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Asia

Fresh war of words between India and China

Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao at the East Asia Summit in Hanoi, China has reiterated that its policy of issuing stapled visas to Kashmiris will remain unchanged.

Chinese PM Wen Jiabao and his Indian counterpart are set to meet again at the East Asia Summit in Hanoi

Chinese PM Wen Jiabao and his Indian counterpart are set to meet again at the East Asia Summit in Hanoi

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to bring up China’s policy of issuing stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu & Kashmir in his meeting with Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Hanoi.

But Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert at Jawaharlal Nehru University, does not think talks will change much: "The indicators are that the Chinese will not backtrack on the stapled visas. Unless and until the Chinese de-escalate on this count, there is no way India will improve relations with China.

"The military exchanges that have been held in the past two and half months will also continue. I guess because of these indicators one can say that the current relations have become more destabilized."

Is China's attitude changing?

Although China officially maintains that the Kashmir dispute is for India and Pakistan to resolve, many in the Indian security establishment feel the visa row suggests a change in China's attitude in favor of Pakistan.

Officially, China has said that the Kashmir dispute is one that India and Pakistan should resolve alone

Officially, China has said that the Kashmir dispute is one that India and Pakistan should resolve alone

China's stapled visa policy together with references to Gilgit and Baltistan, which are part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), as Northern Areas Pakistan by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson have created an impression that China has changed its neutral stand on the status of Kashmir.

"China’s role in Kashmir is proactive," Kondapalli said. "It has crossed the red line of the equation between India and China. President Hu Jintao gave an interview to the Xinhua news agency suggesting that he was happy that the infrastructure projects have been going on. This is an indication that China is going to be permanently placed in the region."

India has suspended high-level defense exchanges

A couple of months ago India expressed its displeasure by suspending high-level defense exchanges with China after Beijing refused to give a normal visa to a senior army official because he headed troops in an allegedly "disputed" area.

Analysts say that China is likely to become increasingly present in the Kashmir Valley

Analysts say that China is likely to become increasingly present in the Kashmir Valley

This is expected to be India’s stand till Beijing reverts to its long-held position on Jammu and Kashmir.

"I don't think this could be an impediment in the bilateral relations in the long term," says D. V. Shekar from the Centre of East Asian Studies. "But I think both India and China have to learn basically to live as neighbors, focusing more on peace. If China continues to walk on the same path, without taking any corrective measures and if India decides to walk on the same path, then the bilateral relations could actually reach a point where both will confront each other."

Special representatives from both sides are expected to meet soon.

Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Anne Thomas

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