India has pulled out of the World University Games being held in China’s Chengdu starting Friday, in response to stapled visas being issued to athletes from India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Earlier, before Thursday midnight, officials in New Delhi barred an eight-member contingent, including five athletes, a coach and two support staff members, from boarding their flight to China just before their departure.

Hours later, it turned out New Delhi had withdrawn from the games altogether, marking a strong protest against China’s attempts to normalise its segregated approach towards India’s Arunachal Pradesh.

“We were stopped at the gate by immigration officials and CISF personnel. They did not give any reason and claimed they were merely acting on the government’s instructions,” Coach Raghvendra Singh was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

China issued stapled visas to athletes from Arunachal

The controversy erupted after Beijing issued stapled, not stamped, visas to Indian athletes hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, who were to participate in the wushu (martial art) championship in China.

The athletes applied for a Chinese visa on July 16. The applications of all athletes were processed in time and stamped visas were issued subsequently barring applications from three Arunachal athletes -- Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu.

They were first asked to resubmit their applications and later were issued stapled visas on Wednesday (July 26).

India calls the decision ‘unacceptable’

India’s Ministry for External Affairs (MEA) called the decision by China “unacceptable”, adding that “India reserves the right to suitably respond to such actions”.

“Our long-standing and consistent position is that there should be no discrimination or differential treatment based on domicile or ethnicity in the visa regime for Indian citizens holding valid India passports,” the MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

“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,” he said.

Why were stapled visas issued?

China claims India’s Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh to be so-called disputed territories.

It follows the practice of issuing stapled visas to athletes from these regions for a long time. In 2011, five karatekas from Arunachal were also issued stapled visas.

In May, China also declined to take part in a G20 tourism meeting held in India’s Kashmir, saying that it did not support “holding any kind of G20 meetings in disputed territory”. (Wion)