India has started stamping its map on visas issued in China in response to Chinese passports depicting Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as its territories.

Beijing began issuing new electronic passports and, as per the standard practice governing all maps printed in China in recent years, it included Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh and disputed islands in South China Sea in the map outline on the pages.

After the practice was discovered three to four weeks ago, India mulled over the issue for some time and decided the best response would be to issue visa stickers stamped with a map ``as we know it'', said an official, which means including Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.

While India eschewed the route of a diplomatic protest, Philippines and Vietnam lodged strong protests over inclusion of islands and waters of South China Sea over which both countries lay claim.

As of now India is not thinking of taking up the issue with the Chinese Foreign Ministry as it felt it would be better to speak through actions than words by printing a map including both areas as part of its territory on top of visa stickers.

Earlier this week, the governments of the Philippines and Vietnam lodged official protests with China over the inclusion of the outline of a map in new electronic passports.

But Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying defended the move, saying the new passports were “based on international standards”.

Asked about concerns in India as well as China’s other neighbours, Ms. Hua said: “The outline map of China on the passport is not directed against any particular country”.

No Indian official in New Delhi or in Beijing was prepared to go on record on the issue.

The Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in Manila he had sent a note to the Chinese Embassy lodging strong protests over the inclusion of the map outline. The Vietnam government also said it had a lodged protest with Beijing over the maps in a diplomatic note.

The map outline, which was included in new passports issued in May, does not, however, include disputed East China Sea islands, over which relations between China and Japan have, in recent months, been strained.