Beijing, April 29 (PTI): In a relief to thousands of Indian students enrolled in Chinese universities, China on Friday announced plans to allow the return of ‘some’ of them who have been stranded in India for over two years following the visa and flight restrictions imposed by Beijing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Indian students wanting to return to China should provide the necessary information by filling up a Google Form on the mission’s website by May 8, the Indian Embassy here said in a press release.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here that “China attaches high importance to Indian students’ concern for returning to China to resume their studies, and has shared with the Indian side the procedure and experience of the return of students from other countries.”
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, Zhao said in response to a question by the official Chinese media.
“China understands that the number of Indian students is so large that it takes some time for the Indian side to collect the information. All in all, China has been prepared for the return of some Indian students,” he said.
As per earlier reports, 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 the central Chinese city of Wuhan 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.
Since then, they made desperate attempts to return to China to re-join their classes but had to confine to online classes as Beijing cancelled all flights and visas for Indians.
Besides the students, hundreds of families of Indians working in China too were stuck back home in view of China cancelling visas and flights from India.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman, in his remarks, also highlighted the current Covid-19 situation.
“What I want to stress is that the current Covid situation remains complex and severe. The arrangement for the return of foreign students to China needs to be made in an coordinated manner in light of the changing international epidemic situation and the characteristics of the students’ majors. This principle applies equally to all foreign students,” Zhao said.
In response to further questions on the return of Indian students, Zhao said, “I don’t have an answer on the specific arrangement at the moment. We attach high importance to the issue of foreign students’ return to China for their studies, including Indian students.
“These international students are envoys for friendly exchanges between China and their home countries. After completing their studies in China, they may return home and work as journalists or diplomats, even ambassadors to China. They represent the future of our relations,” he said.
Asked about the timeline to permit the return of Indian students, Zhao said the Chinese embassy in India and existing channels will work to facilitate and offer convenience to the students.
To another question whether China has provided any criteria to India to select students to return, Zhao said: “I don’t have the information about the specifics you asked but I am sure these details will be sorted out through communication through existing channels including the embassy so that we will actually deliver the good news”.
Following the Chinese announcement, the Indian Embassy here sought the details of the students intending to return.
“Following the meeting of External Affairs minister of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar with the State Councillor and Foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Yi on 25 March 2022, the Chinese side has expressed its willingness to consider facilitating the return of Indian students to China on a need-assessed basis,” the Indian Embassy here said in a statement.
“In order to facilitate this (return), the Indian Embassy intends to prepare a list of such students which will be shared with the Chinese side for their consideration. Therefore, Indian students are requested to provide necessary information by filling up the Google Form at this link (https://forms.gle/MJmgByc7BrJj9MPv7), latest by 08 May 2022,” it said.
“Once the collated information is shared with the Chinese side, they would consult relevant Chinese departments to verify the list and indicate whether the identified students can travel to China to complete the course,” the statement said.
This coordination process would be carried out in a time-bound manner, it said.
The Chinese side has also conveyed that eligible students should unconditionally abide by the Covid-19 prevention measures, and agree to bear all expenses related to Covid-19 prevention measures by themselves, it said.
In recent months, China has been permitting students from some friendly countries like Pakistan, Thailand, Solomon Islands and recently Sri Lanka to return but remained silent about allowing Indian students as well as hundreds of family members of Indians working in China to travel back.
India had suspended tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals, global airlines body IATA told its member carriers on April 20.
In a circular issued on April 20 regarding India, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said, “Tourist visas issued to nationals of China (People’s Republic) are no longer valid.”
On Thursday, the Ministry of External Affairs said in New Delhi that it was not an opportune moment to discuss the resumption of issuance of tourist visas to Chinese nationals in view of the Covid-19 situation in China.