The tug-of-war between India and China over Arunachal Pradesh took a fresh turn today after Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur cancelled his scheduled visit to Hangzhou for the Asian Games, to protest against the hosts' denial of visa to three athletes from Arunachal Pradesh.
Describing the Chinese action as targeting of the sportspersons in a "pre-meditated" manner, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the move violates both the spirit of the Asian Games and the rules governing their conduct as they "explicitly prohibits discrimination" against competitors from member states.
When asked about the matter at a foreign ministry briefing in Beijing, spokesperson Mao Ning said China welcomes athletes from all countries to the Asian Games using “legal identification”. “The Chinese government has never recognized so-called “Arunachal”. The area of Zangnan is Chinese territory,” she said, according to the foreign ministry press release.
Bagchi said a "strong protest" has been lodged against China's "deliberate and selective obstruction" of some of India's sportspersons.
"In line with our long-standing and consistent position, India firmly rejects differential treatment of Indian citizens on the basis of domicile or ethnicity. Arunachal Pradesh was, is and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India," he said.
Bagchi said India reserves the right to take "suitable measures to safeguard our interests".
The visa denial row is the latest in the series of long-standing differences between India and China over Arunachal Pradesh. Last month, China had released the 2023 edition of its “standard map”, which showed Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh as South and South-East Asian territories marked within Chinese borders. India had lodged a strong protest against it.
Earlier this year, India had rejected China's objections to Union Home Minister Amit Shah's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, saying the state is an integral and inalienable part of India. China had strongly opposed Shah's visit, saying his activities in the area was violating Beijing's territorial sovereignty.