22,000 Indian students still waiting for visas to return to China for offline classes
Though students from countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Thailand have been permitted to return to their universities in China recently, no such opportunity has been granted to Indians
NEW DELHI: It's been two years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to around 22,000 Indian students (mostly studying medicine) at universities in China heading back home.
However, even though students from countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Thailand and Solomon Islands have been permitted to return to their universities in China recently, no such opportunity has been granted to Indian students. The Indian students are attending online classes but it's time for most of them to do practicals for which they have to attend offline classes.
The diplomatic standoff between India and China began in 2020 when 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed during the military stand-off in Galwan. Since then, things are yet to settle down between the two nations.
"We hope China will take a non-discriminatory approach since it involves the future of many young people," said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar after having met his counterpart from China Wang Yi in New Delhi last month.
"We did make a request to the Chinese foreign minister to expedite the process for the return of Indian students," Jaishankar added. As a retaliatory step, valid visas that Chinese nationals had for visiting India have been scrapped.
In a circular issued by IATA (International Air Transport Association) on April 20, India has suspended tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals. However, it said that the Indian government is still offering visas to Chinese businessmen, employees, diplomatic and government officials.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), however, says that visas have been revoked due to the impending threat of Covid in China.
"You are aware of the Covid situation in Chinese cities like Shanghai and elsewhere. I don’t think this is an opportune moment to discuss the resumption of issuance of tourist visas from China. You are also aware that China has suspended issue of most types of visas to Indians since November 2020," said Arindam Bagchi, MEA spokesperson.
Amidst the diplomatic standoff between India and China, the concerned students are a worried lot.
"The only thing we are doing is waiting for further notice," said Mominur Rahaman, a student of South West Medical University. Students are running a campaign on social media called 'Take us back to China'.
"Let us request again to the authorities. We can’t be just simply waiting anymore. We must have an update on our return, while other countries are given, why are we deprived of it,’’ says a representative group called Indian Students in China on Twitter.
On the request of the students, Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya wrote a letter to Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, urging him to help facilitate the return of Indian students to China.
China has not given a firm response till now, nor has issued visas to Indian students.
Interestingly, China is preferred by Indian students, especially to study medicine, as there is ease of getting admission and the fee is cheaper. China ranks third globally in international student intake after the US and UK.
Following Galwan, India banned over 200 popular Chinese apps like Tik Tok and even boycotted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.