NEW DELHI: With its request for operating an evacuation flight from Wuhan pending with Beijing for more than a week now, a livid Indian government on Saturday accused China of deliberately delaying approval even while allowing other countries to evacuate their citizens.
The delay, official sources here said, had caused a great amount of mental stress and anxiety to Indian nationals in Wuhan who were looking to return to India immediately. There are about 100 Indians waiting to be brought back by a C-17 military aircraft, their arrival being anxiously anticipated by their relatives.
The Indian assertion soon turned into a public spat with the Chinese embassy spokesperson responding that there was no such thing as Beijing “deliberately delaying granting flight permission” and that the situation in Hubei province was complicated as work for prevention and control of coronavirus had entered a critical stage.
However, China has allowed other countries to operate relief flights during this period, like Japan on February 16, Ukraine on February 19 and France on February 20.
Official sources here again responded to China’s claim, saying India had sought permission on February 13, submitted a flight plan two days later and, even after a five-day notice, is still awaiting approval from Chinese authorities. India had proposed that the flight be allowed on February 20.
“If the work was not critical enough to stop or delay these flights, how did it suddenly become critical for the Indian flight?” asked a source. Significantly, the same flight will also carry relief supplies to China, in keeping with, as government sources said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s offer of assistance to Chinese President Xi Jinping in dealing with the crisis.
“Hoping to get approval, the Indian mission has been issuing advisories to those who want to return. Nobody now knows what to do,” an Indian official said. After Modi’s letter to Xi Jinping, sources said, India had put together relief supplies as a token of solidarity, particularly in this 70th year of diplomatic relations.
“These supplies have been offered even as India faces tremendous shortage itself, given our ethos of helping others, especially neighbours, in their hour of need. Items being supplied are gloves, surgical masks, feeding and infusion pumps and defibrillator based on the requirements as indicated by the Chinese side,” said another source.
“There are relief and evacuation flights from other countries which are still going on, including by France. Why is the Chinese government delaying clearance for the relief flight? Are they not interested in Indian aid provided as our token of support?” the source sought to know.
Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong had said last week that Beijing attached great importance to the health and safety of foreign nationals in China, and “will take good care of the Indian citizens in China like our own”. He also said so far there was no report of any Indian national testing positive for coronavirus in Wuhan.
Sun, however, had added that China was now at the critical stage in epidemic prevention & control and will carefully assess the situation, as required by prevention-related work. He was replying to a query on India’s request for evacuation.





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