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New Delhi: The Chinese Embassy has updated its visa policy to grant entry to Indians who are working in China or their accompanying family members, many of whom have remained in India for more than two years after Beijing imposed a blanket ban on international visitors after the outbreak of COVID-19.
The Chinese Embassy in India on Monday updated its COVID-19 visa policy to accept visa applications of foreign nationals and their accompanying family members wanting to go to China for resumption of work in all fields. The Embassy has specified that “family members” refers to the spouse, parents, spouse’s parents, children, spouses of children, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren of professionals who are working in China.
Last month, a number of Indian professionals based in China had urged external affairs minister S. Jaishankar to press Beijing to allow the reunion of families who have been separated for over two years because of the travel ban.
Besides Indians working in China, 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 also apply for visas.
However, visas for tourism and private purposes remain suspended, the Chinese Embassy’s update 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.
According to news agency PTI, estimates suggest that more than 23,000 Indian students, mostly studying medicine in Chinese colleges, have been stuck in India after they returned home as COVID-19 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.
But even as several countries have relaxed the travel restrictions over the past few months, China has been reluctant. Many Indian students or professionals who have businesses or lucrative jobs in China could not return, causing complete disruption of their lives and careers.
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 a large number of people to return at once in view of 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 expensive, third-country flight routes.
In recent months, China has been permitting students from some friendly countries like Pakistan, Thailand, Solomon Islands and recently Sri Lanka to return.
Last month, Indians who are employed in China but were unable to return had petitioned Jaishankar to take up their cause with Beijing.
“We have been separated from our respective families including kids for more than 26 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel and visa disruptions,” said the workers, who are based in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities, in a petition submitted to the Indian Embassy.
Among the petitioners are parents who have not seen their newborn babies for over two years besides others whose children were studying in China and could not return to re-join the schools due to the cancellation of visas and flights, disrupting their studies.
(With PTI inputs)