Ordeal of Indian duo in China ends

They are escorted out of Yiwu; Beijing denies ill-treatment to Indian diplomat

Ordeal of Indian duo in China ends

The fortnight-long ordeal of two Indian business professionals in the Yiwu city of China ended on Wednesday after the communist country’s envoy in New Delhi was summoned twice during the day—first by officials of the Ministry of External Affairs to the South Block, and then again by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna himself to his residence.

Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan talks to the media after meeting External Affairs Minister SM Krishna at his residence in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI With China’s central government prodding local authorities in Yiwu into actions, the diplomats of the Indian Consulate General in Shanghai could on Wednesday escort Deepak Raheja and Shyam Sundar Agrawal out of the commodity trading hub, where the duo had been held hostage since mid-December. Beijing, however, did throw a barb and called upon New Delhi to “educate and get the Indian businessmen in China to abide by Chinese laws and regulations and conduct business in good faith.”

The brouhaha over the incident in India and pressure from New Delhi prompted Beijing to prod local authorities in Yiwu to initiate legal actions against five local traders suspected to be involved in kidnapping and torture of Raheja and Agrawal following a commercial dispute with the company the duo worked for.

The Chinese Government, however, denied any ill-treatment to Indian diplomat S Balachandran, who had fallen sick while helping the two business professionals through a prolonged negotiation with the local traders in Yiwu on December 31, last.

Krishna happy

“I am very happy. Traders have been released and they are on their way to Shanghai,” Krishna told journalists after Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan called on him at his residence.

“I had a detailed discussion with your Foreign Minister. The Chinese government attaches great importance to this matter. We are working very hard to find a solution to this issue and to resolve it as early as possible,” Zhang told reporters after his meeting with Krishna.

Zhang was earlier called in at South Block for a meeting with Gautam Bambawale, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the MEA.

“We have friendly relation with China. Let us try to be objective in assessing the situation and not blow it out of proportion,” said the External Affairs Minister.
A spokesman of the Chinese Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hong Lei, too, told in the country’ capital earlier on the day that Beijing expected India to “treat this matter objectively and fairly.”

“Relevant media reports that the Indian consular official from Shanghai was forbidden from eating or taking his medication while in Yiwu and was surrounded and attacked do not accord with the facts,” said Hong. He, however, did not offer his version of the incident.

“China is a country ruled by laws, which pays great attention to relations with India. Relevant departments have always maintained lawful rights and interest of the Indians in China in accordance with law,” he added.

Balachandran, a diplomat in the Indian Consulate General in Shanghai, fainted and had to be hospitalised on December 31, as he was allegedly denied a break to take food or medicine during a prolonged court proceeding over a commercial dispute, involving Raheja and Agrawal. The 46-year-old is a diabetic and he collapsed when the belligerent local traders tried to take away the two business professionals, whom he was trying to escort out of a police station after the cops rescued them and a court allowed them to leave.

Yiwu is a trading hub for small commodities. The Yiwu International Trade City or the China Commodity City is a large wholesale commodity market, which is believed to be one of the largest in the world.

Raheja and Agrawal, who hailed from Dehradun and Mumbai respectively, worked in the purchase department of the Euro Global Trading, which had bought commodities from local traders on credit. The local traders held the two men hostage after the company’s owner shut the shop and fled without paying them the dues.

Though the duo told the local merchants that they were merely employees of the company, the traders wanted them to clear their dues, amounting to several million yuan.

After New Delhi took up the issue with Beijing, the two Indians were shifted to a hotel under police protection on Tuesday.

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