First special business flight with over 100 Indian traders lands in China

Updated on Aug 10, 2022 08:51 PM IST

Direct commercial flights between the two countries remain suspended from March, 2020. Thousands of Indians including a large number of students are waiting to return to China to resume work and academics or rejoin families

A view of Hangzhou city in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. (AFP)
A view of Hangzhou city in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. (AFP)

BEIJING: A special flight with 107 Indian traders landed in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou on Tuesday, carrying many who were stuck in India since 2020 despite business interests in China because of the restrictions imposed by Beijing on international travel to contain Covid-19.

It was the largest group of Indians to have landed in China in a single flight after special flights between the two countries - under the Vande Bharat scheme - were suspended in November, 2020 following scores of Indians testing Covid-19 positive after they landed in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Direct commercial flights between the two countries remain suspended from March, 2020. Thousands of Indians including a large number of students are waiting to return to China to resume work and academics or rejoin families.

This particular group of Indian merchants boarded the special China Southern Airlines flight from New Delhi and landed in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, on Tuesday.

They, after completing Covid-19 containment protocols comprising 10 days of quarantine and frequent nucleic acid tests, will head to Yiwu, the global hub for small commodities.

Thousands of Indian traders buy small commodities like household appliances, toys, socks and electronic items in bulk from Yiwu to sell globally.

In 2021, Yiwu’s trade with India reached 17.58 billion yuan ($2.6 billion), with year-on-year growth of 38.5%, according to statistics from the Commerce Bureau of Yiwu.

“India is Yiwu’s second-largest export destination. The arrival of this charter flight marked the re-opening of the door for Indian merchants to return to Yiwu for procurement. More than 2,000 Indian merchants resided in Yiwu in the peak period,” the state-run tabloid, Global Times quoted a Yiwu official as saying on Wednesday.

“The Yiwu (retail) market is important for small and medium-sized manufacturers of toys, textiles, and electronics looking to expand their horizons. Before the pandemic, more than 560,000 foreign merchants visited Yiwu to purchase commodities every year,” the business news website, Yicai Global, said in a report earlier this month.

The decision to bring back Indian traders to Yiwu was taken by eastern China’s Zhejiang provincial government as well as the Yiwu authorities.

“In order to implement the relevant policies of Zhejiang’s economic stabilisation and quality improvement and broaden the procurement channels for Indian foreign investors to come to Yiwu, the city intends to support Indian foreign investors to come to Yiwu by opening temporary business charter flights,” the local government said in a statement in July.

Hassan, a merchant from India who was on the flight, said in a video that he can finally go to Yiwu market and see the products in person, according to a post on the Yiwu government’s WeChat account on Tuesday.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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