Not opportune moment to discuss resumption of issuance of tourist visas to Chinese nationals: MEA
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Thursday 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 there.
The assertion came in response to queries about global airlines body IATA telling its member carriers on April 20 that India has suspended tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals.
Asked about the issue at a media briefing, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “I think you are all aware of the Covid situation in Chinese cities like Shanghai and elsewhere. I don’t think it is an opportune moment really to discuss the resumption of issuance of tourist visas from China in the context of what is happening in Shanghai and the Covid situation there.”
China had itself suspended issuance of most types of visas to Indians since November 2020, Bagchi said.
Pressed further, he reiterated, “I don’t think it is the most opportune time to discuss resumption of issuance of tourist visas with China.”
“You are aware of the situation there. I don’t think this is the right time to talk about resumption of issuance of tourist visas. Chinese themselves have not issued visas to us. Travel to China is not the easiest of things nor is travel out of China,” he said.
People familiar with the development said some of the visas to Chinese nationals were short-term visas and lapsed.
Asked about Indian students who have not been able to go back for studies to China, Bagchi said that during the last visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had himself mentioned that the issue had been taken up.
“We have requested them to look at the difficulties that students in India are facing. We have not had an update since then on this issue. This is an issue we are focussed on,” Bagchi said.
On students from other countries like Sri Lanka being reportedly allowed to return to China, Bagchi said, “I don’t want to speculate, we are concerned about students in India and on that we don’t have any movement yet. If the Chinese are looking at options on how they can get students in, I sincerely hope Indian students will also benefit from those mechanisms.”
Clarifying on the timeline of tourist visas to Chinese nationals being suspended, Bagchi said, “When Covid hit in March 2020, we had to freeze visas across the board for all countries, tourist visas were stopped for all countries, when I say resumption, I mean from there.”
India has been raising with China the plight of approximately 22,000 Indian students enrolled in Chinese universities who are unable to go back for physical classes. The neighbouring country has till date refused to let them enter.
These students had to leave their studies in China and come to India when the COVID-19 pandemic began in the beginning of 2020. (Source: PTI)