Friday, January 21, 2011

Please Do Not "Staple" It

The recent visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was understood to be in positive direction towards fortifying Indo- China relations to newer heights. The actions seem to be ambiguous as with the recent issue of stapled visa has become a thorn in Indo-China bilateral ties.

China with the issuance of stapled visa to two Indian sportsmen from Arunachal Pradesh, the region China claims to be a part of “South Tibet” and an integral part of its territory, has altered its earlier stand of “refusal of Visa” to people from Arunachal Pradesh to "issuance of stapled visa”, thus, somewhere negating its own claim on citizenship of people of Arunachal Pradesh which it avowed to be a part of Chinese population.

A stapled visa is issued on a separate paper rather than on the passport. Such paper visas stapled to the passport are not considered valid for travel out of the country.

India in 2009 declared as "invalid” the standalone paper visas given by the Chinese embassy and consulates for Indians from Jammu and Kashmir and issued a travel advisory asking those going to China to ensure their visas are pasted on their passports. Chinese refused to give visas to Indians domicile of Arunachal Pradesh, thus, keeping alive the Eastern region dispute.

Signs of ambiguity?

China considers the region of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) a disputed area and hence has a firm stand on issuance of stapled visas to people of that region. Such action might be regarded to the strong ties of China- Pak relation and a geopolitical strategy of Chinese where disputed region controversy is no more bilateral but an International issue.

If the recent action of issuing stapled visas to people of Arunachal Pradesh is in line with people of J & K, then, it might be termed as “disputed region controversy” waiting to become an international issue. It would be unwise to jump to a conclusion and protest for such action but India should call against such practices of stapled visas as a mode of immigration or emigration as
an international issue.

In 2007 a trip of 107 IAS officers to Beijing for higher management program was cancelled on Indian PM’s call as Chinese refused to provide visa to an IAS officer who belonged to Arunachal Pradesh.

Historical dispute

In 1913-14 British administrator, Sir Henry McMahon drew up the 550 mile McMahon line as the border between British India and Tibet as a result of Simla conference. Tibetan representatives agreed but their Chinese counterparts refused to accept it then. Post -1947, Chinese further refused to obey the agreement claiming Tibet as a local government under Chinese sovereignty. It was only after 1962 Chinese aggression and Tawang occupancy, the border dispute rose to a bilateral issue. Since then geo-political debate over western (Aksai-Chin) and Eastern (Tawang and Arunachal Pradesh) region have been a livewire in Indo-China relations.

The present economic contest between the two largest populated countries has given the border dispute an international perspective. While India has largely tried to keep it as a bilateral issue but Chinese have misused the issue to strengthen anti-India club. The Chinese with an intention to claim economic dominance in the region have time and again utilized border dispute to garner
international attention.

The November-December power trail by the superpowers (post Obama’s visit), has been significant not only in economic perspective but also as a geo political contention. China has utilized Indian support only for its own benefit. May it is for climate change talks or WTO conference. China needs to be clear in its intent and actions. Indian diplomacy definitely needs to be more robust while countering such moves.

Abhilash Mohapatra has tendered his own views regarding the recent issue on stapled visas. Comments are welcome.

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