India and China continued to spar over visas for journalists in each other’s countries, even as the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the two sides are holding talks on the issue.
On Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) had informed two journalists — including The Hindu’s correspondent based in Beijing — both of whom were in India at the time, that their visas were being “frozen”. On Thursday, China’s MFA said that it had decided to take “counter-measures” after India denied several visas, and granted only short-term, single-entry visas to other journalists. However, the MEA rejected the Chinese statement, adding that Chinese journalists in India face no “difficulties” in reporting in India.
Xinhua journo asked to leave
“Chinese journalists have suffered unfair and discriminatory treatment in India for a long time,” Chinese MFA spokesperson Mao Ning said, citing incidents in 2017 and 2021, when journalists belonging to state-owned Xinhua and CGTN had their visas curtailed or cancelled.
“A few days ago, the Indian side asked a journalist of the Xinhua News Agency to leave the country by March 31, citing the reason that he had been in the country for six years,” Ms. Mao added. The MFA spokesperson also compared India’s visa policy for Chinese journalists unfavourably with China’s policy for Indian journalists, adding that China offers journalists one-year multiple-entry visas while India only offers a three-month visa, an issue that Beijing says it has raised with Delhi on a number of occasions.
“Regrettably, however, the Indian side ignored this and even went further down the wrong path. Considering this, the Chinese side has no choice but to take appropriate counter-measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese media organisations,” she said.
When asked about the cases cited, the MEA spokesperson did not deny that the government had asked a Xinhua journalist to leave the country this year, contending that it was “not appropriate” to comment on India’s visa policy or speak about specific cases.
“There are Chinese journalists who have valid Indian visas for pursuing journalistic activities in India,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, responding to questions at a weekly media briefing. “From that perspective, we don’t see any difficulties in doing reporting or media coverage here,” he added.
The spokesperson also said that India hopes Chinese authorities “would facilitate the continued presence and reporting from China” by Indian journalists, adding that the MEA is “in touch” with Chinese authorities in this regard”. While Indian journalists covering China have been informed verbally of China’s intentions, and asked not to return to Beijing, there has been no written order supplied to them, and the Chinese MFA spokesperson said that there has been “no change” in visa policy thus far.
The spat over the treatment of journalists comes amidst new lows in bilateral relations between India and China that have been spiralling since the military standoff began at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in April 2020, triggered by Chinese transgressions at several points along the LAC.
This week, India reacted sharply to China’s announcement that it would “rename” 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh, seeking to bolster its claim on the area that is part of Indian territory. China has also objected to India holding a G-20 engagement meeting in Itanagar, claimingthat it was “disputed” territory. Even so, New Delhi will host Chinese Defence Minister General Li Shangfu at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) this month, and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who visited in March, is expected to return to India in May for the SCO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Goa.