Stapled Visas: China politicises sports yet again

Indian Martial Arts Players from Arunachal at the 2022 competition in Moscow. Image: Arunachal Times.

By Tsering Choephel

DHARAMSALA, 28th July: Sending a strong message of disapproval and discontent with China’s issuance of ‘stapled visas’ instead of ‘stamped visas’ to three Indian players from Arunachal Pradesh, New Delhi has declared it unacceptable and subsequently withheld all Indian players from departure to China, as reported by the Indian Express yesterday.

The 12-member Indian martial arts team was scheduled to depart on 26 July, to join the competition in the World University Games in Chengdu, from 28 July – 8 Aug and later to compete in the Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, China in September.

Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, stated, “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.”

Three women Indian players, Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu – from Arunachal Pradesh, a northeast state of India bordering Chinese-occupied Tibet, were issued “stapled visas” instead of “stamped visas”.

This is not the first time the Chinese Communist Party(CCP) has issued stapled visas to Indian citizens from Arunachal Pradesh. The report cited the case of 2011 and 2016 case, where athletes from the region were issued stapled visas and denied visas respectively. China employed the same gambit on Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir in 2009 as well. 

By issuing stapled visas, CCP is asserting its claim of Arunachal Pradesh as “South Tibet and challenge India’s sovereignty over its largest northeast state.

In 2021, Beijing’s Ministry of External Affairs released Chinese standardised names to 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh, along with their exact coordinates and mapped them within China. 

Shashi Tharoor, a member of the Indian Parliament, clearly exasperated with China’s tactics, has tweeted “Enough is enough” and suggested similar tactics to deal with Beijing.

He said, “Enough is enough. Instead of frustrating our sportsmen & every other Arunachali seeking a Chinese visa, we should simply start issuing stapled visas ourselves, to anyone applying for an Indian visa from Tibet. And say we will continue to do so until the disputed border between Tibet and India is settled.”

According to the Hindustan Times, India has clarified since that the stapled-visa issue will not impact the participation of Indian athletes in the upcoming Asian Games.  

Military standoff between India and China enters its fourth year this year, with both sides heavily building up their foothold along the 4,056 Kilometres long border. 

At the core of the Indo-China border dispute lies the issue of “Tibet”. Without unlocking the existing web of dichotomy: the origin of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the occupation of Tibet, New Delhi’s Tibet Policy and CCP’s expansionist agenda, a friendly neighbour is only a distant dream.

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