Visa Rider On Mirwaiz's China Visit
20 November 2009
Times of India
: Outmanoeuvring the wily red dragon, India on Friday declared it had no objection if moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq wanted to visit China but made it clear that stapled visas on passports would not be valid for travel abroad. This directly attacks the deliberate Chinese policy to needle India by issuing visas on separate pieces of paper stapled to the passports - instead of being pasted as is the norm - to residents of Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. In short, while Chinese are keen to have the Mirwaiz over, the latter will now be able to travel to Beijing only if China backtracks and issues him a visa properly pasted on his passport. Foreign minister S M Krishna said the Mirwaiz, who has been invited by a Chinese ‘‘NGO’’ to talk about ‘‘Muslim issues’’, was free to travel wherever he wanted, including ‘‘Pakistan or China’’. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, in turn, added, ‘‘We have never prevented Kashmiri leaders from travelling abroad.’’ However, she added, if it was a question about the Chinese government’s practice of issuing stapled visas, then the Indian government ‘‘did not subscribe to this approach, which discriminates on the basis of domicile and ethnicity’’. This came even as the Mirwaiz, who apart from asking the Union government to allow Kashmiris to travel on the stapled visas being provided by China, further stoked controversy in Srinagar by holding that Beijing had ‘‘a stake’’ in regional peace as certain parts of Kashmir like Aksai Chin were under its control. ‘‘China is a global power and has huge influence in the region... I believe that China is not a party to the conflict (over Kashmir) but China has a stake as far as peace in the region is concerned,’’ he said. India, on its part, has already stated that there was no room for third-party intervention in the bilateral Indo-Pak relationship after the US and China on Tuesday issued a joint statement during Barack Obama’s Beijing visit that talked about Beijing’s role in improving relations between New Delhi and Islamabad. ‘‘The Indian government is committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan through a peaceful bilateral dialogue in accordance with the Simla Agreement. A third country role cannot be envisaged, nor is it necessary,’’ said the foreign ministry. Meanwhile, cracks have surfaced in the Hurriyat Conference itself, with some leaders expressing opposition to the Mirwaiz’s visit even to Islamabad. ‘‘Why should the Mirwaiz visit the countries, which have to settle their own scores with India without helping Kashmiris,’’ said one of them, Nayeem Khan.