India raises stapled visa issue with China

Beijing, Oct 23 (IANS) The issue of China giving stapled visas to two sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh featured in talks between visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang here Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, briefing newspersons after talks between the two leaders, said "the stapled visa issue did come up".

Ahead of Manmohan Singh's visit, the Chinese embassy in India had issued stapled visas to two archers from Arunachal Pradesh, which China lays claim to and considers "disputed" territory.

India stated firmly that Arunachal Pradesh, in northeast India which borders China, is "an inalienable and integral part of India".

The foreign secretary Wednesday reiterated that "Arunachal Pradesh is part of India. There is no doubt about it".

The issuance of stapled visas adversely affected China's efforts to get India to agree to a liberalised visa regime for its businesspersons.

The Indian cabinet, which was to approve an agreement on liberal visa agreement with Beijing ahead of the prime minister's visit, postponed the decision after the stapled visa incident, according to sources.

A source said: "We were about to do it (agree) when the stapled visa came up ... we decided to go slow."

India is still working on the liberalised visa agreement.

This was reflected in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks after talks with Premier Li in the Great Hall of the People.

He said he "conveyed to Premier Li our commitment to visa simplification to facilitate travel of Chinese nationals to India and expressed hope China will also facilitate such exchanges".

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at ranjana.n@hotmail.co.in)

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