“The Government can’t convince China to issue normal visas to Arunachalis, nor does it allow us to travel on stapled visas. We are completely sandwiched”

Two young archers from Arunachal Pradesh were prevented by authorities from leaving for China with stapled visas on their passports, triggering strong statements by politicians from the State, led by former Bharatiya Janata Party MP Kieren Rejiju.

In fact, it was Mr. Rejiju who first alerted the media about the incident on Thursday evening, and threatened to quit as an office-bearer of the Archery Association of India that had selected the two Arunachali girls for the Youth World Archery Championship in Wuxi.

Admitting stapled visas to Arunchalis led to misgivings over opening up to China via the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) project. Alka Acharya, head of Chinese Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University, wondered why Mr. Rejiju, who is conversant with the issue, did not move the Foreign Office after the selections were made last month.

Mr. Rejiju said there was no intention to spoil the atmospherics ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing a fortnight later.

The Archery Association said it had checked with the Chinese Embassy which assured them that stapled visas were not a problem in travelling to Wuxi. “The Government can’t convince China to issue normal visas to Arunachalis, nor does it allow us to travel on stapled visas. It is a tragedy. We are completely sandwiched,” he said.

A last-ditch attempt to get stamped visas did not succeed as the Chinese said it was their policy to issue stapled visas to people from Arunachal. The issue has come to life at a time when a high-level team from China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is here to sort out trade and investment issues.

Dr. Acharya felt the issue should be on the agenda for the Prime Minister’s Beijing visit and both sides could aim for an interim solution. Mr. Rejiju suggested a tit-for-tat policy of issuing stapled visas to visitors from the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The biennial championship will be the stepping stone to Rio Olympics for many of the youngsters. That is how the two teenagers — Maselo Mihu and Sorang Yumi — saw it. For, the previous championships saw the emergence of Deepika Kumari who won the silver medal in the world senior championships, just a fortnight back.

The two girls said they were unaware of having had visas stapled on their passports till they reached the airport and were turned back.

This fact — the girls were given stapled visas because China does not recognise India’s ownership of Arunachal Pradesh — led to an emotional e-mail from Mr. Rejiju, followed by statements from Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and Central Minority Affairs Minister Ninong Ering.

Protest lodged

The Archery Association of India (AAI) on Friday criticised the ‘stapled visa’ policy of the Chinese Government because of which two Indian archers could not board the flight to China.

The AAI had picked a squad of 30 athletes and officials for the World youth event to be held from October 13 to 21. The AAI lodged a protest with the Union Ministry of External Affairs over the issue and expressed apprehension that the inability of the compound girl archers to participate in the important event might spoil their career.

In his letter to the MEA, AAI president V.K. Malhotra raised objection to the Chinese Embassy’s discrimination in issuing stapled visas to the inhabitants of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.