China’s newly introduced e-passports have a map depicting Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as part of its territory. Beijing has also included its claims over South China Sea, on maps printed in the passports, irking Vietnam and the Philippines. India had protested against this development by issuing visas with a map of India showing Arunachal and Aksai Chin within its borders.
According to sources, the issue had cropped up “about two-three weeks ago”. China claims the entire territory of Arunachal Pradesh, which it calls ‘South Tibet’. China used to issue stapled visas on the passports of Indian citizens domiciled in Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh earlier. It had even refused visas to Arunachal residents, claiming that since the residents alread stay within the Chinese territory they do not require documents to visit China. While India has chosen to quietly protest the e-passport issue, the Philippines and Vietnam, who have long-standing disputes with China over claims in the South China Sea, have made vociferous complaints.
“The Philippines strongly protests the inclusion of the nine-dash lines in the e-passport, as such image covers an area that is clearly part of the Philippines’ territory and maritime domain,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said. Similarly, Vietnam made clear its grievance, and asked China to “reverse their incorrect content”.
Responding to international agencies, China’s foreign ministry said: “The passports’ maps, with their outlines of China, are not targeting a specific country. China is willing to actively communicate with the relevant countries and promote the healthy development of Sino-foreign personnel exchanges”.