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China's New Passport Irritates Regional Neighbors

Despite the fact that China and India fought an intense month-long war 50 years ago, their border disputes remain deadlocked. Nevertheless, they keep finding ways to remind the other country about their still-current disagreement.

Recently, China began issuing new e-passports that show watermarks of two regions as being part of China. Problem is that these regions in question are the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and the disputed Aksai Chin occupied by China.

Needless to say, India was quite upset over the issue. In retaliation, the Indian embassy in Beijing started stamping its own version of the Indian map on visas issued to Chinese citizens - making sure to include the two controversial regions.

India is not alone, though. The new Chinese e-passports also depict disputed, resource-rich islands that are located in the South China Sea. These islands are simultaneously claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam.

This is not the first time that India and China have been involved in arguments over maps and passports. 2 years ago, China irritated Indian officials by stapling the visas of residents of Kashmir, a province in the Himalayas where Indians have been battling Islamist insurgents for nearly 2 decades. By stapling visas, Indians argued, China was considering Kashmir a disputed area as well, only adding to the tension.

After that, Indian officials sternly reminded China to be sensitive to its concerns about Kashmir, just as it is sensitive about Tibet.

Because of these ongoing diplomatic disputes, holders of Chinese electronic passports cannot be used to apply for an online visa to visit either India or Vietnam. If, however, a traveler has a Chinese-issued electronic visa, they will have to apply for a traditional visa at their nearest embassy or consulate.