China on Monday defended its issuing of stapled visas to two Arunachal Pradesh youth athletes, describing its policy as showing “flexibility” to allow travel while the boundary dispute remains unresolved.
The Foreign Ministry said its policy was “consistent and clear cut”, suggesting it would remain in place, even as it expressed “regret” for the two young archers who were stopped at New Delhi airport as they were set to fly to China to participate in youth world championships.
“China’s practice… is a flexible move pending resolution of the boundary question. This shows China’s sincerity and flexibility,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters.
Ms. Hua added, “The two athletes could not come to China for the relevant event. We express our regret, but with regard to this matter our position… on the eastern end of the boundary between China and India is consistent and clear cut. We hope the Indian side can work with the Chinese side and maintain sound momentum of personnel exchanges and cooperation across the board.”
Issuing stapled visas, Ms. Hua said, was “a flexible way” of enabling personnel movement “pending an overall resolution of the boundary question" and showed "the two sides’ commitment and sincerity to uphold peace and stability” in border areas.
India, however, has protested the issuing of stapled visas, seeing the moves as violating its sovereignty. The government has made clear that those issued stapled visas will not be allowed to travel to China.
Last week, two young archers from Arunachal Pradesh, Maselo Mihu and Sorang Yumi, were set to travel to Wuxi, in southern China, for a youth world championship tournament. The only two members of the delegation from Arunachal Pradesh, they were both issued stapled visas, and consequently could not board their flight from New Delhi.
Beijing has been issuing stapled visas to applicants from the State since at least 2010. Before that, the Chinese Embassy did not issue any kind of visa for applicants from Arunachal, citing its territorial claims on the State. China claims around 90,000 square kilometres in the eastern sector of the disputed boundary, while India sees China as occupying at least 38,000 square kilometres in the west. The sixteen rounds of talks over the issue have made little progress, although both sides have committed themselves to maintaining peace and stability in border areas.
Last week’s case, officials say, is unlikely to be the last with China suggesting it will continue with its “clear cut” visa policy for Arunachal residents. Only last year, one student from the State was not allowed to join a 100-member youth delegation to China after she was issued a stapled visa. In 2011, a Karate team was also prevented from boarding a flight in New Delhi.
On Monday, Ms. Hua, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said she was not certain if the issue will figure during next week’s visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to China, but added that the boundary question would likely receive significant attention. Dr. Singh is expected to arrive in Beijing on October 22, and is scheduled to hold talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
“With regard to the upcoming visit,” Ms. Hua said, “China attaches great importance to it, and we expect that high-level exchanges between the two countries can help maintain sustainable and steady development, and deepen cooperation across the board.”