Visa row between India, China ahead of Singh-Jiabao meet

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Oct. 27 (ANI): A visa row has reportedly surfaced between India and China on the eve of a meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, between Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao.

The meeting is scheduled to take place later in the week.

India and China have been engaged in a war of words over the staple visa issue relating to residents from the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

China has again reiterated that its policy on issuing stapled visas for residents of Kashmir remains consistent and unchanged.

Chinese foreign office spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said on Tuesday: "As for the Indian Kashmir visa, our policy is consistent and has stayed unchanged."

He was replying to questions on whether the issue would come up for discussions at the meeting between Singh and Jiabao.

Reacting strongly to the Chinese position, sources said: "India's position has been well articulated, it has been conveyed to China that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. There should be a uniform practice to issue visas irrespective of domicile and ethnicity".

Meanwhile, there are concerns in India over China's growing assertiveness and a hardened stand on Jammu and Kashmir. India has suspended high-level defence cooperation with China over the visa row.

It may be recalled that Beijing had refused to issue a regular visa to Lt. General B.S. Jaswal, the General Officer Commanding in Chief of the Indian Army's Northern command, on grounds that he was overseeing operations in Kashmir, which Beijing, like Pakistan, views as a territory under dispute.

India has also protested against the presence of Chinese companies involved in infrastructure projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

On Monday, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said New Delhi wants to see the peaceful rise of China and engage with it in a peaceful manner.

Last week, External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna said China "should be sensitive to India's core concerns".

Dr. Singh and Premier Wen Jiabao will be meeting in Hanoi on October 29 on the sidelines of the Fifth East Asia Summit.

Special Representatives of both countries-Shiv Shankar Menon and Dai Bingguo - are also expected to meet soon. By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)

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