India, China stand-off over separate visas

The ministry of external affairs took up the matter with the Chinese embassy .

NEW DELHI: Taking a serious view of China���s latest move to issue ���separate��� visas to Indian passport holders from Jammu and Kashmir, the government has told Beijing in no uncertain terms to put an immediate end to this practice or face a similar discrimination, besides fewer and tougher visas, for its own citizens seeking Indian visas.

The ministry of external affairs took up the matter with the Chinese embassy here and asked Beijing to stop discriminating against Indian nationals on the basis of their ���ethnicity��� and ���domicile���.

The MHA, which handles immigration matters, has made it clear that it will not allow Indian passport holders with a non-stamped Chinese visa to leave the country. Also, it conveyed to Beijing through the MEA to either stop the practice of issuing Chinese visas to J&K and Arunachal Pradesh residents on a separate piece of paper ��� as against the stamped visas issued to all other Indian citizens ��� right away, or face a similar discriminatory regime in processing of Chinese applications for an Indian visa.

���How would they feel if India only offers a stamped visa to Tibetans while issuing visas on a separate paper for the applications residing in other parts of China,��� commented a senior MHA official.

The tit-for-tat threat was conveyed to the Chinese embassy here by the MEA, which has even earlier taken up the discriminatory practice followed in issue of visas to Indian passport holders from Arunachal Pradesh. However, the addition of J&K to their ���separate visas��� list has infuriated the authorities here, forcing them to make it clear to Beijing that it would face a similar treatment from India when it processes visa applications from Chinese citizens.

This is not all. India has also threatened to pay back China in the same coin by ensuring tougher scrutiny of employment visas sought by the Chinese to work here. According to MHA sources, India was far more liberal in admitting Chinese workers than Beijing has ever been in allowing Indians to work in China. As against 25,000 Chinese working on several business projects here, no more than 2,000 Indians have been granted employment visa to work on Chinese soil.

What is more, the 25,000 Chinese workers were being allowed to work here on a business visa. Some of them were even travelling to Pakistan and Bangladesh during the visa period, only to come back a day before expiry of their business visa, which is completely illegal.

���Legally speaking, we can take police action against such Chinese admitted on a business visa only to get employment here, and travelling with impunity outside India during the validity of their business visa,��� an official pointed out.

With the deadline for converting from a business visa to an employment visa expiring on October 31, the Chinese citizens who continue to work on a business visa will face immediate action by the immigration authorities.

The government is also contemplating a stricter scrutiny of employment visas, which will also be cut drastically if Beijing continues with its pinprick of issuing separate visa to the residents of J&K and Arunachal.
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