China allows Sri Lankan students to return even as it struggles with a severe COVID outbreak, no timeline for return of Indian students yet
China has allowed Sri Lankan students to return to China even as Indian students are waiting for their return. The Sri Lankan embassy in Beijing on Thursday said in a press release that the Chinese Embassy in Colombo has finalized two groups of students to return to China. The Sri Lankan embassy without giving any further details said that additional students are being processed to return to China. The return of Sri Lankan students is announced at a time when many provinces of China are facing a severe COVID-19 situation including its financial capital Shanghai which has been in lockdown for the last three weeks. China has been giving the pretext of a severe COVID pandemic situation for not allowing international students but has been selectively allowing students from a few countries raising apprehensions about the lack of transparency in China’s policy.
There is no clarity so far about any timeline for the return of Indian students even as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his India visit last month assured External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar that he would speak to the relevant authorities on his return on this matter. Chinese FM also recognized the particular concerns that medical students have in this difficult situation. Not only this, in late February, after persistent efforts by the Indian Embassy in Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry conveyed to the Indian Embassy that China will work on the early return of Indian students to the country in a coordinated manner. The Chinese side also conveyed that the return of Indian students was not a political issue, and they will not be discriminated against in any manner when deciding on the return of foreign students to China to resume their education. However, China has so far not given any indication for the return of Indian students.
More than a month ago, China issued visas to Pakistani students and said that it is making arrangements for the return of “only a few international students who do have the needs” and relevant work is underway. In mid-March, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, we really hope international students including Indian ones can return to China as soon as possible but we are still facing a severe pandemic situation. Zhao sidestepped the question about the lack of transparency in China’s policy to select the country from where the students can return. There is still no clarity on the science behind China’s selection of the country, the number of students or the category of students who will be allowed to return even as two years has passed since around 23000 Indian students have been waiting for their return to China.
In February, China had announced to facilitate the return of students from Mongolia, Singapore, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia as part of their bilateral agreements on the sidelines of the 2022 Winter Olympics but it remained non-committal on the matter of the return of Indian students. Earlier, China has allowed students from Russia, the United States, and South Korea. China has effectively put a ban on the issue of visas to Indians since November 2020.
Anshuman Mishra’s Report