In an exclusive interview to NDTV, the German Ambassador to India, Walter Lindner says he hopes once the travel ban is lifted, it will welcome fully vaccinated Indians, especially students who form a huge part of its international community. "Because countries are afraid of mutations, travel curbs have been placed in EU nations," he says. He also remarked that the while the Indian government handled the Covid crisis well, he hopes the country is better prepared in the event of a possible third wave.
"I would hope travel can resume sooner than better. Germany and Europe had the third wave. Now India is expecting a third wave - we hope that doesn't arise."
Commenting on the concerns emerging around the Delta variant, the ambassador said, "Most of the counties are afraid of any mutation. Call it Delta or Delta plus, it could have other names. Even India would try to avoid it if there was a mutation coming from another country. Hence most of the EU countries have put in some travel restrictions and we can lift them once things get better"
When asked if Covishield - which has now received a nod in 7 EU nations - holds an entry card into the EU, he said "for us who have taken Covishield - doesn't mean we can travel -- because there is a travel ban. But for those Indians who can travel will have an easy travel in Europe can use Covishield as valid proof of anti-covid vaccination. But this is not an entry card. Travel ban is still out there."
Germany has a huge Indian student population, which grew by 20% last year (as per DAAD statistics).
On whether, the pandemic will affect these numbers and Indian students visiting, the ambassador said, "We are proud Indian students come to Germany because they say education system is good and free of cost. We have 25,000..this is highest number in EU - more than the United Kingdom. We are sad some beginners are stuck in India. From today, we have decided to open visas sections for students so when restrictions are lifted, the process will be easier for them."
Commenting on how the Indian government has handled the Covid situation so far, despite several curbs and lockdowns in place, he says, "As a foreign ambassador I am not here to keep notes and mark performance of the government. I think India is such a continent and the challenges you have here -- poverty, the dimension of the place, closeness of people in areas where there can't be any social distancing - how can you do that in a slum in Bombay? Challenges in India are very special and cannot be compared to other countries. India has done well, but of course, scenes we have seen in February, March, April, were devastating. no one wants to see that. That's why we jumped in and helped. Nobody expected 2nd wave to be so violent not even us as foreign observers. Lessons learnt will be drawn by the government, but my job is to see how we can avoid the 3rd wave."