Approximately 20,000 Indian students were enrolled in various courses, including clinical medicine courses in different Chinese universities, when Beijing had restricted travel to China by suspending visa and residence permits from 27 March 2020 due to the outbreak of Covid-19 (File representational image courtesy: IAF)
More than a month after India had "strongly" highlighted the predicament of Indian students studying in China who have not been allowed to return citing Covid restrictions, Beijing said on Friday that it attaches "high importance" to Indian students' concern for returning to China and has shared with the Indian side the procedure and experience of the return of students from other countries.
"We hope that China will take a non-discriminatory approach, since it involves the future of so many young people. 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," External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had conveyed to the Foreign Minister of China in New Delhi on March 25.
However, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi revealed on Thursday, that India had not "heard any update" since then on the issue.
A day later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in Beijing on Friday that China "has been prepared" for the return of "some Indian students".
"The work on the return of Indian students has in fact begun and what needs to be done now is for the Indian side to submit a name list of students who have the needs to return to China. China understands that the number of Indian students is so large that it takes some time for the Indian side to collect the information," said the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
He also acknowledged that the current Covid situation in China remains "complex and severe" and that the arrangement for the return of foreign students needs to be made in a coordinated manner in light of the changing international epidemic situation.
Approximately 20,000 Indian students were enrolled in various courses, including clinical medicine courses in different Chinese universities, when Beijing had restricted travel to China by suspending visa and residence permits from 27 March 2020 due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
A large number of Indian students had returned home through Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) evacuation flights when all universities in China had closed down.
In reply to a question in Rajya Sabha last month, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan had stated that the government has been taking up the matter of return of Indian students with the Chinese authorities both in New Delhi and through its embassy in Beijing with regular updates being provided to the Indian students.
"The Ministry of External Affairs had taken up the matter with the National Medical Commission and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to explore options to address the concerns of the affected students. National Medical Commission has issued a circular on 4 March 2022 stating that in view of the large number of Indian medical students in foreign institutions who have not been able to complete internship, National Medical Commission has decided to accept applications from such affected foreign medical graduates to complete the remaining part of internship in India," informed the minister on March 24.
India has also made it clear that it is "not the most opportune time" to discuss resumption of issuance of tourist visas with China.
"I think you're all aware of the Covid situation in Chinese cities like Shanghai and elsewhere. I don't think it's an opportune moment really to discuss you know, I would call resumption of tourism or tourist visas, issuance of tourist visas from China. You're also aware that China has itself suspended issue of most types of visas to Indians since I think November 2020. So I'll leave it at that," Bagchi said on Thursday.
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