Indian embassy in China holds first meeting with students hit by Covid visa bans

[KJM Varma]

BEIJING, 5 May: The Indian embassy here has held its first interactive session with the Indian students who suffered the most during the three-year Covid-19 period following China’s visa bans, prolonging their academic periods for several years.

Around 80 old and new students from more than 13 Chinese universities took part in the “welcome and interaction ceremony” held on 4 May.

Indian Ambassador to China Pradeep Kumar Rawat, and Counsellor Nitinjeet Singh interacted with the students and heard their grievances and experiences during Saturday’s meeting.

The meeting also included a detailed presentation by Amit Sharma, Second Secretary (Education) on various services offered by the embassy, the dos & don’ts for students, the embassy, posting on X, said.

Until the coronavirus struck China in early 2020, over 23,000 Indian students, mostly studying medicine in Chinese universities, constituting the second-highest number of foreign students after Pakistan. Currently, the numbers have reportedly come down to around 10,000 across China.

Chinese medical universities became preferred destinations in the past as private medical colleges in India charged exorbitant fees while admissions to government institutions became extremely competitive.

However, they have to write the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination in India to qualify for practice in India.

When Covid-19 struck China, most of the Indian students left for home at the height of lockdowns and could not return until early last year due to China’s visa bans and restrictions.

Many of them started returning in the latter part of 2022, while the Chinese universities began a new intake of students last year.

Some of the old students in their media interactions said they are shattered by China’s Covid visa bans and feel that Beijing could have handled the crisis more compassionately, taking into consideration the impact of the restrictions had on their academic careers and meagre budgets as most of them hail from middle-class backgrounds.

Saturday’s meeting was the first held by the Indian embassy here to step up its interactions with the students, considering their plight and the issues they faced.

During the height of the Covid visa bans, the embassy actively pursued with China to permit the early return of the students, considering the damage the delay caused to their studies.

Students said they were told at the meeting to remain cautious and disciplined, strictly abiding by the local laws.

According to recent reports, three Indian students are under detention in China on charges of criminal offences. (PTI)