By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee has offered a lifeline to suspended India by inviting its government officials for a meeting at its Lausanne headquarters.
The IOC banned the country after refusing to recognize the results of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) elections held on December 5 due to government interference, which led to a tainted official being named as its new secretary general.
Lalit Bhanot, who spent 11 months in custody last year following corruption charges and is on bail pending further investigations, was given the senior IOA post despite the IOC deeming the elections "null and void".
In a letter seen by Reuters sent to Randhir Singh, secretary general of the IOA during the previous regime, the IOC said the Indian body must be able to hold elections without interference while adhering to its own constitution and the Olympic Charter.
"In order to start working closely together ... it is hereby proposed to hold a first joint meeting with you and a senior representative of the government of India as soon as possible," the IOC letter said.
The IOC also warned Indian national sports associations against meeting with "illegitimate" individuals who were elected during the December 5 elections.
"The members of the suspended IOA must not associate themselves with these illegitimate individuals or interact with them in any manner whatsoever," the letter said.
"In particular, the national federations must not attend any meeting convened by these individuals, who do not represent the suspended IOA.
"In the event that any federation associates itself with these individuals, in violation of the IOC's decisions and the Olympic Charter, the IOC will immediately ask the International Federation concerned to take necessary action."
Local media reported that officials of the suspended IOA have convened an executive board meeting in New Delhi on January 19 to discuss the IOC suspension among other items on the agenda.
(Editing by Mark Meadows)