After more than two years of suspense and restrictions, hopes of Indian students and professionals of returning to China have been revived.
The Chinese government has announced to revive issuing visas to both Indian professionals and students so as to enable them to continue from where they left at the time of the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
Process to issue Visas to Indian tourists planning a visit to China, will, still remain suspended.
Thousands of Indian professionals and students have been stranded in India for over two years following the strict visa restrictions imposed by Beijing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Separately, China is also processing requests of thousands of Indian students studying in Chinese universities who have conveyed their interest to re-join their colleges and universities.
The Chinese government has reportedly reviewed its Covid-19 policy and conveyed the same to its Embassy in New Delhi. According to the revised policy the Embassy will now start accepting visa applications of foreign nationals and their accompanying family members wanting to go to China for resumption of work in all fields.
The decision provides much needed respite to the professionals who have been waiting anxiously to visa processing to resume.
Because of spurt in cases of Covid-19 and its different variants, China also got the approval of Olympic Council of Asia to postpone the 2022 Asian Games which were to be held in September this year. The Games now stand postponed and new dates would be announced later.
Similarly, a couple of other sporting events which were scheduled to be held in China this year were either shifted or postponed till later dates.
Last month, a number of Indian professionals based in China urged External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to press Beijing to allow their stranded families to return.
Besides the Indians, the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi said family members of Chinese citizens and foreigners with Chinese permanent residence permits going to China for family reunions or visiting relatives can apply for visas.
Interestingly, there is a substantial number Indians who have Chinese spouses, who also have been affected by suspension of visa processing. There is another group affected by the restrictions imposed by Beijing. There are a large number of Chinese working for various companies in India. They too have been stranded here due to Beijing’s blanket visa bans and flight cancellations.
In spite of the review of the Covid-19 restrictions, visas for tourism and private purposes remain suspended, the Chinese Embassy said.
The process to review the visas policy started in April following continuous representations from 23,000-strong Indian students community enrolled in various institutions and medical colleges in China. They all have been pressing both the Indian government and the Chinese government to allow them to return so that they can pursue their studies and complete the programme in time to become eligible for the qualifying test in India.
Indian medical students who get degrees from overseas universities are required to take an entrance examination within a stipulated period before they are allowed to practice medicine in the country. With two years lost due to Covid-19 pandemic, these students have been getting panicky as time has been running out on them.
In April, after prolonged representations from India, China agreed to permit the return of “some” stranded Indian students and asked the Indian Embassy here to collect the details of the students wanting to return.
Over 12,000 Indian students have reportedly expressed their wish to return and their details have been forwarded to the Chinese government for processing.
China is still to take a decision on allowing medical students to return. One of the factors delaying the decision is the number of students involved. The Chinese government. According to reports, is reluctant to allow such large number of people to return at once in view the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.
While opening visa services to Indians, China is yet to announce plans to resume air services between the two countries.
Currently, only diplomats between the two countries travel through the expensive third-country flight routes.
However, China’s visa announcement has created hope that flight services too may be resumed between the two countries soon.
China has been permitting students from some friendly countries like Pakistan, Thailand, Solomon Islands and recently Sri Lanka to return and resume their studies.