BEIJING: India has expressed "disappointment" over China's reluctance to permit the return of thousands of stranded Indian students, employees and their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic, describing it as an "unscientific approach" to a purely humanitarian issue.
Over 23,000 Indian students, mostly studying medicine, and hundreds of Indian businessmen and workers along with their families have been stranded in India for over one year as China, where the pandemic was first reported in late 2019, has suspended the visa process as well as flights from India citing the COVID-19 situation.
Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri referred to the woes of these stranded Indians at the 4th High-level Track-II Dialogue on China-India Relations held virtually on September 23.
"Far less complex issues, which have a purely humanitarian context and are not connected to bilateral diplomatic stances, such as facilitating the movement of students, businesspersons and stranded family members from India to China for over a year and a half now, await a more balanced and sensitive approach," Misri said.
The virtual dialogue was co-hosted by the School of International Studies of Sichuan University (SCU), China Centre for South Asian Studies and Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA).
"I might add here that India has also attempted to keep our trade and commercial relationship insulated from current differences, for instance by continuing to issue visas to Chinese businesspersons to visit India," he said.
"However, we are disappointed to see an unscientific approach with regard to several problems currently being faced by Indian students, businessmen, marine crew and exporters, to name a few," the ambassador said.
Earlier this month, responding to questions on China lifting its travel restrictions on foreigners returning to the country, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Beijing stands ready to maintain close communication with all parties on issues related to international travel.
"The global COVID-19 situation remains grave and complicated.
Referencing the practices of other countries, China adjusts its management measures on in-bound travellers accordingly as the epidemic situation evolves.
"China stands ready to maintain close communication with all parties and properly manage the work related to international travel on the premise of ensuring effective epidemic control," the foreign ministry spokesperson said.