‘China will never forget’: The gesture by George Fernandes in 2003 that the Chinese envoy reminisces even today

FE Online

Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong on Tuesday recounted a gesture by former Defence Minister George Fernandes when China was reeling under severe acute respiratory syndrome (officially known as SARS) health epidemic in 2003. He said that China will never forget what Fernandes did during the health emergency years ago. Recalling the event, the Chinese envoy said that he was a director in the Asian Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry when the then Indian Defence minister Fernandes visited China. Weidong said that he was impressed by Fernandes’ approach.

What George Fernandes did for China

The Chinese envoy said that George Fernandes blasted foreign media for exaggerating health crisis and unnecessarily creating panic across the world. He further said that Fernandes was asked by a reporter whether he was afraid of being infected. "To this, the central minister said that when the Chinese are not afraid, why should I be afraid," Weidong recalled.

Not only this, Fernandes, after his return to India, instructed the Indian Army to donate medicine to China. "This sort of act of kindness will never be forgotten by the Chinese people," news agency PTI quoted the Chinese envoy as saying. According to a report in Times of India, the then Defence Minister had personally handed over 17 cartons of anti-viral drugs and masks to Chinese ambassador Hua Junduo to help them fight the SARS.

Why China recalls it now

China has been struck with another health emergency in the form of Coronavirus - officially known as COVID19. Till Tuesday, 73,332 people were infected globally and 1901 lost their lives. In China, 72, 528 cases were reported and 1891 people died. The virus, which was initially detected in Wuhan city of Hubei province, has now spread to 25 countries.

As per WHO, 804 cases and 3 deaths have been confirmed outside of China.

This time too, the Indian government has responded positively and decided to help China with medical supplies. The Indian Embassy in Beijing tweeted on Monday that the government will send a "consignment of medical supplies on a relief flight to Wuhan later this week to support China to fight the COVID-19 epidemic".

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote to the Chinese President and offered assistance to China to deal with Coronavirus. He had expressed solidarity with the Chinese President and conveyed condolences at the unfortunate loss of lives due to the virus outbreak.