China Needs to Keep Open Transport Corridors, Cargo Flights: Jaishankar to Wang

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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday emphasised to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi the need for China to keep open transport corridors and cargo flights as various Indian entities are commercially procuring various products from suppliers in that country amid the coronavirus pandemic. Jaishankar brought up the issue during a telephonic conversation with Wang who conveyed to him China’s sympathy and solidarity with India in its fight against a severe wave of coronavirus pandemic. The telephonic talks between the two foreign ministers came on a day Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed readiness to strengthen cooperation with India in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“Highlighted the importance of supply chains and air flights being kept open in these circumstances. Welcomed his assurances in that regard, as also more openness to Indian chartered flights,” Jaishankar tweeted. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the call was initiated at the request of the Chinese side. “External Affairs Minister highlighted in this regard that Indian entities were already in the process of commercially procuring required products and raw materials from suppliers in China,” the MEA said.

“The Minister said that this process would be facilitated if various transport corridors and cargo flights remained open and the necessary logistics support ensured expeditiously,” it said in a statement. There were reports of difficulties being faced by some US firms in sending medical shipments to India from China. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Thursday said there was an impact on some of the supplies following suspension of flights by Sichuan Airlines. In a series of tweets, Jaishankar said: “Discussed the international cooperation aspects of the public health response to this difficult situation.” The MEA said Jaishankar emphasised that serious challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which had affected all countries, required serious international cooperation.

“Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the COVID-19 as a common enemy of mankind and agreed that there was a need for coordination on a concerted response,” the MEA said in a statement. He said that China supported the efforts of the government of India and would ensure that all the required materials flow to Indian entities without any delay. “Chinese companies would be encouraged and supported to deliver requisite materials. Airports, customs and airlines would also be instructed to smoothly facilitate movement of goods,” the MEA said. “Chartered flights from India would be welcome and specific problems raised by the Indian side sorted out quickly. Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered any other appropriate assistance required from the Chinese government,” it added.

On April 26, state-run Sichuan Airlines, which operates 11 cargo flights to India was suspended causing disruption of procurement of oxygen concentrators by private companies to from India to augment supplies. After media reports, the airline has retracted its decision and said it is working out a new plan to resume the services. But so far it has not announced any new schedule.

The MEA said the telephone call concluded with a brief discussion on the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and RIC (Russia-India-China) meetings of foreign ministers which are scheduled to take place in the near future under the Indian chair. “Foreign Minister Wang Yi confirmed his participation at these events,” the MEA said.

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