Clearing the way for sportspersons from Pakistan to compete in international events held in India, the government assured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Tuesday that visas will be granted to participants from all countries “without prejudice”.
This allows the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to go ahead with its bids to host mega events, including the 2032 Olympics. In February, India was on the verge of isolation after a three-member Pakistani team was refused visas for the shooting World Cup in Delhi.
In a letter to IOC chief Thomas Bach and IOA president Narinder Batra, Sports Secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya said the government will “permit all qualified athletes belonging to any National Olympic Committee…” to take part in events held in India.
Clears the way for global event bids
By refusing visas to sportspersons from Pakistan in February, India faced the risk of not being allowed to host big-ticket events such as Olympics and Asian Games. The assurance ensures India stays within global norms against discrimination in sports, including for political reasons.
“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 country of origin of the athletes,” the letter stated.
It said that the “commitment of the Government of India stems from our world view of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ or ‘The World is one family’ which, in essence, is also the spirit behind the International Olympic Movement”.
”We look forward to co-operating with the IOA to resolve any matter… on hosting of future international sporting events by India,” the letter stated.
A senior IOA official told The Indian Express that they will reopen talks to host the 2026 Youth Olympics, 2032 Olympics and an IOC Congress with the world body. “We have sent letters regarding the same to the IOC on Tuesday and it is likely to be discussed during the IOC Session in Lausanne next week,” the official said.
India has already submitted an Expression of Interest to host the 2026 Youth Olympics and 2032 Olympics. The IOA has also set its eyes on bringing the 2030 Asian Games to India.
The denial of visas to Pakistan’s shooters had prompted the IOC to suspend talks with the government and IOA for hosting events after it accused India of violating the principles of “non-discrimination”.
The IOC had demanded written assurances from the government that they would ensure athletes from all countries will be allowed to take part in events held in India. The International Shooting Sport Federation and National Rifle Association of Pakistan claimed the visas were not granted because of the terror attack in Pulwama.
Around the same time, Pakistani and Pakistan-origin cueists were denied visas for an Asian Tour 10 Reds Snooker tournament.
Julaniya said national security was the government’s priority at the time. “It has been the policy of the government to allow participation to all sportspersons and eligible officials for international events. That policy continues,” he told The Indian Express.
”Back then, a political situation arose, there were tensions between the two countries. There was a war-like situation, our jawans were killed in Pulwama and terror was at its peak. At such a time of heightened tensions, our priority is national security,” he said.
The IOC had said that they also took into consideration India not granting visa to a boxer from Kosovo for the World Championship in Delhi last November. India was found guilty of violating Rule 44 of the Olympic Charter, which states that the National Olympic Committees “must… ensure that no one has been excluded for racial, religious or political reasons or by reason of other forms of discrimination”.
This article appeared in the print edition with the headline Govt rethink: Visas for sportspersons from all countries (also Pakistan)