Thursday, June 20, 2024

China keen to restart direct flights to India

NEW DELHI : China is keen to resume direct flights with India and negotiating on the matter in the next few months, according to people aware of the matter.

Direct flights between the two nations have been disrupted since 2020, after the outbreak of the covid-19. While India has allowed resumption of flights with several countries starting March last year, China, was not on the list as relations hit a new low after clashes between the armed forces of both nations in June 2020.

The absence of direct flights has forced travellers to book connecting flights through third countries, which can often be more expensive. Travel between the two nations is happening through various airports around India including Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.

China’s strict covid-19 travel restrictions also played an important role in closing off direct flights. Its “circuit-breaker” policy mandated that flights on particular international routes be suspended if a certain number of its passengers tested positive for covid-19. However, this policy was relaxed in August last year and scrapped in November.

In response to a press query from Mint, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi said that given “the rapid increase of people-to-people exchange between the two countries, the resumption of direct flights will apparently further facilitate cross-border travel. We hope that direct flights between China and India will be resumed as soon as possible.”

A query to the ministry of external affairs remained unanswered till press time.

The disruption of direct flights has played a key role in restricting the flow of professionals and students between the two countries.

The cancellation of direct flights and the imposition of visa bans by the Chinese government left thousands of Indian professionals and students stranded in India.

The restriction on visas was finally revoked by Beijing in 2022 and some 1,300 visas were granted to students hoping to return to China. However, only a small minority of students have returned to China despite the lifting of restrictions. The East Asian power plays host to over 23,000 Indian students, the majority of whom are studying medicine.

Meanwhile, India says it is also in talks with China on enabling return of more students from India.

“Our mission in Beijing has continued to press and pursue with the Chinese side for completing the necessary formalities enabling our students’ return to China at an early date. I would advise our students to stay in touch with their universities for carrying out procedures for obtaining a visa and returning to China,” said Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs.

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