New Delhi had earlier operated two evacuation flights to Wuhan.
New Delhi: China has been “deliberately delaying grant of clearance for the third evacuation flight” for Indian citizens from Wuhan in view of the Coronavirus outbreak, government sources said on Saturday. The “inexplicable” delay is causing anguish to Indians stranded in Wuhan and other parts of Hubei province.
New Delhi had earlier operated two evacuation flights to Wuhan. China swiftly denied that the delay was deliberate, claiming that the “current situation in Hubei is complicated” and that “prevention and control of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) entered a critical stage”.
Government sources pointed out that Beijing granted permission for Ja-pan, Ukraine and France to evacuate their citizens on February 16, 19 and 20 respectively, while sitting on the Indian request.
New Delhi’s request for the third flight was submitted on February 13, the flight plan on February 15, and the proposed flight date was February 20, constituting five days notice, adding that “the delay therefore appears deliberate”.
Government sources said, “China is yet to grant clearance for the flight with relief supplies which will fetch the remaining Indians. The Chinese maintained there is no delay even on Friday, when the flight was supposed to go.”
The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi stated: “There is no such thing as China deliberately delaying flight permission. Competent departments of the two countries are coordinating in this regard.”
Rubbishing the Chinese claims, sources said, “Evacuation flights from other countries are still going on. Why are they creating roadblock in evacuating Indians?”
“Our request for third flight was submitted on February 13. The flight plan was submitted on February 15. The date of flight proposed originally was February 20. That is five days notice. The delay therefore appears deliberate. In between the following flights have taken off from Wuhan. Japan on February 16, Ukraine on February 19, and France on February 20.”
Asking some hard questions, sources said, “If the work was not critical enough to stop or delay these flights, how did it suddenly become critical for the Indian flight? There are relief and evacuation flights from other countries which are still going on, including by France. 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?
“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. ...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.”
Indian government sources added, “It may be recalled that Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) wrote to Chinese President Xi Jinping conveying solidarity of India with China in meeting the challenge of coronavirus outbreak and had offered to provide whatever assistance we could to China. The Government of 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 defibrilators based on the requirements as indicated by the Chinese side.”