India, China in row over Kashmir visas

NEW DELHI Fri Oct 2, 2009 2:28pm IST

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has protested against a Chinese embassy policy of issuing different visas to residents of Kashmir, the latest in a series of low-level border disputes between the Asian giants.

New Delhi bristles at any hint that Kashmir is not part of India, which has for two decades grappled with a separatist insurgency in the state that has killed tens of thousands and fuelled tensions with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.

India claims Kashmir in full but shares the Himalayan region with Pakistan and China.

While trade between India and China has flourished, mistrust remains, especially over the disputed Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh which is set to welcome the Dalai Lama in November.

India and China fought a brief but bloody border war, partly over Arunachal Pradesh, in 1962.

India's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Thursday in response to a local newspaper article, which had said the Chinese embassy in New Delhi gave Kashmir residents visas on a separate sheet of paper and not in a passport.

"It is our considered view and position that there should be no discrimination against visa applicants of Indian nationality on grounds of domicile or ethnicity," it said.

"We have conveyed our well-justified concern to the Chinese government in this regard."

Chinese officials declined to comment.

The row comes ahead of a controversial visit by the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, part of which China claims in a long-running dispute that dates back to a 1962 border war.

China, which reviles the Tibetan spiritual leader as a dangerous separatist, has protested against the trip and said it was further proof of the Dalai Lama's scheming.

But India, which has hosted the exiled Dalai Lama since he fled a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, has cleared the visit.

(Reporting by Matthias Williams; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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