India and China have inked a comprehensive pact not to use military capability to attack each other, which is expected to defuse recurring border stand-offs. However, New Delhi refused to sign an agreement on a liberalised visa regime in protest against China’s stapled visa policy.
Under a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement signed after extensive talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in Beijing on Wednesday, the two agreed not to tail each other’s patrol along the Line of Actual Control, which has witnessed numerous incursions by Chinese troops at Depsang Valley in Ladakh. The BDCA facilitates the establishment of a hotline between the military headquarters of the two countries and meeting sites for border personnel in all sectors of the 4,000-km LAC. In another agreement aimed at allaying India’s concerns over new dams on the Brahmaputra, China will provide more flood data of Brahmaputra from May to October instead of June to October. Beijing also assured India that its dams were run of the river projects not designed to hold water. Xi assured Singh that it will take into account its concerns on issues on Brahmaputra and Sutlej. Agreements for cooperation in road transport and highways, power equipment service centres in India and for establishing sister city relationships between Delhi-Beijing and Bangalore-Chengdu and Kolkata- Kunming were also signed.
The Chinese side was very keen on a pact for a liberalised visa regime, but India was not in the wake of a controversy over stapled visas issued by the Chinese Embassy to two Indian archers from Arunachal Pradesh. During the talks, India objected to stapled visas issued by China to residents of some Indian states over whose parts Beijing has laid claim.
Later PM Manmohan Singh told the media that he had “conveyed to Premier Li our commitment to visa simplification to facilitate travel of Chinese nationals to India and expressed the hope that China will also facilitate such exchanges”. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh added the Chinese side had not given any commitment to discontinue the practice of issuing stapled visa.
China expert Srikanth Kondapalli said the visa agreement could be signed during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India in future. “India was relentless in its efforts to dissuade the Chinese to stop stapled visas for Kashmiris and Arunachalees. While Beijing subsequently stopped the practice for J&K around 2010-11, there are no signs yet for Arunachal.”