Kosovo- India relations
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India is getting ready to host the 10th edition of the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships after a gap of 12 years but the shadow of a boxer and her nation looms large over the event. Kosovo’s light welterweight (60kg) boxer, Donjeta Sadiku, has been denied a visa for the tournament. This is the second time in less than a year that India has denied her the right to compete in the country.
Sadiku and two coaches from Kosovo have not been granted visas because the Indian government doesn’t recognise their nation — a disputed territory in south-eastern Europe. The 19-year-old from Prishtina in Kosovo also holds an Albanian passport and applied for visa at the Indian embassy in Serbia, as India doesn’t have an embassy in Kosovo. All three visa applications were not approved till Tuesday evening. In 2017, Sadiku was denied an Indian visa to compete in the World Youth Boxing Championships in Guwahati in December.
Kosovo, the newest Balkan state, is recognised only by 113 out of the 193 United Nations members. India is among the countries which don’t recognise its sovereignty. But the denial of visa to Sadiku could have bigger ramifications for India, especially if it hopes to bid for top international events like World Youth Olympics in the future.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) – which gave full membership to Kosovo’s national federation in 2014 – is now set to send a letter to all member federations, asking them not to give international events to countries which can’t ensure participation of all nations.
The Boxing Federation of India (BFI), which won the right to hold the women’s World Championships for the first time since the event was included in the Olympics in 2012, communicated its helplessness at the situation.
“We have raised the issue with the Ministry of External Affairs and the final decision to hand visa to Sadiku rests with them. I don’t think the matter is restricted to a boxing tournament. It is a global issue because so many nations along with India don’t recognise Kosovo. The IOC will have to resolve this issue with all member nations. Just blacklisting India is not the answer,” BFI president Ajay Singh told TOI on Tuesday.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has already taken up this issue with the sports ministry as it is worried about the consequences that all other national federations might have to bear. “IOC letter will go out to all international federations soon, asking them not to give events to India. The BFI shouldn’t have accepted this event if they couldn’t have ensured the participation of all the boxers. This is the second instance of the Kosovo boxer being denied by India. BFI have already been warned once, the second time it might well be blacklisted,” IOA president Narinder Batra told TOI.
“BFI bid for the event with honest expectations. But India should be able to keep sports separate from politics. If Middle East countries can welcome athletes from Israel, why can’t India (welcome boxer from Kosovo)?” Batra added.
The external affairs ministry refused to budge from its stand for the time being. “India does not recognise the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo,” sources in MEA told TOI.
Kosovo, if allowed to compete, will be one of the nine countries to make its debut at the World Championships here. Like India, Spain didn’t allow Kosovan participants from competing under their flag at the 2018 Karate World Championships in Madrid and even banned their anthem from the venue.
“If the Spanish government is not in the condition to guarantee the access not only to Kosovo but to every athlete to compete, we should warn all IFs (international federations) that, until this is solved, they should not hold international competitions there,” the IOC’s director for National Olympic Committee (NOC) relations, Pere Miro, was quoted as saying by a website.
Sports secretary Rahul Bhatnagar acknowledged that the IOA have raised their concerns on the matter with the MEA. “We did get a letter from IOA secretary Rajiv Mehta but the MEA hasn’t given any response on the matter. It is a diplomatic issue and sports ministry can’t interfere in the matter,” he said.