Beijing is under fire from New Delhi after three athletes from Arunachal Pradesh were prevented from participating in the Asian Games at Hangzhou. This prompted India’s sports minister, Anurag Thakur, to cancel his forthcoming visit to China. The three women wushu players, hailing from a region claimed by China, were unable to download the necessary travel documents from a Chinese website. However, the remaining ten players on the wushu squad encountered no such issues and departed for Hong Kong on Wednesday, ahead of their onward flight to Hangzhou.
The three affected athletes, Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega, and Mepung Lamgu, had received their accreditation cards, serving as entry visas, from the Hangzhou Asian Games Organising Committee (HAGOC). The athletes were instructed to download their travel documents which would be authorised upon their arrival in China. Unfortunately, they were unable to download these essential documents.
An Indian official highlighted the surprise and confusion surrounding this situation, stating, “Once the athletes received the accreditation cards from the organising committee, it meant that they have been cleared to travel for the Asian Games. But surprisingly, only these three players could not download their documents and they could not board the flight.”
This is not the first time these particular athletes have encountered travel issues to China. In July, they were unable to participate in the World University Games in Chengdu due to being issued stapled visas by China. These visas are a symbol of China’s refusal to acknowledge India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh, a claim India has consistently refused to acknowledge. At that time, the Indian wushu team withdrew from the Chengdu event in protest.
This latest incident has prompted a strong protest from India, both in New Delhi and Beijing. Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for the External Affairs Ministry, stated, “A strong protest has been lodged in New Delhi and Beijing against China’s deliberate and selective obstruction of some of our sportspersons.”
In addition to lodging a formal protest, Anurag Thakur, India’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting and Youth Affairs and Sports, has cancelled his scheduled visit to China for the games. Bagchi criticised the Chinese authorities’ “targeted and premeditated” discrimination against the Indian athletes from Arunachal Pradesh, stating it is in violation of the Asian Games’ spirit and rules, which prohibit discrimination against competitors from member states.
The Indian government has reserved the right to take appropriate measures to safeguard their interests. This incident comes at a time when India-China relations are at a historic low due to ongoing military tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). India has linked the normalisation of relations to the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
Bagchi was unequivocal in his rejection of China’s differential treatment of Indian citizens based on domicile or ethnicity. He reiterated India’s position that Arunachal Pradesh has always been, and always will be, an integral and inalienable part of India.
China’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh as “south Tibet” has been a contentious issue, and its recent move to announce its own names for locations and geographic features in the border state has further inflamed tensions. Beijing’s depiction of Arunachal Pradesh within China’s own borders on a recently released “standard map” was met with rejection from India and several other countries.