In a rebuff to China, India on Thursday made it clear that any paper visa "stapled" to the passport in separate sheets rather than pasted will be treated as invalid for travel out of the country.
"It has come to the attention of the government that the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi and its consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata are issuing visas on a separate piece of paper stapled to the passport (rather than "pasted" as is the usual practice), to certain categories of Indian nationals on the basis of their domicile, ethnicity and/or place of issue of the passport.
"Such paper visas stapled to the passport are not considered valid for travel out of the country," the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.
The snub comes in the wake of the reports that some Kashmiri students and businessmen were given visa by the Chinese embassy on a separate piece of paper, stapled to the passport. Immigration officials at the airport denied permission to such travellers to fly out.
The ministry of external affairs also asked its citizens to ascertain from the Chinese embassy or consulate whether the visa issued to them will be affixed to the passport or will be in the nature of a stapled paper visa to avoid any inconvenience or financial loss.
"All Indian citizens intending to travel to the People's Republic of China are advised that before making any travel arrangements they should first ascertain from the Chinese embassy or consulate, as the case may be, whether the visa being issued to them will be affixed to the passport or will be in the nature of a stapled paper visa, so that they are not inconvenienced or put to any financial loss later on this count," the ministry said.
Chinese embassy officials here have been maintaining that stapling of the visas on a separate piece of paper was a "usual practice" for last few years and the problem was from the side of Indian immigration officials at the airport.
The Chinese embassy's practice of stamping visas to some Kashmiris on a separate sheet of paper instead of passports was seen as a new front in needling it, evoking a strong reaction from India.
The visas were stamped on separate papers as was the practice for those hailing from Arunachal Pradesh.
The action with regard to Kashmiri travellers is seen as an attempt by China to question the status of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India.
Upset over the development, India said, "It is our considered view and position that there should be no discrimination against visa applicants of Indian nationality on the grounds of domicile or ethnicity."