A professional boxer from Kosovo has been denied a visa to India to participate and compete in the women’s world championships starting tomorrow because the Indian foreign ministry does not recognise her country’s independence formally, an official was quoted as saying by AFP on Tuesday.
The lone boxer from Kosovo is Donjeta Sadiku and she has been given an ultimatum till Thursday (tomorrow) to manage an early permit. But as officials well versed in diplomacy say, the chances of things going smoothly for her are slim.
The existence of Kosovo
The 1998-99 period was a difficult time for the Balkan peninsula as it saw a war erupt between ethnic Kosovo and Albanian pro-independence and Serbian forces. Most affected families took refuge in Switzerland where they remain till today. If one remembers correctly, this was also a subject that took over the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after after Swiss footballer Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka were much in the limelight for their rendition of the Kosovan eagle after scoring goals in the tournament where the host country did not recognise Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.
Kosovo’s declaration of independence was backed by 113 member-countries of the United Nations but the subject still remains a matter of controversy for a few countries- Russia among them. Despite their problematic existence, Kosovo has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2014 which poses to be a source of much confusion for its athletes when they are required to travel to other countries for tournaments. In early 2018, Kosovo’s athletes were prohibited from competing under their own flag at the Karate World Championships in Spain. Pressure then mounted on Spain driven mostly by the IOC and now, India is in a similar position standing at the brink of backlash from the international governing body. All because India is a nation that does not recognise Kosovo’s independence and, thus, will have issues while procuring a visa for a Kosovan boxer before the upcoming Women’s World Boxing C’ships in the Indian capital starting tomorrow.
What does this conflict spell for India then? As a host country, the most high profile run-ins with visa issues that we have had have been with our neighbours Pakistan- a strained political relationship often seeping into the two countrys’ sports as well. However, as BFI President Ajay Singh was quoted as saying, “This is not about boxing alone, it’s a much larger issue,” he said.
Reportedly, the Indian foreign ministry are still at sea about the correct way to go about procuring a visa for an athlete whose nationality they do not recognise. Even beyond the boxing ring, this raises questions on India’s political stances and affiliations as well. But this could also have lasting effects on the country’s standing as the host of major world-level sporting events. “We might also get a letter from the IOC soon, and will be in danger of losing big events. But that’s how it stands at the moment,” an anonymous official was quoted as saying by AFP.