Chinese says it will take back 'some' Indian students, when 23,000 students awaiting return to their medical colleges
But there was no clarity on what China meant by allowing the return of "some" Indian students, when over 23,000 Indian students, mostly studying medicine in Chinese colleges, are stuck in India after they returned home as the coronavirus broke out in China in December 2019
After interventions made by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, China Friday announced plans to permit the return of “some" Indian students stranded in India for over two years following the visa and flight restrictions imposed by Beijing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing that “China attaches high importance to Indian students' concerns about returning to China for studies. We have shared with the Indian sides the procedures and experience of other countries' students returning to China”.
But there was no clarity on what China meant by allowing the return of "some" Indian students, when over 23,000 Indian students, mostly studying medicine in Chinese colleges, are stuck in India after they returned home as the coronavirus broke out in China in December 2019. They could not return to China due to the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government to arrest the spread of the contagion, leading to severe disruptions in their academic plans.
Since then, they made many attempts to return to China to rejoin their classes but had to confine to online classes as Beijing cancelled all flights and visas for Indians.
“Actually, the work for Indian students' return has already been started. All that remains to be done is for the Indian side to provide the list of students who really need to come back to China,” the Chinese spokesman said, without elaboration on what they meant by Indian providing a list of students "who really need to come back to China", and on what basis this could be done.
After a meeting with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in New Delhi last month, Jaishankar told journalists: “We hope that China will take a non-discriminatory approach since it involves the future of so many young people.” J
“Minister Wang Yi assured me that he would speak to the relevant authorities on his return on this matter. He also recognised the particular concerns that medical students have in this difficult situation,” he said.
The students' issue seems to have got diplomatically linked with the issue of Indian visas for Chinese nationals, with India defending the continued suspension of tourist visas to Chinese nationals, pointing to major Chinese cities still grappling with a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
In a circular dated April 20, the global airlines body International Air Transport Association (IATA) said, “Tourist visas issued to nationals of China (People’s Republic) are no longer valid.”
During the weekly media briefing, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi was asked whether it was a tit-for-tat move in line with China not removing visa restrictions on Indian nationals.
“I think you are all aware of the COVID situation in Chinese cities like Shanghai and elsewhere. I don’t think it is an opportune moment really to discuss the resumption of issuance of tourist visas from China in the context of what is happening in Shanghai and the COVID situation there,” he told reporters.
Clarifying the timeline of suspended tourist visas for Chinese nationals, Bagchi said, “When COVID hit in March 2020, we had to freeze visas across the board for all countries, tourist visas were stopped for all countries. When I say resumption, I mean from there.”