India protests China's move on visas

India protests China's move on visas

Kashmiris issued permits on separate sheet of paper

“It is our considered view and position that there should be no discrimination against visa applicants of Indian nationality on grounds of domicile or ethnicity. We have conveyed our well-justified concern to the Chinese government in this regard”, Vishnu Prakash, a spokesman of the external affairs ministry, said.

While the normal practice is to stamp visas on passports, the Chinese embassy here has been issuing stamped visas to some people of Jammu and Kashmir on a separate sheet of paper.

This is not the first time that the embassy has done this. Earlier it had acted similarly in the case of people hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing says is a disputed territory.

The action with regard to Kashmiri travellers is seen as an attempt by China to question the status of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India. China is said to have recently undertaken construction of infrastructure projects and irrigation dams in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The Chinese embassy, however, said the documents were “valid” and that the problem lay with Indian immigration authorities. “What we have issued is correct and valid document. It is the problem of your Immigration officers at Indira Gandhi International Airport (Delhi). This practice of issuing visas on separate paper has been there for years now,” a Chinese embassy official said.

Asked how many such visas they issue every year, the Chinese embassy official put the number at less than 100.

The official said the issue was being played up as one of the Kashmiri students had approached the media.

Asked to comment on the development, Defence Minister A K Antony said, “Whether it is Jammu and Kashmir or Arunachal Pradesh, all are integral parts of India. For us, every inch of India is one. There are channels of dealing with our neighbours whenever any issue arises and we always use them to raise our point of view.”
Official sources said the Chinese Embassy had started this practice about a year back and in the process a number of Kashmiris were unable to travel as immigration authorities at the airport did not accept this kind of visa.

The latest development came to light when the affected people spoke to the media in Kashmir about three weeks back on returning dismayed.“We were given the stapled one (visa),” Bilal Ahmad Beigh, one of the affected students, was quoted as saying. Quoting the chief visa officer at the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, Beigh said she had told them: “Chinese government welcomes you. Otherwise, we would have not given you the visa. We can’t reveal the reasons behind the two types of visas as it’s against our national interest.”