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Indian, Chinese media cite New Delhi's "strict approval process for granting visas to Chinese nationals."
No better time than now for more bilateral exchanges and mutual understanding between the two giant neighbors - with a combined population of 2.8 bln.
Visa matters between China and India are again in the spotlight.
Continuing its long-standing policy, China recently issued stapled visas to three Indian athelets to the ongoing FISU(Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire) World University Games in Chengdu, because they come from southern Tibet, which India calls Arunachal Pradesh and claims as its territory.
That is to say, the three Indian atheletes got their visas stapled to a page in their passports, rather than the regular visas stamped onto passports. The Indian government protested the move and withdrew one of its teams to the Games because it believes sending the three athletes with the stapled visas implies accepting China’s claim on the territory.
China has long insisted the stabled visa is a pragmatic arrangement of goodwill. Wang Yi, its foreign minister, reportedly said in 2014
China has resorted to a special arrangement of issuance of stapled visa to address the need for travel of local people. This gesture is out of goodwill and flexibility and if we do not do that we will not be able to address the concern of outbound and overseas travel of these people
At the end of May, Keith Zhai of the Wall Street Journal reported China, India Kick Out Nearly All of Each Other’s Journalists as Rivalry Escalates
India and China have ejected each other’s journalists in recent weeks, virtually wiping out mutual media access and deepening a rift between the world’s two most populous nations.
New Delhi denied visa renewals this month to the last two remaining Chinese state media journalists in the country, from state-run Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television, according to people familiar with the matter.
Indian media outlets had four remaining journalists based in China at the beginning of the year. At least two of them haven’t been granted visas to return to the country, a Chinese official said. A third was told this month that his accreditation had been revoked but he remains in the country, people familiar with the matter said.
A spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs declined to discuss the details of visas for individual journalists. He pointed to April comments in which he had said Chinese journalists continue to work in India and the government hoped China would allow Indian journalists to work there.
Over the years, India has increasingly limited the duration of stay for Chinese journalists. In 2016, India refused to extend visas for three Xinhua journalists, including its then-bureau chief in New Delhi, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
After the WSJ scoop, China broke its silence, saying its reciprocical move comes only after New Delhi’s unfair treatment for Chinese journalists
Since 2020, the Indian side has refused to review and approve Chinese journalists’ applications for stationing in India and limited the period of validity of visas held by Chinese journalists in India to only three months or even one month. As a result, the number of Chinese journalists stationed in India has plummeted from 14 to just one. As we speak, the Indian side still has not agreed to renew the visa of the last Chinese journalist in the country. For Indian media outlets, four have been stationed in China in recent years and one is still working and living normally in China.
My supervisor once warned that the discord between China and India, together home to more than 2.8 billion people, about 62 percent of the total population of Asia, could become a significant Asian tragedy. Sadly, it seems that we are all bearing witness to the unfolding tragedy.
Meanwhile, on visas impacting a much larger group of people, both Indian and Chinese media recently reported the difficulties for Chinese professionals to get an Indian visa.
In Visa delays for Chinese professionals hit India businesses, Economic Times, an Indian newspaper, reported in June
The government's strict approval process for granting visas to Chinese nationals and clearing investment plans of Chinese firms is now hurting Indian businesses, with projects getting delayed or even scrapped, multiple industry executives told ET.
Expansion projects of homegrown electronics contract manufacturers - including Dixon Technologies' proposed ₹400-crore unit for manufacturing refrigerators - are impacted due to non-grant or delay in grant of visa to Chinese engineers, they said ...
On this side, Yicai Global, a Chinese business media outlet, detailed the obstacles and delays faced by Chinese professionals in getting into Incredible India. Below is a translation of 中国人去印度签证有多难？有人等了15个月还没获签 How challenging is it for Chinese citizens to obtain an Indian visa? Some individuals have been waiting for 15 months and have yet to be granted one by 钱小岩 Qian Xiaoyan at Yicai Global, first published on July 11.
（Credit: Qian Xiaoyan for Yicai Global.)
Speaking of the application process for an India business visa, several veteran international traders who have traveled to dozens of countries have expressed their exasperation to Yicai Global, calling it the most complicated business visa application they have ever encountered in their lives - an experience they will never forget. Among them, many have endured waiting periods exceeding six months, or have already been rejected.
