India has begun to mark its visas for anyone travelling from China to India with its official map that shows the disputed areas of Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. This was done to retaliate against Beijing’s newly issued hi-tech passports that show these areas as part of China in a map embossed inside.

The new passports have also angered several of China’s neighbours as it includes almost the entire South China Sea as also Taiwan, which broke away after a civil war in 1949, as part of its own territory.

Official maps issued by China have along included the territories, both land and sea, disputed with India and the other neighbours like Vietnam and Philippines.

But that this map is now included in the passport could require other nations to endorse those claims by stamping their official seals to the documents. It was learnt that India had taken up the matter with China but Indian diplomats here declined to comment.

The two countries are embroiled in a festering dispute over territorial claims over these two areas for decades. Several rounds of dialogues between top officials in the last few decades have failed to resolve the issue considered to be a fundamental roadblock against smoothening of ties between the two most populous nations of the world.

Indian Embassy officials remained tightlipped about the new development but it was learnt that the China map including the two areas were noticed after the passports – biometric ones containing a chip — were issued in early autumn.

After the controversial maps were noticed, Indian authorities decided to counter it by stamping the official Indian map on the visa; till the controversy was triggered Indian visas didn’t carry Indian maps.

China has long claimed territorial rights over Arunachal Pradesh and has either denied visas to anyone from the state or for a while issued visas stapled separately.

In July this year, an Indian youth delegation member from Arunachal Pradesh could not make it to Beijing after Chinese authorities denied her a visa.

In November, 2009, India had declared as ‘invalid’ the stand-alone paper visas given by the Chinese embassy and consulates for Indians from Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. New Delhi issued a travel advisory asking those going to China to ensure their visas are pasted on their passports.

In 2007, Beijing refused a visa to an IAS officer of the Arunachal cadre, saying he did not need one as the state belonged to China.

In April 2010, pistol shooter Pemba Tamang was issued a stapled visa by the Chinese which prevented him from participating in the world championship.

In January, 2011, China again issued stapled visas to two women weightlifters from Arunachal which prevented them from flying to the country. And in July last year, members of a karate team from the state were again issued staple visas.

The change in the new map highlights China’s longstanding claim on the South China Sea in its entirety, though parts of the waters also are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

Several countries have protested against Beijing’s decision of marking the new passports with the controversial map.

In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry said the new passport was issued based on international standards. China began issuing new versions of its passports to include electronic chips on May 15, though criticism cropped up only this week.

“The outline map of China on the passport is not directed against any particular country,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.