China 'deliberately delaying' clearance to special Indian flight to Wuhan2 min read . Updated: 22 Feb 2020, 03:56 PM IST
- The special flight to Wuhan is awaiting clearance from China
- The Chinese side continues to maintain there is no delay
NEW DELHI : India and China engaged in a verbal spat on Saturday over Beijing’s seeming refusal to grant New Delhi permission to fly in an aircraft with medical supplies that would have evacuated about 100 of its nationals from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, on its way back.
Early on Saturday, an official source privy to the discussions said China has not yet given India the go-ahead to send an aircraft with medical supplies to Wuhan.
Indian Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster was scheduled to fly to China on Friday to evacuate Indian citizens, but the special flight is awaiting clearance from the Beijing.
“Indian nationals in Wuhan continue their long wait for the flight which will evacuate them to India. The delay is causing them and their family members in India tremendous mental anguish," the official said adding that China is deliberately delaying grant of clearance.
In response, the Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong in New Delhi denied there was any delay in granting permission to Indian flight.
“There is no such thing as China deliberately delaying granting flight permission," Ji said in a statement adding that “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."
“The current epidemic situation in Hubei province is complicated, and the prevention and control of Covid-19 has entered into a critical stage. We are carefully assessing ground situation, as prevention work requires. Competent departments of the two countries are keeping communication and coordination in this regard," Ji said.
India’s request for permission was submitted on 13 February and a flight plan on 15 February, the Indian official cited above said. “The date of flight proposed originally was 20/2. That is five days notice. The delay therefore appears deliberate," the official added, pointing out that in between flights from Japan, Ukraine and France had taken off from Wuhan on 16 February, 19 February and 20 February respectively.
“If the work was not critical enough to stop or delay these flights, how did it suddenly become critical for the Indian flight? Indian nationals are waiting to be brought back from Wuhan. The uncertainty is causing anxiety and mental stress. China should grant clearance to the relief flight which can bring the Indian nationals back," the official said.
India had made an offer to send medical supplies to China after Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed solidarity with Chinese president Xi Jinping and the people of China at a time when Beijing is dealing with a deadly coronavirus outbreak. In a letter to his Chinese counterpart, Modi condoled loss of lives and offered India’s assistance to deal with the challenge.
India then put together relief supplies in pursuance of this commitment as a token of our solidarity, particularly in this 70th year of anniversary of diplomatic relations.
“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. Items being supplied are gloves, surgical masks feeding and infusion pumps and defibrillator based on the requirements as indicated by the Chinese side," the official said.
“Why is the Chinese government delaying clearance for the relief flight? Are they not interested in Indian aid provided as our token of support? Why are they creating roadblock in evacuating our nationals from Wuhan and putting them under hardship and mental agony?" the official added.
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