Itanagar, Jan 12 (Agencies): China has begun a practice of issuing stapled visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh, which it considers it as disputed, extending its controversial 'paper visa' regime from Jammu and Kashmir to the country's remote north-eastern state.

The practice came to light when two sportsmen from Arunachal Pradesh were prevented by immigration officials from boarding a flight on Wednesday from New Delhi to Beijing since they had stapled visas issued by the Chinese Embassy on their passports.

India considers as 'invalid' the stand-alone Chinese 'paper' visas given to some of its nationals and the contentious issue had figured during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi last month.

Wen had said that officials of India and China should have "in-depth" discussions to resolve the differences on stapled visas issued to those hailing from J and K. He also said that China takes India's concerns on the issue seriously.

Indian Weightlifting Federation's Joint Secretary Abraham K Techi along with a weightlifter of the state were taken aback when immigration officials at New Delhi's IGI Airport stopped them and turned the two men away because of the stapled visas issued by the Chinese  embassy.

Techi and the weightlifter, who were to visit the country at the invitation of Chinese Weightlifting Association president Menguang for the January 15-17 China Weightlifting
Grand Prix at Fujian province, thereafter got in touch with the Chinese Embassy.

The Chinese officials at the Embassy informed me that the 'right' visas have been issued to us, Techi said.

"This is an insult and unnecessary harassment to Arunchalees," Techi said.

Reacting to the incident, Congress Lok Sabha member Takam Sanjoy said though Sino-India relations have been improving with New Delhi and Beijing taking positive steps, the border issue, China's repeated claims over Arunachal Pradesh territory and stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir were contentious issues which were hindrances.

Sanjoy said though India, particularly Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, took very bold steps during Wen's visit in December last year to further strengthen bilateral ties, the Chinese government had proved its policy to consolidate its claim on Arunachal territory.

China started the practice of issuing stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir two years back. India sees this as an act amounting to questioning the state's integration with rest of the country.

In 2007, China had denied visa to senior IAS officer Ganesh Koyu who hailed from Arunachal Pradesh and was a member of 107 strong IAS officers' team on a management programme to China.