China has denied visa to an Indian Air Force (IAF) officer, who was part of a visiting military delegation, ostensibly because he hails from Arunachal Pradesh, a state at the forefront of a lingering border dispute. This has forced New Delhi to put the visit on hold.
The denial of the visa to Group Captain Mohonto Panging underpins that the northeastern state remains a sticking point in India's relations with the Communist neighbour and the two countries are treading on a slippery diplomatic track.
The fighter pilot, currently posted in Tezpur, was part of a 30-member tri-service delegation supposed to be travelling to China under a bilateral defence exchange initiative, resumed after the India-China annual defence dialogue (ADD) last December.
A two-star IAF officer was to head the Integrated Defence Staff team for the four-day visit, beginning early next week.
Military contact between India and China had been stuck in a logjam since July 2010 when Beijing refused to host the then northern army commander, Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (now retired), as his jurisdiction spanned Jammu & Kashmir, considered to be a disputed territory by Beijing.
He was to head a military delegation to China for the ADD, hosted alternately by the two countries to review progress in defence exchanges.
India did not send a military delegation to China for almost a year after the Jaswal episode. Relations thawed somewhat in last June when India okayed to send a delegation to China, led by a major general.
The resumption of the ADD in December 2011 had raised hopes of military ties being on the upswing. With irritants such as the latest visa denial, the euphoria could be short-lived.