Regardless of whether they are businessmen, investment lawyers, or visa consultants, all of them expressed to Yicai Global that, based on their knowledge, the vast majority of visa applications get rejected, and successful approvals are few and far between. Obtaining an Indian visa has almost become a "mission impossible."
In fact, in June of this year, Xinhua News Agency made a rare move by publishing an article expressing complaints about India's unjust visa system for Chinese journalists. The article highlighted the journalists' “repeated experiences of unfair and discriminatory treatment”.
Apart from the high rejection rate, the application process also induces considerable anxiety for applicants. A Yicai Global journalist recently visited the India Visa Application Center in Shanghai and discovered that the center does not publicly disclose a comprehensive list of required documents. Instead, applicants are informed about detailed requirements only when they submit their visa applications at the front desk, and these requirements often change unexpectedly, leaving applicants unprepared.
After successfully submitting applications, many individuals get caught in a prolonged waiting period. The journalist encountered a case where the applicant had been waiting for 15 months. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, obtaining a business visa to India from China typically took around five work days. According to the Indian media, India implemented stricter visa measures for Chinese citizens starting from September 2020.
Entering the post-pandemic era, India has introduced e-visas to 166 countries and regions worldwide, offering a visa approval process that typically takes only 3 days. Remarkably, among the G20 countries, only China and Turkey have not been granted the convenience of e-visa facilities.
“Do not bother applying; it is impossible to get through.”
Ms. Lu, employed at a trading company, sold a batch of equipment to India last year and scheduled the deployment of engineers to India for on-site installation and testing in February of this year.
Towards the end of last year, she began preparing for her Indian visa and reached out to a visa agency for help. Unexpectedly, the agency declined her request and candidly stated, "Do not bother applying; it is impossible to get through." Undeterred, Ms. Lu persisted and eventually found another agency to assist her in the process.
Currently, applying for a business visa to India demands more than 20 documents. However, these required documents are not openly disclosed on the websites of the Indian embassy, consulates, or the India Visa Application Center. Even the notices posted inside the visa application center fail to provide comprehensive information about all the necessary documents.
Furthermore, some of the required application documents have drawn criticism from numerous applicants for being excessive. For instance, when applying for a business visa to India, applicants are required to furnish not only their highest educational degree but also notarize it and provide the notarial certificate. Additionally, the notarial certificates of personal technical qualification certificate and a company's business license are also mandated. Prior to the pandemic, a business visa to India typically did not necessitate any notarial certificates.
Out of the over 20 documents necessary for an India business visa, only a handful can be easily obtained, dissuading many applicants. To expedite the arrival of Chinese engineers in India, Ms. Lu said that she "worked relentlessly to gather the required materials, putting in overtime every day, sacrificing sleep." With utmost efficiency, it took her as many as two weeks to gather all the necessary materials."
In February of this year, she hurried to Shanghai to submit the documents. While at the visa application center, she witnessed numerous applicants being informed that their application materials were insufficient and needed to be resubmitted. Even the visa center staff kindly advised, "If it's not absolutely essential, we don't recommend applying."
However, as the previous agency had forewarned, just half a month later, Ms. Lu and her team received the news that all their applications were rejected, with no reasons provided by the Indian side. Ms. Lu pointed out that she has encountered many peers and friends in a similar situation, feeling bewildered and ultimately deciding to give up on their visa applications.
Ms. Lu’s client in India is a prestigious local enterprise, which sent emails and made phone calls to its local immigration office and the Indian Consulate General in Shanghai, expressing the necessity of having Chinese engineers arrive in India -otherwise, it would result in significant losses for the Indian companies involved.
Ms. Lu resubmitted her visa application in April, and it has been three more months since then with no updates or return of her passport. This prolonged waiting period has left her unable to travel to other countries during this time.
According to Ms. Lu, the difficulty of obtaining a business visa to India has further increased recently. For instance, applicants are now required to present a six-month bank statement showing a minimum balance of 100,000 yuan.
Indian companies are also suffering losses.
Due to the inability of Chinese engineers to be on-site for installation and tweaking, Ms. Lu had to resort to guiding the Indian clients through video calls. Unfortunately, the results were highly unsatisfactory. As a last resort, the Indian clients had to incur the expense of hiring engineers from European countries for the tweaking process, which amounted to over 200,000 yuan in total.
