Hunt For Clue In Glued Visa11 April 2011
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
New Delhi: China has issued a regular visa, instead of a stapled one, to a Jammu and Kashmir resident who will travel in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s delegation to attend the Brics summit in a coastal Chinese city. The move by the Chinese embassy in Delhi fuelled speculation if Beijing has changed its policy on issuing stapled visas to Kashmir residents. But Indian officials said New Delhi would wait to see whether a common applicant gets a regular or a stapled visa before taking a formal decision on resuming high-level military exchanges between the two countries. New Delhi had suspended such military exchanges last July when the Chinese embassy issued a stapled visa to an Indian general who wanted to undertake an official visit to China. Now the Chinese embassy in New Delhi has issued a regular visa - the document pasted on the passport instead of being stapled on to it - to a Kashmiri journalist travelling to China as part of the Prime Minister’s media delegation for the third Brics (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) summit. China had started the practice of issuing stapled visas to Indians with passports from Jammu and Kashmir in 2008. Beijing had said it considered Jammu and Kashmir a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. The matter came to a head in July last year when the Chinese embassy in New Delhi issued the stapled visa to Northern Army commander Lt. General B.S. Jamwal. Beijing indicated that Jamwal’s stint in Jammu and Kashmir had led to human rights violations in the state. India had reacted by suspending military exchanges between the two countries. Prime Minister Singh had raised the issue with Chinese President Hu Jintao when the two met on the sidelines of the Asean summit in October 2010. The Indian side had raised the issue during Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to New Delhi in mid-December. Chinese officials had told Indians that the issuance of stapled visas was an administrative matter and had promised to sort out the matter soon. Chinese indications that the practice of issuing stapled visas could be stopped had made New Delhi resume a semblance of high-level military exchanges. “We will need to see whether the embassy issues regular visas to other visa applicants from Jammu and Kashmir as well,” an official said, citing the case of an Indian artist from the state who was issued a regular visa to be in China to perform at the closing ceremony of the Asian Games in November. “They have in the past issued regular visas to J&K residents whom they want to visit China but not to common tourists or people who may have found a job in China,” the official added. The Chinese embassy also issues stapled visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh - territory that Beijing lays claim to. The Indian Prime Minister will have a bilateral meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Wen on the sidelines of Brics summit. “The issue had come up (during Wen’s visit to New Delhi in December) and it was agreed that both sides would be putting our heads together to seek an early resolution,” said Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash, describing India-China relations as “very important”. He pointed out that the ties were of the nature of “strategic and co-operative partnership” with growing convergence. Asked whether Singh could take up the presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, Prakash said he was unable to say what would be on the “broad canvas of subjects”.