China has barred two Indian journalists from returning to the country, saying their visas have been frozen, The Hindu reported.

State-run Prasar Bharati’s reporter Anshuman Mishra and The Hindu correspondent Ananth Krishnan were informed by a Chinese foreign ministry official on Tuesday about the decision. Both of them are based in Beijing and are currently in India.

Press Trust of India reporter KJM Varma and the Sutirtho Patranobis of the Hindustan Times have been allowed to stay in China for now. But China’s foreign ministry is considering more counter-measures to protest against India’s alleged unfair treatment of Chinese journalists, according to The Hindu.

Beijing reportedly wants more visas for Chinese journalists to cover India. The neighbouring country has also demanded that India grant 12-month visas for its correspondents instead of them having to renew it every three months. China gives Indian journalists visas that are valid for a year.

While India’s Ministry of External Affairs refused to formally comment on the developments, unidentified officials told The Hindu that many Chinese correspondents based in Delhi had left during the coronavirus pandemic and have not returned since then. They said it is wrong to suggest that New Delhi’s action triggered a response from Beijing.

Officials also said that some Chinese journalists with valid visas are present in India and could report if they wanted.

After India’s tax crackdown on the BBC in February, foreign correspondents told Scroll that “hostility”, more often than not, is the default mode of the Indian authorities’ engagement with them.

Scroll had also reported in the same month that internal surveys had been conducted to capture the extent of the harassment. Visa extensions, according to one of the surveys, remain a tool to penalise unflattering coverage of the Modi government.

The number of Chinese journalists in India had come down to four by the end of 2022 from about a dozen 10 years ago. In 2016, India had expelled three journalists from Xinhua, the state-run news agency, for allegedly “indulging in activities beyond their journalistic brief”.

Since then, relations have been strained between India and China because of the clashes in Galwan Valley of Ladakh in June 2020. Twenty Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed in the fight.

In December, troops from both the countries clashed in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh.