Indian Ambassador Downplays Chinese Passports Map

U.S. says map causes 'tension and anxiety' in an already tense and anxious region.

A Chinese man holds up a passport with a map that shows China's claims over the South China Sea and disputed regions along its border with India.
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The Indian ambassador to the U.S. on Tuesday downplayed the outcry that has stemmed from a map on new Chinese passports that depicts disputed lands along the Indian border as a part of the communist country.

The Chinese government says people are "reading too much" into the new passports that show the Arunachal Pradesh state by far eastern India and Aksai Chin in the Himalayas as Chinese territory, according to Yahoo! News.

India's Minister of External Affairs describes the map as "unacceptable," reports The Guardian. Multiple countries have refused to stamp the passports. India is stamping its own map on the visas it issues to Chinese travelers.

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But Ambassador Nirupama Rao said on Tuesday that the Indian government recognizes the differences between the two countries' interpretations of the border.

"This shadow play between these two countries is bound to continue until and unless we have a final, comprehensive settlement of the issue," she said while speaking at a Foreign Policy Initiative forum at the Newseum on Tuesday. "These differences will surface from time to time, but we have to learn to manage these differences," says Rao, who served as the ambassador to China from 2006 to 2009, the first woman to do so.

India has an open dialogue with China on issues such as these, she says, which came up during Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie's visit to India in September.

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"Having dealt with the issue for some decades now, this is not going to go away overnight," she says, and points to the peace both countries have maintained on the border for more than four decades. "Not a single shot has been fired on that border for all these years."

The United States government views the new passports differently. It plans to bring up concerns with Beijing over the map, which it says causes "tension and anxiety" in an already tense and anxious region, according to the Associated Press.

The Philippines also will not stamp visas into the new passport, according to PhilStar.com, opting instead to issue the stamps in a separate application form.

"Through this action, the Philippines reinforces its protest against China's excessive claim over almost the entire South China Sea including the West Philippine Sea," a Department of Foreign Affairs statement says, PhilStar.com reports.

The Chinese Navy has moved into disputed waters in the South China Sea, including fisheries and oil reserves that other countries, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, claim as theirs. Learn more about the Chinese Navy's expansion here.

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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at pshinkman@usnews.com