Visas for athletes from all countries including Pakistan for world events: India tells Olympic top body

FE Online

India on Tuesday assured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that visas will be granted to participants from all countries without prejudice to take part in games held in the country. The clarification comes amid fear of isolation after a three-member Pakistani team was denied visas for the shooting World Cup in Delhi earlier this year.

In a letter to IOC chief Thomas Bach and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra, Sports Secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya said the government will permit all qualified athletes belonging to any National Olympic Committee to participate in events held in India.

Such participation of athletes shall be without prejudice to our principled positions and policies on other political matters, including issues such as international recognition or otherwise of the country of origin of the athletes, the letter reads.

It said that India believes in the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The World is one family) which, in essence, is also the spirit behind the International Olympic Movement. It also stated that New Delhi looks forward to co-operating with the IOA to resolve any matter on hosting of future international sporting events in the country.

The latest decision allows IOA to go ahead with its bids to hold mega-events in the country including the 2032 Olympics. India has expressed desire to host the Asian Beach Games in 2020, Olympic Council of Asia s general assembly in 2020 and the International Olympic Committee session in 2021. Besides, New Delhi has also shown interest in the 2026 Youth Summer Olympics, 2030 Asian Games and 2032 Olympics.

IOA feels that for India, which is the second-most populous country in the world after China, it was the right time to follow its powerful neighbor in showcasing its burgeoning economic muscle through sports events. Through this, the IOA is also hopeful that India will improve its rankings in other games just like cricket.

In February this year, the Pakistani shooting team was denied visa to take part in the Shooting World Cup in Delhi. The decision to not grant visa to Pakistani athletes was taken in the wake of Pulwama terror attack that left 40 Indian brave soldiers dead. The terror attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama was orchestrated by Pakistani terrorists.

By refusing visas to Pakistani sportspersons for the February event, India faced the risk of not being allowed to host events such as Olympics and Asian Games. But the latest assurance to the IOC by New Delhi ensures the south Asian nation stays within global norms against discrimination in sports, including for political reasons.

The IOC had demanded written assurances from India that it will ensure athletes from all countries will be allowed to take part in events held in the country.

The International Shooting Sport Federation and National Rifle Association of Pakistan had claimed the visas were not granted to its athletes because of the Pulwama episode. Around the same time, Pakistani and Pakistan-origin cueists were also denied visas for an Asian Tour 10 Reds Snooker tournament.

Meanwhile, a senior IOA official told The Indian Express that officials will reopen talks to host the 2026 Youth Olympics, 2032 Olympics and an IOC Congress with the world body in India.