Stapled visas not issued to Kashmiris: China

Beijing: China has apparently acknowledged that it has discontinued its policy of issuing stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir, suggesting that there have been no such cases in recent times.

"Have you seen any such reports (of issuance of stapled visas to Kashmiris) in recent times?" Deputy Director General of China`s Foreign Ministry Li Kexin said here, replying to a question on the issue. His remarks come ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao`s visit to New Delhi next week to participate in the fourth BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit.

However, on issuance of stapled visas to people from Arunachal Pradesh, Li referred to the boundary problem between the two countries and said the issue should not affect the overall bilateral relations.

"The issue should not affect the overall bilateral ties. Both the countries have different position on the boundary issue and we must continue our efforts to resolve the issue through dialogue," the senior Foreign Ministry official said.

China had in 2008 started issuing visas on loose sheets of paper to people from Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, drawing India`s ire. China`s Ambassador to India Zhang Yan had last year dropped hints of reversing the practice but there was no clear official word on it.

Seeking better people-to-people contact, another top official in the Foreign Ministry said the number of tourists visiting each other`s country was quite low compared to the size of their population.

"We have 1.3 billion people here and 1.2 billion in India which is altogether 2.5 billion. But around 700,000 people visited each other`s country last year which is very low. We must encourage" such visits, Deputy Director General of Asian Department in Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sun Weidong said.

Noting that the bilateral ties were on an upswing, he said the two fastest growing economies should create a "new platform" to tackle various regional and international issues like the economic slowdown and situation in Syria and Iran.

"We have common interest in most of the key global issues in the world. We must work together on how to tackle global slowdown and issues related to Syria and Iran," he said, adding China wants a peaceful resolution of the situation in Afghanistan where both India and China have stakes.

Contending that the emerging economies have been a strong locomotive for the world economy, Li said China has high expectation from the two-day BRICS summit to be held from March 28 in New Delhi. "We are looking for formulation of a common view on major issues in the BRICS. I think leaders of the five member countries will be able to formulate a common view on important issues," he said.

Asked about military cooperation between the two countries, Li said India and China were strategic partners and military exchange was part of the framework. "I think military exchanges between the two countries will help us build more trust," he said.

On whether the two countries were in touch over cooperation in maritime security, he hinted about China`s readiness for such cooperation, saying relevant departments were looking at the issue. "We have already organised exchange of visits of warships… Both the countries have long coastlines and I think we have maritime opportunities," Li said.