China has granted visas to around 1,300 Indian students and nearly 300 business people in recent weeks, although travel to the country for Indian nationals continues to be an obstacle and at least 20,000 students more are waiting to resume their classes in Chinese institutions.
Liu Jinsong, director general of the Asia Department of China’s Foreign Ministry, told Indian Ambassador Pradeep Rawat at a meeting in Beijing on Tuesday of “recent progress” in people-to-people exchanges. The two sides had a “frank and friendly exchange” on China-India relations, global and regional situation and issues of common concern, according to a reading from the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
Liu said more than 1,300 Indian students had obtained visas, while nearly 300 businessmen, in two groups, took charter flights operated by Chinese airlines to Yiwu city in Zhejiang province. .
China’s issuance of visas to Indian students has accelerated in recent weeks, but long quarantine periods and a lack of direct flights from India continue to be major hurdles, people familiar with the matter said. Only about 100 Indian students have returned to China in recent months, they said.
Many Indian students’ return applications are currently with their universities and people said the issue is now largely handled by Chinese educational institutions. People said most students are still waiting to resume their classes after a hiatus of more than two years. .
According to official estimates, around 23,000 Indian students are currently enrolled in Chinese universities, the vast majority of whom are studying medicine. The numbers had been rising over the past decade until the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
The lack of direct flights to China meant that Indian nationals returned via Hong Kong or via third countries, although high ticket prices on these routes continued to be a problem, people said.
The people further said that the Indian side would not encourage more Indian nationals to study in China given the problems faced by Indians enrolling in Chinese universities in the past two years. China, which has a “zero Covid” policy, only eased pandemic-related travel restrictions in August, paving the way for international students to return.
At the regular Foreign Ministry press briefing last week, spokesman Arindam Bagchi said the issue of returning Indian students had been raised with Chinese officials in New Delhi and Beijing. The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi started accepting visa applications from Indian students on August 24.
“Our mission in Beijing has continued to press and pursue with the Chinese side to complete the necessary formalities allowing the return of our students to China as soon as possible. I would advise our students to stay in contact with their universities to carry out the procedures for obtaining visas and returning to China,” Bagchi said.
The people said direct flights between India and China may not resume soon unless Beijing changes its policy of suddenly canceling all flights whenever a few passengers on a plane test positive for Covid-19 upon arrival at Chinese airports.
Under Chinese Covid-19 controls, a “kill switch” protocol is put in place whenever passengers test positive at Chinese airports. Under the protocol, flights on this route – of this particular airline – are canceled for a fixed number of days.
Flight services between India and China have been suspended since March 2020. The current chill in bilateral diplomatic relations is not helping the cause of resuming flights.
In September, India advised prospective students planning to study clinical medicine at Chinese universities to be aware of “common” challenges, including the quality of teaching in English, the lack of means to acquire a practical experience and the low percentage of graduates who pass the compulsory study abroad exam. Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) after returning to India.
The caveats were included in a notice from the Indian Embassy in Beijing in September in response to questions from Indian students about studying medicine in China.