India is livid over recent comments reportedly made by the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan that Beijing will continue its policy of issuing stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir. Yet despite the remarks by Liu Jian having been made more than a week ago, India has so far chosen not to make a public fuss.
Speaking at a seminar in Islamabad entitled ‘Evolving Global and Regional Scenario’, Liu reportedly said that China’s visa policy towards Kashmir is consistent and will remain unchanged. This public confirmation of the controversial policy has angered Indians familiar with Liu’s comments because it could well indicate a hardening of the policy on the Chinese side over what remains a very sensitive issue.
The significance of the fact that the statement has been made by the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, on Pakistani soil, hasn’t been lost on New Delhi. China has publicly taken sides on the Kashmir issue, and made clear to the world who it is backing. Liu’s statement must have been music to Pakistani ears as Pakistan issues regular visas to residents of Pakistan-held Kashmir.
Despite the studied silence so far, though, China watchers in the Indian government are unlikely to allow Liu’s comments to pass altogether.
India has already made clear it intends to be more assertive in its dealings with China. New Delhi decided, for example, to ignore Chinese requests to skip the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony last year, despite Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s impending visit to India. In addition, during Wen’s trip India repeatedly conveyed to China that India is as sensitive about Kashmir as China is about Tibet.
This latest Chinese move is likely to prompt India to press China’s two ‘T’ buttons—Tibet and Taiwan—even harder.