China on Thursday made it clear that it will not issue visas to any official from Arunachal Pradesh, over which it lays claims, and will continue to issue stapled visas to non-officials from that state.
Speaking against the backdrop of reports that two Arunachal men have got stapled visas which was departure from past practice, an official in Chinese embassy, on the condition of anonymity, said there was no change in their visa policy for residents of Arunachal Pradesh.
"There is no change in our visa policy for residents of Arunachal Pradesh. China does not issue visas to officials from that state and will still not do it. For non-officials, we only issue stapled visas," the official said.
The incident of issuance of stapled visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh came to light when two sportsmen from that state were prevented by immigration officials from boarding a flight yesterday from New Delhi to Beijing since they had stapled visas given by Chinese Embassy on their passports.
Indian Weightlifting Federation's Joint Secretary Abraham K Techi along with a weightlifter of the state were taken aback when immigration officials at New Delhi's IGI Airport stopped them and turned them away because of the stapled visas issued by the Chinese Embassy.
Reacting to the Chinese action, the Ministry of External Affairs said India considers Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of India and has conveyed to the Chinese side that a uniform process of issue of visas to Indian citizens be followed regardless of applicant's ethnicity or place of domicile.
Maintaining that both the athletes are reportedly domiciles of Arunachal Pradesh, the Ministry recalled that a travel advisory had been issued in November, 2009 cautioning Indian citizens that Chinese visas stapled to passports were not valid for travel outside the country.
Needling India, China started issuing stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir from later part of 2008 in an attempt to project it as a disputed area.
In the case of residents of Arunachal Pradesh, visas were never issued till now as China claims the whole of the north-eastern state as its own.
The contentious issue of stapled visas for residents of J and K had figured during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi last month.