Commonwealth Games gold medalist shooter Pemba Tamang was stopped by immigration officials in Mumbai from boarding a flight to Beijing as his passport had the "invalid" stapled visa, which China issues to the Indians from Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh.
Tamang, a resident of Arunachal, was on Thursday leaving for Beijing for the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup, to be held from April 17 to 24.
The Rapid Fire pistol shooter said he was not aware of the fact that the Ministry of External Affairs had declared stapled visas as invalid for travelling out of the country in an advisory issued last year in November.
"I had travelled to China on paper visas on three previous occasions and I was wasn't aware that the government had declared them invalid. If I had known, I would not have accepted the visa when it was issued to me," Tamang said.
Recalling the sequence of events in Mumbai, Tamang, who is part of a 28-member team for the World Cup, said he was stopped by the immigration after checking in.
"We were boarding the flight from Mumbai for the World Cup. We were first supposed to go to Bangkok and from there to Beijing. Immigration officials told me that my visa was not valid as the government does not accept stapled visas.
"I tried to explain that I had travelled on such a visa three times earlier but they said the new guidelines don't allow it anymore," he said from Pune.
Tamang, however, can still make the World Cup if he is issued a fresh pasted visa.
"I may still go because my event is on April 21 and 22. Immigration people told me that if the Indian Embassy in China issues a letter relaxing the conditions then there is a slim possibility of me going," he said.
Reacting to the controversy, the National Rifles Association of India's secretary Rajeev Bhatia said, "He was issued a paper visa because he is from Arunachal while the rest of the team got the normal pasted visas."
"It is true that he has travelled to China in the past on a stapled visa but the government guidelines right now prohibit that. Now, he won't go unless he gets the normal visa," he added.
Last year, the External Affairs Ministry had slammed China for issuing separate visas "to certain categories of Indian nationals on the basis of their domicile, ethnicity and/or place of issue of the passport.
"All Indian citizens intending to travel to China are advised that before making any travel arrangements they should first ascertain from the Chinese embassy or consulate, whether the visa being issued to them will be affixed to the passport or will be in the nature of a stapled paper visa, so that they are not inconvenienced or put to any financial loss later on this count," the ministry had said.