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Row over China Kashmir visa move

By Altaf Hussain
BBC News, Srinagar

Kashmiri man with Chinese visa
Kashmiri businessman Aejaz Hussain missed his flight (Photo: Irshad Khan)

A member of India's governing Congress party in Indian-administered Kashmir has condemned moves by China to issue separate visas for Kashmiri people.

He said the decision by China to issue hand-written visas on loose sheets of paper was "not acceptable".

China has given no explanation for its move, but many in Srinagar say it is because Beijing sees Kashmir as disputed territory.

The divided region is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan.

'Not valid'

So far only about 100 people have been affected by the new procedures.

The move - introduced in May - follows recent reports in the Indian media that Chinese troops have made incursions into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in the Ladakh region.

The new hand-written visa in Aejaz Hussain's passport (Photo: Irshad Khan)
Aejaz Hussain's new hand-written visa (Photo: Irshad Khan)

The new requirements may affect only a handful of students and businessmen who travel from Indian-administered Kashmir to China, but the diplomatic implications of the Chinese move could result in a serious deterioration of relations between Beijing and Delhi.

One of those affected is Aejaz Hussain, a Srinagar businessman who regularly travels to China.

When he last went two months ago he was issued with a hand-written Chinese visa on a loose sheet of paper stapled to his passport. But Indian immigration authorities told him it was not valid. He missed his flight as a result and complained to the Chinese embassy in Delhi.

"They told me they were using the loose visa only for people from Kashmir. They said it was their government's decision," he said.

Acting on the advice of embassy officials, he asked the immigration authorities at Delhi international airport to explain in writing why the visa was invalid.

"I told them to arrest me if I had a fake visa."

Eventually Indian officials allowed him to fly.

"But I had to go through hell before they let me," Mr Hussain said.

'Wrong'

Not everybody has been so fortunate. Shuja Altaf was prevented from travelling last month after being told by Indian immigration that Chinese "loose visas" were not being accepted.

Indian and Chinese flags
India says relations with China remain warm

"The officer told me that by issuing such visas, China was refusing to recognise Kashmir as part of India," Mr Altaf said.

He said that he saw at least four students from Kashmir who were also prevented from boarding their flight.

Now a prominent leader of India's governing Congress party from Kashmir, Saifuddin Soz, has spoken out over the issue.

"It is wrong, it is not acceptable to us," he said. "Kashmir is an inseparable part of India and China cannot question that position."

However, a senior separatist leader and former chairman of the All Party Hurriyat conference, Molvi Abbas Ansari, said that China's decision reflects its recognition of Kashmir as disputed territory.



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