direct entry into the Olympics. However, for three karate players from Arunachal Pradesh, the road to Paris might not be as difficult as reaching Hangzhou, China, where the Asian Games are scheduled to take place from September 23 to October 8, 2023. 

Abab Sangdo, Mesom Singhi, and Johny Magnkhaiya are three Arunachal residents who have qualified for the Asian Games in the Indian Karate contingent. There is one player from Arunachal who has qualified for the Indian Taekwondo team and one is on standby. They qualified after winning in their respective weight categories trials held in New Delhi by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Sports Authority of India (SAI). But more than the happiness of qualification, it is the worry of getting the visas without facing many hurdles, evident on the faces of these athletes. 

What is the visa issue? 

Having a domicile of Arunachal Pradesh means that these athletes would get staple visas from China. It is a policy of China to give staple visas to Indian residents of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu Kashmir as it claims the areas of Ladakh and Arunachal as part of Tibet and therefore its own. Thus, giving visas to citizens of a part of the world it considers its own, would mean giving up the sovereignty over that area. 

As a result, the Chinee started issuing staple visas which are not stamped and instead are stapled on the passport as leaflets, which could be removed once the journey of a person is complete. India objects to it and therefore does not allow anyone with a staple visa to travel to China. 

What has happened in the past?

2011: Five members of the 45-strong Indian karate team, which was to travel to Quanzhou, China for an Asian Championship, were stopped at the IGI Airport in Delhi and returned home. They were all Arunachal citizens carrying staple visas issued by the Chinese Embassy in India. 

2013: Two Indian archers from Arunachal Pradesh, Maselo Mihu and Sorang Yumi were stopped from boarding a flight to Wuxi where the Archery Youth World Championships was to take place. 

2016: Bamang Tago, Indian Badminton Team’s manager, was denied a normal visa by the Chinese Embassy because of his Arunachal domicile and therefore failed to travel to China for the China Open Superseries tournament with the 14-member Indian unit. 

Chances high for a normal visa this time around 

Though it is hard to confirm but the karatekas themselves are confident that this time around they would get the normal visa as Asian Games is a multinational sporting event, the second biggest in the world in terms of the number of nations participating. 

"It’s a major event, a proper ‘Games’. So I don’t foresee any visa troubles this time," Likha Tara, head of the Arunachal Pradesh Karate Association was quoted as saying by Indian Express.

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First Published: Jun 26 2023 | 5:20 PM IST

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