China says no change in its Arunachal policy

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K J M Varma

Beijing, Jan 17 (PTI) China today said its policy thatArunachal Pradesh is a "disputed area" remains "unchanged",days after it issued stapled visas to two Indian sportsmenfrom the state which it claims as "Southern Tibet".

"China''s position is consistent and clear about theChina-India border issue including the disputed area ofEastern section and the Indian side is aware of it. Theposition has remained unchanged," the Chinese Foreign Ministryspokesman''s office told PTI here.

Eastern section of the India-China border covers theArunachal sector which is part of the dialogue mechanism toresolve it. India-China so far held 14 rounds of talks withoutmuch of success.

The Foreign Ministry issued the clarification today toa question asked last week over the controversy of issuingstapled visas to two Indian sportsmen from Arunachal to takepart in the Weightlifting Grand Prix at Fujian province.

The two were turned away by the Indian immigrationofficials as India do not recognise the stapled visas, whileExternal Affairs Ministry stated India will not honour suchvisas.

The Foreign Ministry, however, did not clarify whetherthe issuance of stapled visas or paper visas as they are knownmeant any departure from its purported previous policy of notto grant any visas to people of Arunachal Pradesh in supportof Chinese claim that the state is part of its territorytherefore its people did not need visas.

However Rong Ying, a Senior Research Fellow at thestate-run China Institute of International Studies, said whileChina''s stand on the dispute remained unchanged, perhaps thestapled visas were given as a "pragmatic" step to allow peopleof Arunachal to visit China.

"Certainly we have to take the reality intoconsideration as it is a disputed area and also we have to bepragmatic if people wants to travel to China," Rong, an Indiaspecialist at the Institute told PTI.

He said personally he believes that the stapled visaswere issued to enable the people of the area to travel toChina while the two countries made efforts to resolve theboundary dispute.

Both sides have to be pragmatic keeping the realityinto consideration, he said, apparently meaning that India tooshould permit those with stapled visas from Arunchal to travelto China.

"I think there is no shift in China''s policy but itwill be good to facilitate their travel," he said, adding thatotherwise the people of the area cannot travel to China untilthe dispute is resolved. .

Indian officials here say that it was difficult to say whether China pursued a definite visa policy on ArunachalPradesh as Vishal Nabam, now advisor to Chief Minister DorjeeKhandu, had visited China on a month-long tourist visa in 2006while an IAS officer from the state was denied visa in 2007.

On the controversy over issuance of stapled visas topeople of Jammu and Kashmir, Rong said it was regarded as thetechnical issue.

During his recent India visit, Chinese Premier WenJiabao promised to address the issue.

Rong also denied that there was any shift in China''sKashmir policy as a result of the stapled visa issue andBeijing continue to maintain that India and Pakistan shouldresolve their outstanding disputes, including Kashmir.

"I agree with the argument that China''s relations withIndia and Pakistan are on a different footing," he said,adding there need not necessarily be any "inter linkages".

"It is not a change. It has been for many years,perhaps since the end of the cold war," he said.

China would continue its partnership with India whichwill not be at the expense of Beijing''s close ties withIslamabad.

Similarly, China''s partnership with Pakistan was notaimed at India, he said, refuting perception that it was a NewDelhi centric alliance.

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