India, China in new visa row over disputed state

A new row has erupted between India and China following Beijing's refusal to stamp visas in passports of residents from the disputed eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Both India and China consider Arunachal Pradesh to be part of their territory and the giant Asian neighbors fought a brief war in 1962 over it.

Visa issues have festered between the two most populous nations for more than two years, after China refused to stamp visas in passports of residents from India's portion of Kashmir. China considers the Himalayan region to be a disputed territory between India and Pakistan, a close ally of Beijing.

The latest Indian protest came after the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi reportedly issued visas on separate sheets of paper and stapled them into the passports of an Indian athlete and his coach living in Arunachal Pradesh.

India does not allow people to travel out of the country on stapled visas.

"We have unequivocally conveyed to the Chinese side that a uniform practice on issuance of visas to Indian nationals must be followed, regardless of the applicant's ethnicity or place of domicile," said a statement by External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash issued late Wednesday.

The Chinese Embassy refused to comment Thursday on the stapling of visas, or on how many people were affected by it.

Visa issues were brought up by Indian officials during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's three-day visit to India last month. Wen said he took India's concerns seriously and offered to hold talks on the issue, according to Indian officials.

Border areas continue to cause tension between the two countries, which have conducted more than 14 rounds of talks to resolve such disputes.

New Delhi says China is illegally occupying 15,000 square miles (38,000 square kilometers) of its northwestern territory, while Beijing claims a 35,000-square mile (90,000 square-kilometer) chunk in northeastern India.