India, China spar over export curbs on medical products

Shubhajit Roy
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In response, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the precautions taken by India are in accordance with WHO’s advisory about the outbreak of coronavirus. (File photo)

INDIA AND China were locked in a verbal duel on Sunday over export restrictions on medical products in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese medical institutions, charity organisations and local authorities have complained that medical products needed in fighting the epidemic in China are prohibited for export by the Indian side. In a statement, Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong said on Sunday that the WHO has repeatedly opposed any travel and trade restrictions on China, which should be followed by all parties.

“It is hoped that the Indian side could review the epidemic situation in an objective, rational and calm manner, handle with 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,” she said.

In response, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the precautions taken by India are in accordance with WHO’s advisory about the outbreak of coronavirus.

Explained

Locked in a tussle

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had offered help to Chinese President Xi Jinping in the hour of need. But Delhi and Beijing are now locked in a tussle over export restrictions on medical supplies and approval for flight with medical supplies. The two sides must realise that both need to cooperate to fight the epidemic.

“Some restrictions have been imposed on the export of certain medical equipment in view of the fact that these items are 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,” he said.

However, he said, “Responding to the needs of our Chinese friends, the government had allowed a one-time exemption for the export of some items which had been restricted for export.”

He reiterated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had written to the Chinese President 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 they will give it positive consideration,” he said.

This came a day after India and China were engaged in a face-off over a flight to send relief supplies to Wuhan which will bring back stranded Indians and nationals from neighbouring countries.

Sources on Saturday had said China is “deliberately delaying” permission for an Indian Air Force plane to Wuhan. India submitted its request with Chinese authorities on February 13 for the C-17 aircraft and the flight plan was submitted on February 15 with a proposal mentioning February 20 as date of departure. A Chinese Embassy spokesperson said there was no deliberate delay in grant of permission, adding that China always attaches great importance to health and safety of Indian nationals living in the country.