China ‘deliberately delaying’ clearance for flight to evacuate Indians: Sources
India had planned to send a massive C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, on February 21, but the flight has been unable to leave because of lack of clearance from Chinese authorities.Updated: Feb 22, 2020 13:32 IST
Chinese authorities are “deliberately delaying” clearance for a third Indian flight expected to ferry medical and relief supplies and bring back some 100 Indian nationals from the coronavirus-affected Hubei province, people familiar with developments said on Saturday.
The Chinese embassy in Delhi denied the charges.
India had planned to send a massive C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, on February 21, but the flight has been unable to leave because of lack of clearance from Chinese authorities.
The people cited above, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Chinese government is yet to grant clearance to the flight carrying relief supplies that would also bring back the remaining Indian nationals in Wuhan.
“The Chinese side is deliberately delaying the grant of clearance for the evacuation flight. They continued to maintain there is no delay even on Friday, the day the flight was supposed to go, but inexplicably the clearance has not been given,” said a person who declined to be identified.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently written to Chinese President Xi Jinping to convey the solidarity of the people and government of India with their Chinese counterparts in meeting the challenge of the coronavirus outbreak and offered to provide whatever assistance India could.
The Indian government then put together relief supplies in line with this commitment as a token of solidarity, particularly in the 70th year of diplomatic relations, the people said.
“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,” said the person cited above.
The materials that were to be ferried by the flight include gloves, surgical masks, feeding and infusion pumps, and defibrillators and were put together based on the requirements indicated by the Chinese side, the people said.
India evacuated hundreds of its nationals from Wuhan and other parts of Hubei in two earlier flights. Wuhan was home to a large number of Indian students and professionals.
“The remaining Indians in Wuhan are continuing their long wait for the flight to evacuate them and the delay is causing them and their families in India tremendous mental anguish,” said the person cited above.
The people noted that relief and evacuation flights from other countries, including France, are operating unhindered and questioned why the Chinese government was delaying clearance for the Indian relief flight.
“Are they not interested in Indian aid provided as our token of support? Why are they creating roadblocks in evacuating our nationals from Wuhan and putting them under hardship and mental agony?” asked a second person who too declined to be identified.
Responding to the contention that the Indian flight was being deliberately delayed, Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong said that “there is no such thing as China deliberately delaying granting flight permission”.
“The Chinese side always attaches great importance to the health and safety of Indian nationals in China, and provided assistance and convenience for the return of Indian citizens,” Ji said.
She added: “There is no such thing as China deliberately delaying granting flight permission.”
Ji noted the epidemic situation in Hubei is complicated and the prevention and control of Covid-19 had entered into a critical stage.
“We are carefully assessing the ground situation, as prevention work requires. Competent departments of the two countries are keeping communication and coordination in this regard,” she said.
There was no indication as to when or whether the clearance would be granted for the Indian flight.