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What’s new in China visa war? Delhi reply

Beijing’s recent denial of visa to an IAS officer from Arunachal Pradesh is not a first — but Delhi’s strong response is.

For years, officials and politicians from the frontier state have been denied permission to visit China on the premise that visas cannot be granted to citizens of a region that Beijing claims as its own. And India has always stomached the insult in silence.

But this month, when Beijing again made a meal of the inclusion of an Arunachal official on a study tour of China, Delhi scrapped the tour by 102 IAS officers altogether.

The move is being seen as affirmative action at long last, but many feel it is too little if not too late.

One of them is Kiren Rijiju, BJP parliamentarian from Arunachal, who had last month asked sarcastically if Delhi was thinking of giving the state away to China. The Centre had just allowed Beijing to prune the Indian team list for the April 19-24 international vegetable science and technology fair in China.

The original invitation sent on April 2 — by the vice-director-general of the science and technology bureau in Weifang, Shandong province — had welcomed the entire team of 48, including the four members from Arunachal.

But on April 13, a revised invitation left out Lohit legislator C.P. Namchoom, IAS officers Tajom Taloh and Tape Bagna, and official Tasso Butung. Delhi swallowed its pride and sent a team of 44.

The pattern has been repeated down the decades. In the late 1980s, when then Arunachal chief minister Gegong Apang and Speaker T.L. Rajkumar were denied visas, South Block was accused of not acting.

Last year, state ministers Tsering Gyurme and Chawna Mein received the same rebuff but made the trip on tourist visas anyway. While Beijing did not object to the tour, Delhi launched an inquiry because Gyurme had visited Tibet.

An annoyed Mein said Delhi should pluck up courage and make its stance on Arunachal clear to China and the Indian public.

The issue had made headlines last year when, days before President Hu Jintao’s maiden visit, Chinese envoy San Yuxi claimed that not only Tawang but the whole of Arunachal belonged to China. Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee then stated in Parliament that Arunachal was an inalienable part of India.

Rijiju doesn’t think that’s enough. “We want the issue taken up with Beijing and an assurance given to the people of Arunachal Pradesh that the area is not an unsettled dispute.”

The MP has demanded immediate development of roads along the MacMahon line. Except at the Bumla and Kiboto border points, there are no pucca roads in the area and patrolling is done on foot.














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