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December 9, 2010

China may unstaple the visa issue with India

     Brussels: The stapled visa issue between India and China seems to have been settled. Though neither side is expected to make a formal statement, a government official speaking on background on board Air India One said that he did not expect Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to make a statement during his visit to India from December 16-18. China was issuing stapled visas to Indians residing in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. However, the fact is that China seems to be moving in that direction. Recently, when Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh met with Wen Jiabao in Hanoi, Vietnam, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, both leaders had discussed the issue. Dr Singh made India's displeasure known over the Chinese procedure quite evident when he said that "both parties" need to show sensitivity to each other's core issues. Official sources say that Wen Jiabao had then assured Dr Singh that they (China) would take care of the matter. So far, India has turned a blind eye to people traveling with stapled visas outside the country. For example, Israel used to offer stapled visas for those who wanted to travel to Israel, but didn't want their passports stamped for fear that some countries which do not recognize the state of Israel, might not issue visas to people who had traveled to that country. However, in the past two years, Israel has not been issuing stapled visas either. India used to allow people with stapled visas to travel out of the country, as that is usually a common practice. However, with China, it became more of a diplomatic tussle, as stapled visas were being issued to people of the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir, which gave the impression that China did not recognize the status of Jammu and Kashmir as being part of India. "As far as India is concerned, there is no grey area regarding Jammu and Kashmir. It is a part of India, and the people of the state are no different in their status as in the rest of India so they should be given the same visa status as other Indians," said the Indian official. The official said that while no country is willing to admit that it made a mistake and revoked the decision instantaneously, the steps it takes to correct its mistakes is what should be taken into account finally. The fact that the Chinese side has indicated to India that it will "sort out the matter", is a sign that Beijing is probably stopping the process of granting stapled visas. However, India is likely to bring up the issue during the Chinese premier's visit. The official said: "China wasn't one to make grand statements. They move surely, but quietly-whether on the boundary issue or action on trade-related matters. They do their work surely but steadily. The India-China border is one of the most peaceful borders that India has. The intrusion level has gone down." The official further said: "That the two sides have 'shown an inclination to manage issues of concern' and 'show sensitivity to each other's core concerns'." Euphemistically speaking, this means that both India and China know that they will probably never see eye to eye on any issue, but that open bickering and grand standing would achieve little. Instead, moving at a snail's pace, but moving forward is probably more productive than getting hopping mad at each other on every issue. India is expected to raise issues impacting bilateral ties during Wen Jiabao's visit.
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