Indian authorities have informally requested all domestic and international air carriers not to fly any Chinese passengers into India.
India’s strong retaliatory move comes after China’s not-so-subtle push to stop Indian nationals from flying into China, something that has only tightened since November.
While flights between India and China are currently suspended, Chinese nationals eligible to travel as per current norms for foreigners have been doing so by first flying to a third country with which India has a travel bubble. And from there, they fly to India. In addition, Chinese nationals living in air bubble countries have also been flying to India from there for work and business.
Over the past weekend, airlines — both Indian and foreign — have been specifically asked not to fly Chinese nationals to India. At the moment tourist visas to India remain suspended but foreigners are allowed to travel here on work and some other categories of non-tourist visas. Industry sources say a majority of Chinese nationals flying to India have been coming from air bubble countries in Europe.
Some airlines apparently asked Indian authorities to give them something in writing so that they can give reason for denying boarding to Chinese nationals booked on flights to India as per current norms.
New Delhi’s response comes when Indian seafarers are stranded in various Chinese ports because China is refusing to allow them on shore, or even to change crew. This has affected almost 1,500 Indians serving on international flag merchant vessels as they can’t even come back home.
Though the target is Australia, whose coal is now banned by China, Indians seafarers have taken a big collateral hit and Beijing does not seem to be willing to organise immediate relief.
In early November, China had suspended the entry of foreign nationals holding valid Chinese visas or residence permits from some countries including India due to the pandemic.