In a move that is set to strain diplomatic ties between the two Asian giants, China has once again issued stapled visas to a group of Indian sportspersons.
Three karatekas and an official from India’s north eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh were issued stapled visas by the Chinese Embassy in Delhi preventing them from travelling to China to take part in the 11th Asian Karate-do Championship (Junior and Cadet) being held in Quanghou City, Fujian province of China from July 20 to 25.
Indian authorities at New Delhi’s IGI airport had to turn them away following a directive from India’s home ministry that renders stapled visas given to residents of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir by Chinese embassy as illegitimate.
Describing the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as disputed territories, China has abstained from issuing regular visas, as a matter of foreign policy, to people hailing from the region. China’s territorial claim over Arunachal Pradesh, which China dubs as South Tibet, has remained a serious bone of contention between India and China since the two nations first shared a common border following China’s occupation of Tibet in 1959.
Labelling China’s latest action as “inexplicable” and an “insulting practice” Arunachal Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin asked the Centre for a clear policy stand, demanding a strong protest over the ‘violation of Arunachalees’ right to express their citizenship”.
Law makers from Arunachal expressed anguish over the visa row with Lok Sabha member from Arunachal West constituency Takam Sanjoy promising to raise the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
“Already, China’s objection at the international level has stopped World Bank funding of projects in our state. While others states are enjoying ADB benefits, the same has been denied to Arunachal because of China’s objection,” Sanjoy told reporters.
Rajya Sabha member from the state, Mukut Mithi, demanded that the Centre should prohibit all Indians from visiting China.
The longstanding stapled visa row took an ugly turn last year when India suspended defence exchanges with China after the communist nation refused to issue a visa to a top Indian military official posted in Jammu and Kashmir citing the territory as disputed.
Defence ties resumed only last month, after Indian officials said China had appeared to rescind the policy. But this latest incidence raises serious doubts over Delhi’s decision. Furthermore, Chinese official sources were quoted by reporters on Thursday as saying that the policy of issuing stapled visas to “all disputed regions” remained consistent and unchanged.