India, China to Hold Borders Talks Amid Passport Row
Image Credit: Government of China

India, China to Hold Borders Talks Amid Passport Row


India and China will have the 16th round of talks on their boundary dispute on December 3 and 4 against the backdrop of a serious passport controversy. The two Asian giants have not made much progress in their previous rounds of talks and neither side will be expecting any concrete deliverables from the upcoming round between India's National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo.

That said the upcoming round of talks in Beijing may well be different from previous meetings as the two sides may for the first time agree to create a progress report on the boundary talks under the Special Representatives’ mechanism which started in 2003. This in itself won’t be a notable achievement as the two SRs (Menon and Dai) would be presenting the jointly devised report to their respective governments.

Menon made a significant remark ahead of the boundary talks noting that, "We are in the process of agreeing on a framework to settle the boundary and the next step, hopefully the third stage, is to actually agree on a boundary. Right now we are at the second stage."

The border talks will be held close on the heels of the recent passport dispute between the two countries. China recently began issuing passports that included a map showing all the areas that China claims as part of the Chinese state. This included, Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin, the disputed areas between China and India.

Last week, in response, the Indian embassy in Beijing started a new practice of stamping the new Chinese passports with a map of India showing Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as Indian territories. The Chinese government has so far printed over a million such e-passports.

On November 26, Menon appeared at an elite gathering of diplomats and strategic analysts in New Delhi. The event was hosted by the leading Indian think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF). I asked Menon about his thoughts on the passport maps controversy. Menon, who’s a career diplomat and not a politician despite his ministerial status in the government, sought to downplay the controversy:

"I think you need to see these things in some perspective. We do have differences on where the boundary lies. We are discussing them. We have made progress in dealing with that… What has changed? Chinese have a view on where the boundary lies which is why we are having discussions on the boundary because we have differences on where the boundary is. The Chinese chose to put a watermark on their passports which shows the boundaries as they see it. We show our boundary as we see it on visas that we issue. So, what has changed? On our documents, we continue to show what we regard as our boundary; they show their claims on their documents."

Interestingly, Menon’s boss, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s, reaction on the issue was much stronger. Khurshid, a politician, had described the Chinese move as “unacceptable.”

It is not India alone that has rebuffed China over the passport map row, with other nations like Vietnam and the Philippines also strongly protesting Beijing’s new passports. Vietnam too has followed in India’s footsteps and has started issuing visas on separate visa sheets stapled to the new Chinese passports.

The Vietnamese authorities have lodged a formal protest with the Chinese embassy in Vietnam after new e-passports issued by China have depicted a map showing disputed territories in South China Sea as falling under Chinese sovereignty. The government of Philippines too has lodged a protest with Beijing’s embassy over the new e-passports.

The development shows that China is increasingly getting a tit-for-tat response from its neighbors and India is not alone in rebuffing Beijing as China continues to push the envelope over the boundary dispute. It remains to be seen whether the new Chinese leadership will continue with such policies.

sinnathamby kunaratnam
December 30, 2012 at 19:56

japan can say asia belong to japan,that includes china .india,indochina.where will it end.everbody claiming .no solution.

sinnathamby kunaratnam
December 30, 2012 at 19:50

india can start stamping indian visa saying burma is indian territory,tibet is indian territory,lank is indian territory,yunan is part of india.pakistan is part of india,persi is part of india,afghanistan is part of india.

December 4, 2012 at 09:22

What Arunachal Pradesh?  This is the piece of territory that India invaded and annexed in 1951.  Before 1951, it is directly control from Lhasa. 

December 3, 2012 at 21:28

"It is entertaining to watch Beijing lurching one way and then another, across the world stage. What nation can rival it for sheer comedy?"
U.S maybe? One hand taking money from China to fund its government budget deficit, the other hand deploying forces to asia to contain China. And don't even get me started on the whole invade Iraq and Afghanistan and thus helping to get rid of Iran's enemies topic.

December 3, 2012 at 01:22

Chinese foreign affair ministry is facing some issues in its  decision making. I guess there have hired some wrong consultant.
Last year  in order to please their terrorist friend Pakistan, they started issues stapled Visa to Indian from Indian state of J&K. After some eggs throwing from Indian goverment, they quitely retreat from such process. They also rejected issuing visa to army general who had served in Arunachal Pradesh. He was traveling for India China annual militarty exercises. Result was that India cancelled the exercise. This year, China comfortably issued visa to the army general who had served in AP.
New Chinese move is this e-passoport with illegal Chinese map. India is now issues India visa on Indian map only.
Well, if China is dreaming to be a superpower and also want to resolve all disputes with its neigbours peacefully, then frankly they must stop such cheap tactics and rather come out with innovating idea which everyone would like.
This is only creating more mistrust towards China. If this continues, then I am afraid there will be no peaceful means left to resolve the issues. 
I believe, someone in China doesnot want to actually resolve things with negociations as in that case China will have to give some of its claims. China would prefer war and try to get all what it says as its own.
Whatever the case may be, only thing I would say is option of war is no more with China without reversing all its progress made in last 3 decades.

A Good Move
December 2, 2012 at 02:44

More likely leoturd has no idea why Beijing placed the map in new Chinese passports.  It is easy to fathom why and it is a good, calculated move.  Well done, Beijing.

Leonard R.
December 1, 2012 at 22:53

You have to laugh out loud sometimes at Beijing's diplomacy. Does one hand ever know what the other is doing?
Beijing issues these passports showing ownership of disputed territories.. Then it sits down with the disputant countries, to negotiate the very same territories Beijing has just recently put on its passports. Astonishing.
It claims & aggressively patrols the Senkakus. It villifies Japan and Japanese people. And at the same time, it is inviting Tokyo to open a friendly FTA with them. 
It is entertaining to watch Beijing lurching one way and then another, across the world stage. What nation can rival it for sheer comedy?

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