India has joined a number of Asian states condemning China’s new microchip-equipped passports. The dispute was triggered by the map printed on documents’ pages, which shows China's claim on disputed territories.
The map depicts India's Arunachal Pradesh state and the Himalayan region of Aksai Chin within Chinese borders.
India’s Minister of External Affairs, Salman Khurshid, called the Chinese passports' maps "unacceptable."
New Delhi responded to the territorial offense by issuing visas to Chinese citizens with a map featuring all territories claimed by India.
“The correct map of India is stamped on visas being issued on such passports,” The Gulf Times cited an Indian source as saying.
India says China holds control over 41,440 square kilometers (16,000 square miles) of its territory in Aksai Chin, in Kashmir. At the same time, Beijing insists that the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a 1,050-kilometer (650-mile) border with the Chinese-run region of Tibet, is within Chinese territories.
The border dispute has been a long-lasting argument. The two Asian neighbors fought a brief border war in 1962, and in the 1990’s the two countries signed an agreement honoring what is known as the “Line of Actual Control.” However, large stretches of the India-China border are still not demarcated.
And though China began issuing the new passports in May, the criticism from neighboring states popped up only this week.
The map in the new passports also angered both the Philippines and Vietnam, as it depicted disputed islands in the South China Sea, which hugs the coastline of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and a small part of Indonesia.
The Philippines formally protested Beijing’s inclusion of its territories, with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario issuing a note to the Chinese embassy.
Chinese carrying the new passport would be violating Philippine national sovereignty, a Foreign Ministry spokesman also said.
Vietnam called the passports with disputable maps unacceptable, with that country's passport control office saying it will not stamp visa pages in the new passport.
Earlier, Vietnam’s government issued a formal complaint to the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi, demanding that Beijing remove the “erroneous content” printed in the passport. The demand was met with objection in China.
"These actions by China have violated Vietnam's sovereignty to the Paracel and Spratly islands as well as our rights and jurisdiction to related maritime areas in the South China Sea, or East Sea," Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said.
Taiwan was also offended by the so-called "nine-dash" map, which features two of the island’s most famous tourist spots, Sun Moon Lake and Cingshui Cliff, as part of Chinese territory.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou called for China not to “unilaterally damage the status quo of the hard-fought stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
The local council responsible for ties with Beijing said the government cannot accept the map.
“This is total ignorance of reality and only provokes disputes,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said.
China has responded to complaints that the design of the new passports “is not targeting a specific country.”
"China’s standard electronic passports are issued according to international civil aviation standards. China is willing to communicate with the relevant countries, and continue promoting contact and healthy development with foreign personnel," China’s Xinhua news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying as saying.
The new passports have forced many Chinese travelers to change their trips’ routes, with some saying they will not travel to the offended countries, local media report.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have scheduled a meeting on December 12 to discuss claims in the South China Sea and the role of China.