India has lodged a protest with China for its refusal to grant a visa to a top Indian army general who is in charge of the disputed Kashmir region.
A brief statement by India's foreign ministry said the visit of General B.S. Jaswal had not taken place due to what it called "certain reasons." It said while India values its exchanges with China, there must be sensitivity to each other's concerns.
The statement did not give the reasons why the general did not make an official visit to China as scheduled in August. But domestic media reports said that Beijing had denied him a visa because he is in charge of a disputed territory.
The general is responsible for the northern Jammu and Kashmir state. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in full by both. China also claims a part of Kashmir, which it says should be in Tibet.
Manish Tiwari is the spokesman of the Congress Party, which heads the governing coalition. He said India wants to strengthen its relations with Beijing, but New Delhi's concerns must be heeded.
"It is important not only open for the stability of the Asian subcontinent, but it is also important for the role both India and China are playing in a changing world order" Tiwari said. "However the relationship has to be premised on mutual self respect, it has to be premised on sensitivity to each other's concerns, and if at all there is a violation of that sensitivity then obviously if there is a reaction from India, it is both natural, and I think it is warranted also."
The Times of India newspaper said India has suspended defense exchanges with China in retaliation for Beijing's denial of the general's visa. But Indian officials did not confirm the report.
Defense ties between India and China are limited to visits by senior military officials and occasional war exercises.
But mutual suspicion continues to hamper their relations. New Delhi is particularly sensitive about Kashmir, where it has grappled with a separatist insurgency. India has also been upset with China for its practice of issuing visas to Kashmiris on separate pieces of paper rather that stamping them on their Indian passports.
For China, the presence of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in India is an irritant. However, booming trade between the two nations helps ease their tensions.
Relations between the Asian giants have improved in recent years. But a war they fought in 1962 and a festering border dispute make them wary of each other. India's distrust of China is also triggered by Beijing's close relations with New Delhi's rival Pakistan.