India suspends tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals

India has suspended tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals, global airlines body IATA told its member carriers on April 20.

India has been raising with China the plight of approximately 22,000 Indian students enrolled in Chinese universities who are unable to go back for physical classes. However, the neighbouring country has to date refused to let them enter.

These students had to leave their studies in China and come to India when the COVID-19 pandemic began at the beginning of 2020. They have been kept waiting even as Beijing allows students from Thailand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to return.

India suspends tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals

In a circular issued on April 20 regarding India, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said, “Tourist visas issued to nationals of China (People’s Republic) are no longer valid.”

UK and Canada are among the countries whose citizens can’t fly to India on e-tourist visas but can come on regular paper visas issued by Indian missions in those countries. Indian tourist visas with a validity of 10 years are no longer valid, except for those issued to nationals of Japan and the US.

It said the following passengers are allowed to enter India: nationals of Bhutan, India, Maldives and Nepal; passengers with a residence permit issued by India; passengers with a visa or an e-visa issued by India; passengers with an overseas citizen of India (OCI) card or booklet; passengers with a person of Indian origin (PIO) card; and passengers with a diplomatic passport.

The IATA also said that tourist visas with a validity of 10 years are no longer valid. The IATA is a global airlines body with around 290 members that comprise more than 80% of global air traffic.

IATA issues these updates regularly so that airlines know which nationalities are allowed to be flown to which countries. The latest India-specific IATA update, issued on April 19, is about the countries whose nationals cannot travel to India on e-tourist visas.

India had late last month restored the electronic tourist visa facility for 156 countries, in time for the resumption of scheduled international flights from March 27 this year, after a gap of over two years.

India has urged Beijing to adopt a “congenial stance” on the matter as the continuation of the strict restrictions is putting the academic careers of thousands of Indian students in jeopardy, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on March 17.

This issue was also taken up with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a meeting in Dushanbe in September 2021.

Bagchi said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson had stated on February 8 that China was looking into the matter in a coordinated manner and that arrangements for allowing foreign students to return to China were being examined. 

“But let me clarify that to date, the Chinese side has not given any categorical response about the return of Indian students. We will continue to urge the Chinese side to adopt a congenial stance in the interest of our students and that they facilitate an early return to China so that our students can pursue their studies,” Bagchi said.

He said the issue was also taken up with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a meeting in Dushanbe in September 2021. The two foreign ministers had held talks in the Tajik capital city on the sidelines of a conclave of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

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