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India unofficially tells airlines to blocks Chinese entering the country

Valerie Mai Valerie Mai

mnghonganh@gmail.com

December 29, 2020 | 07:40

Indian civil aviation authorities have informally communicated to all airlines flying into India to not board Chinese nationals.

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Photo: Sputnik News

Tensions between India and China have soared due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, while deadly conflict on the India-Chinese border in June has only made things worse. In the latest development, Indian civil aviation authorities have informally communicated to all airlines flying into India to not board Chinese nationals. Sources in the aviation industry, speaking to India Today Television, have confirmed receipt of this unofficial directive from the government.

Earlier, India had suspended flights with China in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak but Chinese nationals continued to travel to India on specific types of visas, excluding tourist visas, via countries that have ‘air bubble’ arrangements with India. At the time, India's Ministry of External Affairs said that the government was in touch with Beijing to facilitate the essential travel of Indians in and out of China.

'Air bubble' refers to a bilateral flight corridor between India and specific countries that allows respective national airlines to fly in and out of both countries, under certain restricted arrangements. Also, Chinese nationals residing in countries that India has 'air bubble' agreements with had the option to fly into India if they carried permissible types of visas.

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Photo: Business Insider

The fact that the Indian government has not officially blacklisted Chinese nationals has caused confusion among airlines, Sputnik News added. The exact reason for India's alleged move also remains unclear.

Reacting to the development at the time, India's Ministry of External Affairs had said, "The reason behind the measure seems to be Chinese concerns on a possible rise in Covid-19 cases globally, aggravated due to the advent of autumn and winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The Government of India is in touch with the Chinese side to facilitate essential travel of Indians to and from China."

But things took a serious turn recently after reports started emerging of two cargo vessels with 39 Indians on board that has been on anchorage in China for months, as they were not allowed to unload their cargo, while some other ships have been able to do so.

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Photo: Business Standard

While China has been citing Covid-19 restrictions as the reason, many believe it is a fallout of China's ongoing trade war with Australia, as many of these ships are believed to be carrying Australian coal that China has banned. China, however, said the move would not affect any visas issued after November 3, 2020. India's latest move to block the entry of Chinese nationals appears to be a reciprocal action. The decision has been unofficially communicated to airlines, some of whom have informally expressed misgivings about implementing the diktat in the absence of any written order.

Relations between the two nations have been strained since the conflict erupted along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in April, when they accused each other of violating border agreements. Ties between the neighboring nations tanked further in June when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the Galwan Valley during a skirmish with Chinese border guards. India banned over 200 Chinese apps and restricted Sino Tech firms from participating in its 5G trials as a result.

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Valerie Mai