It seems Sino-Indian relations this year could be in for another bumpy ride. Close on the heels of a recent diplomatic quarrel involving an Indian diplomat in China, it seems fresh tensions are brewing, this time involving Sino-Indian military ties.
India on Friday suspended the visit of a mid-level military delegation to China after Beijing denied a visa to an Indian Air Force officer seemingly because he hails from disputed Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese move came barely three weeks after the Fourth Annual Defense Dialogue between India and China that was held in New Delhi and during which both sides had decided to exchange visits of two mid-level defense officers.
India ultimately decided to overturn its decision to halt the 30-member delegation, but still conveyed its displeasure over the denial of the visa.
Sources said the Defense Ministry was in favor of scrapping the event altogether, but the Ministry of External Affairs had the last word, and took into account the bigger picture of bilateral relations with China. As a result, Indian Air Force Group Capt. M Panging and 14 others were reportedly left out of the tri-service delegation that headed to China on Sunday for a four-day trip. The Indian side decided that while the Chinese had indeed indulged in a provocative act by denying a visa to Panging, a single incident shouldn’t become the template for India’s China policy.
China has for years been following a policy of denying visas to Indians living in Arunachal Pradesh, which the Chinese describe as “Southern Tibet,” and has staked claims over the entire northeastern state. India for its part has repeatedly taken issue with China at the highest levels over such issues, and raised its concerns with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao when he visited India in December 2010.
Robert Chang ( diplomat magazine)