India prepares to begin airlifting citizens from China

Coronavirus outbreak: India prepares to begin airlifting citizens from China

“We are awaiting for the necessary approval from the Chinese Government. We hope this will be granted soon,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), told journalists on Thursday.

India is preparing to begin airlifting its nationals from the epicentre of 2019-nCoV outbreak in China on Friday, even as it is still waiting for the government of the communist country to formally give nod to its proposal for evacuation.

“We are awaiting for the necessary approval from the Chinese Government. We hope this will be granted soon,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), told journalists on Thursday.

New Delhi had on Monday formally requested Beijing to allow it to send special aircraft to evacuate over 600 Indian citizens from Wuhan in Hubei province of China – the “Ground Zero” of the latest coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak.

Beijing, however, has been dilly-dallying for the past two days, as the Chinese Government was trying to dissuade not only India, but also the US, France and other foreign nations from airlifting their citizens from China. It was worried because such large-scale evacuations of foreign nationals from its territory might portray it in poor light and undermine the credibility of its claim that it was capable of contain the outbreak.

“The Chinese Government attaches great importance to safeguarding the safety and health of every foreign national in China, including the Indian people,” Ji Rong, spokesperson of the Embassy of China in New Delhi, said in a statement issued on Thursday.

“We are willing to continue to maintain close communication with the Indian side, provide necessary assistance and convenience to ensure the health and safety of Indian citizens in China, and address their legitimate concerns timely,” she added, but refrained from directly referring to Chinese Government's view on New Delhi's plea for approval to send in special aircraft to evacuate over 600 Indian from the epicentre of the outbreak.

Sources, however, said that New Delhi was preparing to start airlifting on Friday, as the Embassy of India in Beijing had got an indication from that the Chinese Government might formally give its nod for evacuation soon.

The first batch of evacuees would include Indian citizens living in and around Wuhan – the main city of Hubei province in central China. The Indian citizens living in other areas of Hubei would be evacuated later, sources in New Delhi added.

“We have established contact with over 600 Indians across the province and are individually ascertaining their willingness to be repatriated,” Kumar, the MEA spokesperson, said. “Our Mission in Beijing is working round-the-clock on the ground to work out the necessary logistics. Arrangements are being put in place for people to travel to the airport”.

“We remain committed to the safety and well-being of our nationals abroad. We appreciate the support extended by the Government of China and other ministries in the Government of India in putting this process together,” he added.

The evacuees would be quarantined and kept under watch in isolated wards of the hospitals for about a fortnight after their arrival from the Ground Zero of the outbreak.

“China believes that the international community will assess the epidemic situation in an objective, just, calm and reasonable way, and will continue to strengthen international cooperation, work with all parties to jointly tackle the epidemic and safeguard regional and global public health security,” said the spokesperson of the Embassy of China in New Delhi.