New Delhi: India might not be able to host Olympics-like events in the foreseeable future. The Indian government’s denial of a visa to a Kosovan boxer, Donjeta Sadiku, for participation in the ongoing Women’s World Championships in New Delhi, has not gone down well with the International Olympic Committee. The IOC on Monday asked its member federations not to grant any world event to India. The Kosovo incident has also cast a shadow over India hosting the 2021 Men’s Boxing World Championships.
But what prompted India to take a position that could jeopardise its ambitious plans to host major international sports events in the country? Here’s the lowdown on IOC allegations, India’s arguments and what lies ahead:
Kosovo: IOC’s charges
The IOC has said that India has indulged in political discrimination in denying visa to Donjeta Sadiku and her two coaches.
“As per the Olympic Charter and OCA constitution, it is the duty of the organising committee to provide entry to every eligible athlete participating in a major championship without discrimination,“ Olympic Council of Asia wrote in a letter sent to India’s sports minister last week.
On Monday, the IOC reiterated its fundamental principles in a strongly worded letter sent to all international federations. “The IOC has been working together with the international federations, and the umbrella organisations concerned, for many years to protect the fundamental principles which govern the Olympic Movement and make sure that, when a national sports organisation/country decides to bid for an international sports event, it equally abides by the rules of the Olympic Movement," stated the letter.
“This shows clearly that, until this matter is seriously addressed and resolved by the competent Indian authorities, India is not in a position to host international sporting events in which a sporting delegation from Kosovo is due to take part."
Kosovo: India’s contention
India does not recognise Kosovo as an independent nation despite its declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008. There are two reasons for it:
1. Good past relations with Yugoslavia: India had a good relationship with the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to which Serbia is the de facto successor. The recognition would have gone against India’s set international relations precedents, including principles of the Non-Aligned Movement. The birth of Kosovo is largely credited to NATO aggression into Serbia. Recognition to Kosovo as an independent country has mainly come from the NATO states and their allies.
2. Russia-India friendship: India and Russia have entertained a good relationship for a long time. Due to their strategic importance to each other, Russia and Serbia are good allies and in solidarity with Serbia, Russia has not recognised Kosovo as a sovereign state. India’s doesn’t want to even remotely upset Russia for a smaller nation with not much strategic importance.
Kosovo: What lies ahead
At the World Karate Championships in Spain earlier this month, Kosovo was prevented from competing under its own flag as Spain too doesn’t recognise the country. However, the Spanish government later allowed athletes from Kosovo to compete without discrimination.
After the visa denial incident, the IOC has asked all the international federations to get a written undertaking from the Indian authorities for equal participation before allotting the country any world event in future involving Kosovo.
Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra and the minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj will meet next week to discuss this issue.