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China says ‘positive progress’ made on return of Indian students

Approximately 20,000 Indian students were enrolled in different Chinese universities when their visa and residence permits were suspended in March 2020 due to the outbreak of Covid-19 (Representational image courtesy: Indian Air Force)

China said on Friday that "positive progress" has been made on the return of Indian students who want to resume their studies in the country.

"As far as I know, positive progress has been made on facilitating the return of Indian students to China. The departments in charge of this matter from both sides will continue to work closely with each other for the early return of the first batch of Indian students who wish to resume their studies in China," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin today.

Last week, on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bali, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had met the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and stressed the need for expediting the process and facilitating the return of students on an early date.

Jaishankar had also "strongly highlighted" the predicament of Indian students studying in China – who have not been allowed to return citing Covid restrictions – during Wang Yi's visit to Delhi in March 2022.

"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," the EAM had said after meeting his counterpart on March 25. 

The Xi Jinping government had restricted travel to China by suspending visa and residence permits from 27th March 2020 due to the outbreak of Covid-19. At that time, approximately 20,000 Indian students were enrolled in various courses including clinical medicine courses in different Chinese universities. A large number of them had returned to India, including hundreds of them through the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights, when all universities in China had closed down.

In March this year, while replying to a question in Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan had stated that the universities in China had not reopened fully and the Chinese government has advised them to maintain contact with foreign students and continue classes online.

"The government has been taking up the matter of return of Indian students with the Chinese authorities both in New Delhi and through our Embassy in China. Regular updates have been given in this regard by the Embassy to the Indian students," Muraleedharan had said then.


External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Bali, last week (Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar)

The Minister had also informed Parliament that the MEA 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 04 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," he had added.

On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that it is also hoping of an early resumption of direct flights from New Delhi, emphasising that it will ensure the "safe and orderly flow" of personnel between the two countries.

"Resuming direct flights is conducive to travel and exchanges and cooperation in various sectors. It is in the interest of both sides. We hope the Indian side will work with China in the same direction for the early resumption of direct flights and ensure the safe and orderly flow of personnel between the two countries," said Wenbin.

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