India asks China for early resolution of stapled visa issue

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NEW DELHI - Days after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit here, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao Tuesday said India wanted an early resolution to the issue of stapled visas for residents of Jammu and Kashmir and stressed that allowing it to “fester” for long could lead to a negative impact on the overall relations between the two countries.

Making it clear that China knows the importance of the matter, Rao stressed that New Delhi cannot accept the status quo on it.

“They understand the seriousness and the importance that we attach to this issue because we wanted results. We cannot accept the status quo on this,” Rao told Karan Thapar on CNBC TV 18’s ‘India Tonight’ programme.

“Therefore, what he (Premier Wen Jiabao) told Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) was that we need to sort this out,” Rao added.

“…we need to sit down and discuss this, and let us get our officials to look at this more intensively with a view to resolving it as soon as possible. That is where the matter stands at the moment,” she said.

“I am sure the Chinese see the impact of this on the relationship. It has not had a good impact on the relationship,” she said.

Despite negative perceptions of the visit in sections of the Indian media, Rao stressed that Wen’s visit here last week had a “further stabilising effect” on the relationship.

“When our leaders meet and when they discuss issues that concern the relationship it provides for greater clarity, higher resolution, if one were to use an optic term, in terms of the way forward. And I think it is important always to have a long-term perspective about this relationship,” said Rao.

Rao added that India has been putting across its message on Jammu and Kashmir, particularly on the stapled visa issue “which directly seems to question our sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir,” very clearly that it would like to see more positive statements of support on it from China.

Asked about the first-ever omission of India’s commitment to a One-China policy in the India-China joint statement, Rao clarified the Chinese side understands New Delhi’s long-stated position on the issue and no need was felt to reiterate it.

“Because it is assumed that the One-China policy has not changed,” she said.

Asked about China’s position on supporting India’s candidature for a UN Security Council seat, Rao said: “China has been looking at the issue with a lot of interest and they are absorbed in the debate that is developing on this issue.

“I think they understand that this particular issue about permanent membership is very important for many of the aspiring members including India,” she said.

She, however, expressed confidence that when it comes to the ultimate decision, China is unlikely to “stand in the way”. “They would not want to stand against the groundswell,” she said.

Asked to comment on why the joint statement issued after talks between Wen and Manmohan Singh did not mention 26/11 and bringing the culprits of the terror strike in Mumbai to book, Rao said one has to be realistic about Sino-India ties.

“China and Pakistan have a very close strategic consensus on many issues, and the depth of that relationship is known to all of us. So, we have a very realistic appreciation of where we stand with China on a number of these issues,” she said.

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