India-China visa row erupts ahead of PM Singh's visit to Beijing

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - Indian politicians complained on Friday after a Chinese airline blocked two Indian archers from a disputed border state from travelling to China, raising territorial tension just days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Beijing.

Despite fast-growing economic ties and cooperation on global issues, the nuclear-armed neighbours have long disagreed about large areas of their 4,000-km border and fought a brief, high-altitude war in 1962 over India-administered Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as South Tibet.

Two teenage female archers from Arunachal Pradesh, who were due to participate in the World Archery Youth Championships in Wuxi, were barred from boarding a Guangzhou-bound flight late on Thursday.

China refuses to stamp visas on Indian passport holders from disputed territories, but staples them instead, a practice that infuriates India. At times, even Chinese companies, like China Southern Airlines involved in Thursday's incident, reject such visas.

"If this goes on, we must boycott cross-border relations with China. We want to have friendship, better trade relations with China, but that doesn't mean they have claim over us," Mr Ninong Ering, Minority Affairs Minister and a lawmaker from Arunachal Pradesh, said.

There have been no reports of cross-border firing in decades, but disputes, visa rows and wars of words do disrupt attempts to improve trade ties between the Asian nations which account for 40 per cent of the world's total population.

China is the world's most populous nation, followed by India.

"This is another humiliation that we have received. We have been treated as separate people, as if we are stapled citizens.

We are not full-fledged citizens of India," Mr Kiren Rijiju, an opposition lawmaker from the state and the vice-president of the Archery Association of India, said.

Last year, India started stamping its own map on visas it issues to holders of new Chinese passports that contain a map depicting disputed territory within China's borders.