China has announced plans to provide visas to Indian professionals and their families stranded in India for over two years following the strict visa restrictions imposed by Beijing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Separately, China is also processing requests of thousands of Indian students studying in Chinese universities who have conveyed their interest to re-join their colleges and universities.
On Monday, the Chinese Embassy in India updated its COVID-19 visa policy after over two years to accept visa applications of foreign nationals and their accompanying family members wanting to go to China for resumption of work in all fields. It is a big relief for hundreds of Indian professionals and their families who are stuck back home since 2020.
Last month, a number of Indian professionals based in China urged External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to press Beijing to allow their stranded families to return. Besides the Indians, the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi said family members of Chinese citizens and foreigners with Chinese permanent residence permits going to China for family reunions or visiting relatives can apply for visas.
Besides Indians some of whom have Chinese spouses, many Chinese employees working for various companies were also stranded in India due to Beijing’s blanket visa bans and flight cancellations. However, visas for tourism and private purposes remain suspended, the Chinese Embassy announcement said.
In April, after prolonged representations from India, China agreed to permit the return of some” stranded Indian students and asked the Indian Embassy here to collect the details of the students wanting to return. 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 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.
Over 12,000 Indian students have reportedly expressed their wish to return and their details have been forwarded to the Chinese government for processing. China is yet to come up with a criterion to permit the return of the students as Beijing is reluctant to allow such large number of people to return at once in view the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.
While opening visa services to Indians, China is yet to announce plans to open flight facilities between the two countries. Currently, only diplomats between the two countries travel through the expensive third-country flight routes.
However, China’s visa announcement has created hope that flight services too may be resumed between the two countries soon. In recent months, China has been permitting students from some friendly countries like Pakistan, Thailand, Solomon Islands and recently Sri Lanka to return.