India refuses to renew visas for 3 Chinese journalists

NEW DELHI: India's government has refused to renew the visas for three Chinese journalists working for China's official Xinhua News Agency, an official said Sunday, meaning they will have to leave the country by the end of this month.

The official declined to disclose the reasons for the refusal to renew the visas — a move that comes amid tensions between the two countries — but said Xinhua could send replacements for the journalists.

The official said that the three had received several visa extensions and that one of them has been in India for the past seven years. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to reporters.

A report Sunday in The Hindu newspaper said the three traveled to the southern Indian city of Bangalore recently and met exiled Tibetan activists, which became an issue with India's government.

Though the Tibetan government in exile is headquartered in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala, thousands of Tibetans live in southern Karnataka state, whose capital is Bangalore.

Xinhua and China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment on Sunday.

Non-renewal of visas is generally a step followed by various governments to expel foreign journalists.

Indian media reports said the three Chinese journalists were based in New Delhi and Mumbai.

The Indian government's decision comes at a time when the two countries' ties have been under strain following China's refusal to support India's application for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group at a meeting in Seoul last month.

They also share a disputed Himalayan border over which they fought a bloody monthlong conflict in 1962. Any border agreement resolving the dispute looks unlikely in the immediate future, but they appear to be willing to avoid incidents such as incursions into the disputed territory.