- India had said it will send IAF plane to Wuhan to evacuate Indians
- China denied delay in allowing the Indian plane to coronavirus-hit Wuhan
- Sources said China "creating a roadblock" in India's evacuation efforts
China is "deliberately delaying a clearance" for a special Indian flight to the coronavirus-hit Wuhan city to deliver medical supplies and evacuate remaining Indians from there, sources said, adding that Beijing is "creating a roadblock" for India's evacuation efforts.
China has denied any delay in allowing the Indian Air Force's C-17 Globemaster plane with medical supplies to Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus.
Hitting out at Beijing over the reported delay, sources said, "There are relief and evacuation flights from other countries which are still going on, including by France. Why is the Chinese government delaying clearance for the relief flight? Are they not interested in Indian aid provided as our token of support? Why are they creating roadblock in evacuating our nationals from Wuhan and putting them under hardship and mental agony?"
On February 17, India had announced that it will send Indian Air Force's largest plane, C-17 Globemaster, with medical supplies to Wuhan, and bring back its nationals as well as citizens from all neighbouring countries who were still stuck there on the return flight.
India evacuated 647 Indians and seven Maldivians in two special Air India flights to Wuhan earlier this month.
"Indian nationals in Wuhan continue their long wait for the flight which will evacuate them to India. The delay is causing them and their family members in India tremendous mental anguish," sources said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had written to Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month to extend his solidarity over the coronavirus outbreak. He had also thanked Mr Xi for facilitating the evacuation of the two batches of Indians from Wuhan.
"The Chinese side always attaches great importance to the health and safety of Indian nationals in China, and provided assistance and convenience for the return of Indian citizens. The current epidemic situation in Hubei province is complicated, and the prevention and control of Covid-19 has entered into a critical stage. We are carefully assessing ground situation, as prevention work requires. Competent departments of the two countries are keeping communication and coordination in this regard. There is no such thing as China deliberately delaying granting flight permission," Chinese embassy spokesperson Counsellor Ji Rong said.
However, Indian government sources countered the claim saying, “Our request for third flight was submitted on 13/2. Flight plan was submitted on 15/2. Date of flight proposed originally was 20/2. That is five days' notice. The delay therefore appears deliberate.”
Meanwhile, the number of people who died of coronavirus infection in mainland China went up to 2,345, while the number of confirmed cases reached 76,288, health authorities said today. The number of cases outside Hubei, where millions remain under effective quarantine, has been generally declining, although new hotspots were found in several prisons and hospitals on Friday.