First batch of Pak students lands in China amidst silence over Indians’ return

Beijing, Jun 21 (PTI) The first batch of Pakistani students, stuck back home for about two years due to China’s strict visa restrictions aimed at containing the COVID-19 pandemic, has arrived in the Chinese city of Xian, even as Beijing is yet to announce plans to permit the return of Indian students despite repeated assurances.

A plane carrying 90 Pakistani students arrived in Xian on Monday, Pakistan’s state-run news agency Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported.

After undergoing a 14-day quarantine, they will go to their respective universities in different cities.

China, after representations, agreed to allow 250 Pakistani students to return. There are still 6,000 Pakistani students who intend to go back to China to pursue their studies, the report said.

According to estimates, about 28,000 Pakistani students study in China and most of them returned home at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in 2020.

Since then, like most of the foreign students, they were stuck back home due to China’s visa and flight bans.

China, however, is yet to announce its plans to allow Indian students’ return.

In April, after repeated representations from India, China agreed to permit the return of some” stranded Indian students and asked the Indian Embassy here to collect the details of those seeking to return.

As per China’s official reports, over 23,000 Indian students are studying in Chinese colleges.

Over 12,000 Indian students have expressed their wish to return and their details have been forwarded to the Chinese government for processing.

China is yet to come up with a criterion to permit the return of the students as Beijing is reluctant to allow their return at once in view the recent COVID-19 spike in the country.

Last week, China announced plans to provide visas to Indian professionals and their families working in various Chinese cities who are stuck back home for over two years due to Beijing’s COVID-19 visa bans.

The Chinese Embassy in India updated its COVID-19 visa policy after over two years to accept visa applications of foreign nationals and their accompanying family members wanting to go to China for the resumption of work in all fields.

This week, it further updated with COVID-19 protocols to be followed by visa holders to travel to China.

While opening visa services to Indians, China is yet to announce plans to open flight facilities between the two countries.

Currently, only diplomats between the two countries travel through the expensive third-country flight routes. However, China’s visa announcement has created hope that flight services too may be resumed between the two countries soon.