NEW DELHI: In what seemed like a tit for tat, China on Sunday asked Indian authorities to not block export of China’s “much-needed items” required to control the Coronavirus epidemic. The Chinese embassy here also called upon India to follow WHO which, it said, had opposed trade and travel restrictions and resumption of normal trade and personnel exchanges as soon as possible.
India responded almost immediately with MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar saying the precautions taken by India were in accordance with the WHO’s advisory about the outbreak of coronavirus infection, which was a global public health emergency.
The Chinese embassy’s statement, apparently in response to a media query about a ban on export of medical and protective gear by India affecting relief efforts, came a day after India accused Beijing of delaying approval for a relief flight it wants to operate to Wuhan and back. The C-17 military transport aircraft will also evacuate about 100 remaining Indians from Wuhan.
The Indian official said some restrictions had been imposed on export of certain medical equipment in view of the fact that these items were in short supply here too. “Just like any other country, India with a billion-plus population has the responsibility to take the necessary measures to combat the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak, which, if not properly managed, can become a global risk,” Kumar said, adding that responding to the needs of “our Chinese friends’’, India had allowed a one-time exemption for export of some items which had been restricted for export.
“Further, PM Narendra Modi had written to President Xi Jinping and offered assistance in the hour of need. In a humanitarian gesture of medical relief, a gift reflecting the solidarity of the people of India with the people of China, is expected to be delivered to Wuhan by a special flight. We have also called upon the Chinese authorities to allow Indian citizens and those of our neighbouring countries to return by the same flight. We hope that they will give it positive consideration,’’ he said.
“It is hoped that the Indian side could review the epidemic situation in an objective, rational and calm manner, handle China’s much-needed items in a cooperative and constructive way, and resume normal personnel exchanges and trade between our two countries as soon as possible,’’ Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong had earlier said.
Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong had made similar remarks earlier this week. However, while Sun had urged India to act in “humanitarian spirit’’, the fresh statement called upon India to act in a cooperative and constructive manner on China’s need for medical equipment.
Indian officials said the government had earlier this month removed the ban on export of certain types of protective gear like gloves and masks. They also said the flight, still awaiting permission, was itself meant to carry relief supplies for China and in keeping with Modi’s letter to Xi in which he offered assistance to the Chinese government.
An angry Indian government on Saturday accused China of deliberately delaying approval even while allowing other countries to evacuate their citizens. The delay, official sources said, had caused great amount of mental stress and anxiety to Indian nationals in Wuhan who were looking to return immediately to India.


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