NEW DELHI: In what left many flummoxed here, the Chinese embassy announced, apparently for the purpose of resuming people-to-people exchanges in an orderly manner, that it will restart normal visa services for people who have been administered a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine. Although China has made similar announcements in 19 other countries, India is not among the nations where any Chinese vaccine is available.
There is also no proposal to make any Chinese vaccine available to Indian nationals in the near future. The decision effectively makes it mandatory for those looking to return to China for employment and other activities to be inoculated with a Chinese vaccine.
“Persons and their family members (who have Chinese vaccination certificates) going to China to carry on their employment contracts, work resumption and other relevant activities are allowed to submit their visa applications through Chinese visa application service centre to Chinese embassy or consulates in India following the same way as before the epidemic occurred,” the embassy said in a notice.
The announcement will be of little use for many Indian students who are stuck in India awaiting Beijing to permit their return as there are no Chinese vaccines available in India. Chinese authorities in Beijing justified the “unilateral” decision saying they were trying to “facilitate international travel”.
The Chinese embassy didn’t clarify how Indians can access Chinese-made vaccines in India. Global Times reported that such notices were put up by Chinese embassies in 20 countries.
Asked about the rationale behind the announcement, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing on Tuesday that many countries had floated the idea of linking vaccination status with opening up international travel.
“Our proposal to facilitate the travel of those who have been inoculated with Chinese vaccines is made after thoroughly considering the safety and efficacy of Chinese vaccines,” he said.
“We believe this is a meaningful exploration of facilitating international travel once mass vaccination has been achieved. It is not linked to the recognition of Chinese vaccines. This is an arrangement made by the Chinese side unilaterally. It is a different thing from vaccine recognition,” he added.
Over 23,000 Indian students, most of them medical students, besides hundreds of professionals working in China are stuck in India since last year due to coronavirus travel restrictions. Despite repeated representations from the Indian embassy and appeals by the students, China is yet to respond positively, an agency report from Beijing said.