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‘Be calm, pursuing China’: Embassy’s message to Indians on delay in evacuation

Around 100 Indians had registered to be evacuated in the IAF’s C17 transport aircraft on its way back.

China has not responded to requests from India to allow the Indian air force (IAF) relief aircraft to land in the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan, the Indian embassy said on Saturday.

In a message circulated among the Indians waiting to be evacuated from Wuhan in the IAF flight on its way back, the embassy said that Beijing has gone silent despite the request for clearance.

The Chinese foreign ministry didn’t respond to questions from HT on Saturday asking for reasons behind the delay in giving the required clearance.

On Friday, spokesperson Geng Shuang had said “There is no such a thing as China delaying giving flight permissions”. However, his response didn’t reveal the full picture.

The Indian embassy’s message to the Indians in Wuhan indicated that there’s been a delay from Beijing. “We are continuously pursuing with the Chinese authorities necessary clearance for the relief flight at the earliest. The Chinese side has not yet given these clearances despite being requested to do so,” the message said.

“We will intimate you all as soon as we get the same from the Chinese side,” the message told the Indians. “We do realise that some of you are getting apprehensive due to the delays and some others are posting speculative information. We would urge you all to remain calm and wait for further updates from the Embassy,” the message said.

Around 100 Indians had registered to be evacuated in the IAF’s C17 transport aircraft on its way back.

It was learnt that the embassy had given the details about the incoming IAF aircraft to the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday. The flight was scheduled to land on February 20th

Usually, the clearance in such cases is given within 48 hours, sometimes earlier depending on the urgency of the situation. The clearance, a specific number allotted to the aircraft scheduled to land, however, did not come this week.

No rational or reasonable explanation was given for the delay, people following the matter said, on condition of anonymity.

It had also been conveyed to the Chinese that the aircraft is primarily coming to China to provide aid following the phone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping.

An IAF transport aircraft was chosen because of the “voluminous” cargo including protective clothing it will be bringing in. If it was only for evacuation, an Air India aircraft could have been dispatched as was done for the first two rounds of evacuation earlier in February.

It wasn’t clear until late on Saturday as to when Beijing will issue the clearance. Meanwhile, Indians in Wuhan, many of them young students, who had packed to leave by Friday, remain anxious and uncertain.

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