Ms. Lu told Yicai Global that the costs incurred in this situation have to be shouldered by Chinese companies, leading to significant financial losses. "While it may appear to be caused by Chinese companies on the surface, the reality is that we are powerless because India doesn’t issue visas," she explained. Ms. Lu further disclosed that she spent over 10,000 yuan on preparing the visa application materials, and this doesn't even include the expenses of manhours.
It’s more challenging process of obtain a work visa. Many Chinese individuals seeking work visas have their own investments in India. However, an investment lawyer well-versed in Indian business affairs informed Yicai Global that he has not come across anyone who has returned to India with ease.
The lawyer informed Yicai Global that the situation of Chinese investors and managers being unable to return to India has left local businesses without effective management. As a result, the best these businesses can do is to maintain their operations and they are unable to explore opportunities for expansion. Moreover, managing operations from a remote location means they are ill-equipped to address sudden local challenges, leading to a substantial surge in operating costs.
In reality, the challenges in obtaining Indian visas have far-reaching consequences beyond the losses experienced by Chinese companies. Reports from Indian media indicate that the Indian government's rigorous visa scrutiny procedures for Chinese citizens have also resulted in detrimental impacts on Indian businesses.
Atul Lall, the Managing Director of Dixon Technologies, a homegrown Indian electronic product manufacturing company, has underscored the significance of granting visas to Chinese engineers. He emphasized that Chinese technology plays a pivotal role in Indian factories, and without it, the progress of "Made in India" will be impeded.
According to Pankaj Mohindroo, Chairman of the Indian Cellular and Electronics Association, the delays and restrictions in issuing business visas and work visas have emerged as significant barriers hindering industry expansion and growth.
[Note: Yicai Global didn’t mention the source, but this was apparently sourced from a report by Economic Times, an Indian newspaper.]
People-to-people exchanges are also hindered.
In addition to economic and trade exchanges, visa application difficulties have also taken a toll on people-to-people exchanges. A student surnamed Gu has been waiting for his student visa for 15 months.
Gu majored in Computer Science and Technology during his undergraduate studies. Recognizing India's expertise in this field, he applied to a graduate program at an Indian university and was successfully admitted.
In the first half of 2022, Gu submitted his student visa application. Unfortunately, it was not until 8 months later that he received a call from the Indian Embassy in China, asking for supplementary documents. Despite having submitted the required documents and with the university's intervention, there has been no update whatsoever. He is still unable to retrieve his passport.
[Note: Hundreds of thousands of international students were shut out by China for a long period of time during COVID, according to the Wall Street Journal. More than 23,000 Indian students enrolled at Chinese universities were reportedly stranded back home due to Covid-19 visa restrictions, according to South China Morning Post. China rescinded Covid-era visa restrictions in March.]
Due to the travel restrictions, Gu is now left with no choice but to pursue his studies through online courses. Worriedly, he confided to Yicai Global that obtaining accreditation from the Ministry of Education for a purely online education like his might be challenging, especially now that the pandemic is seemingly over.
In January of this year, the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange, under the Ministry of Education, made an announcement stating that starting from the spring semester of 2023 (autumn semester in the Southern Hemisphere), they will cease to offer accreditation services for foreign diploma certificates obtained through remote learning, including both new admissions and continuing studies.
[Note: Chinese government policy requires a Chinese government accreditation of a diploma from international higher education, otherwise the diploma is considered illegitimate in China.]
In a regular press briefing held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 12th, spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that since 2020, the Indian side has refused to review and approve Chinese journalists’ applications for stationing in India and limited the period of validity of visas held by Chinese journalists in India to only three months or even one month. As a result, the number of Chinese journalists stationed in India has plummeted from 14 to just one. As we speak, the Indian side still has not agreed to renew the visa of the last Chinese journalist in the country. For Indian media outlets, four have been stationed in China in recent years and one is still working and living normally in China.
On May 30th, Wang Xiaojian, the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in India, said on Twitter that “in the first 5 months of this year, the Chinese Embassy and Consulates General have issued over 60000 visas to Indian people traveling to China for purposes of business, study, tourist, work, family reunion etc. Welcome to China.” (Enditem)
"No better time than now for more bilateral exchanges and mutual understanding" between China and India, says Mike Liu, Vice President of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) and ex-Global VP of Infosys, the Indian multinational corporation, to Jiang Jiang at JJ's Ginger River Review.