IAF relief flight leaves for coronavirus-hit Wuhan, to evacuate Indians
After a delay of almost a week, an Indian military aircraft departed for China on Wednesday to deliver 15 tonnes of medical assistance and to evacuate some 100 Indians from Wuhan, the epicentre of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Last week, India and China had exchanged in a terse exchange over clearance for the Indian Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster aircraft to fly to Wuhan, with New Delhi saying permission was being deliberately held up. The Chinese side had dismissed the charge.
The special flight carrying the medical assistance, including masks, gloves and other emergency medical equipment, took off for Wuhan on Wednesday, the external affairs ministry said.
“This assistance has been provided in the wake the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in China and the request by China to provide supplies such as masks and medical equipment,” the ministry said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had written to President Xi Jinping on February 8 to express the solidarity of the people and government of India with their Chinese counterparts and offered assistance in the hour of need “as a gift”.
“The medical supplies will help augment China’s efforts to control the outbreak of this infection, which has been declared as a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation,” the ministry said.
The aid is also a “mark of friendship and solidarity” from Indian people towards the people of China as the two countries celebrate the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations.
The Indian flight, the third so far this year, will bring back Indians and nationals from some neighbouring countries that sought assistance in travelling to India in keeping with the country’s “neighbourhood first” policy.
A Chinese source familiar with developments said the two sides had been in communication on India’s request to send an aircraft to bring back Indian nationals from Hubei province.
“The communication channels between respective competent departments are open and smooth. There is no ‘deliberate delay’ for flight permission by China. The Chinese side provides necessary support and assistance for flying duty by the Indian aircraft,” the source said.
The situation in Hubei remains complex and there is a sign of the Coronavirus spreading outside China. “In this context, it is imperative for China to carefully assess the ground situation and coordinate departures of foreign nationals in Hubei by airplanes in a responsible manner, in a bid to avoid adding a new complicating factor to the epidemic situation in Hubei province and global epidemic control,” the source added.
This process takes some time and is aimed at ensuring the relevant arrangements are “made safely and smoothly, reflecting the constructive attitude and humanitarian spirit from the Chinese side”.
The Chinese side takes the health and safety of foreign nationals, including Indian students, as seriously as the health of its own citizens and Chinese authorities at different levels and in universities with Indian students have taken measures to ensure their safety, medical care and daily necessities.