Terming China’s decision to revive the practice of “stapled visas” for Indian sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh as “unacceptable”, India on July 27 lodged a strong protest and said that it would respond suitably, after Beijing refused to give normal visas to three ‘Wushu’ martial arts athletes.
The athletes were part of the 12-member team bound for the World University Games in Chengdu on July 26 night. The team was held back after the government realised that the three athletes belonging to Arunachal Pradesh had been given “stapled visas”, which denotes China’s contention that the Indian State is disputed territory.
News of the new rift came even as the External Affairs Ministry admitted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had discussed how to improve bilateral relations when they met in Bali in November 2022, something that the government had not revealed so far.
“It has come to our notice that stapled visas have been issued to some of our citizens representing the country in an international sporting event in China. This is unacceptable and we have lodged a strong protest with the Chinese side reiterating our position. India reserves the right to a suitable response to this action,” Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, stressing that Indian passport holders should not be subjected to any “discrimination or differential treatment” due to their domicile or ethnicity.
China’s decision to give stapled visas to the athletes is a reversion to its actions in 2011-2013, when it began to issue stapled visas to Indians from Jammu Kashmir (then including Ladakh) and Arunachal Pradesh rather than regular stamped or sticker visas. The practice was believed to have been stopped for some years after India took it up at the highest levels. India has consistently opposed it.
Speaking to journalists on July 27, Mr. Bagchi also clarified for the first time that Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi’s talks when they met in Bali eight months ago were not merely an “exchange of courtesies”. The clarification came after China’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday that the two leaders had “reached an important consensus” in Bali on stabilising India-China relations.
The statement had come as a surprise in New Delhi, as the External Affairs Minister had not spoken of any substantive talks held by Mr. Modi, who was seen walking up to Mr. Xi at a G-20 dinner and conversing with him, the first time the two leaders had spoken face-to-face since the LAC stand-off began in April 2020.
“During the Bali G-20 summit last year we had said that at the conclusion of the dinner hosted by the Indonesian President, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had exchanged courtesies, and also spoke of the need to stabilise bilateral relations,” Mr. Bagchi said, when asked to respond to the Chinese statement.
He added that for India the key to resolving bilateral issues was to resolve the issues at the LAC and to “restore peace and tranquillity to these areas”.