Tensions flare between India and China over coronavirus measures Amy Kazmin reports from New Delhi The coronavirus crisis has led to a sharp flare-up in tensions between neighbours China and India, with Beijing accusing New Delhi of wrongfully barring the export of respiratory masks and other protective gear urgently needed for Chinese medical workers. India’s directorate general of foreign trade banned the export of respiratory masks and protective clothing at the end of January, as the WHO declared coronavirus as a global public health emergency. However, New Delhi announced last week that it planned to send a special C-17 military transport plane loaded with protective gear and other medical to China as a one-time exemption to the export ban as a gesture of “solidarity of the people of India with the people of China.” But that has failed to failed to placate Beijing, which has yet to grant permission for the special flight to operate. For its part, New Delhi also wants to use the empty plane to evacuate many of its citizens still stranded in the stricken Hubei province. It has has offered to help citizens of some of its smaller neighbouring countries to leave China.
A statement posted on the website of China’s embassy to India on Monday said that “Chinese medical institutions, charity organisations and local authorities complain that the medical products they purchased in China are prohibited for export by the Indian side.” The statement went on to demand that India “review the epidemic situation in an objective manner, handle China’s much needed items in a calm and constructive way, and resume normal personnel exchanges and trade between our two countries as soon as possible.”
India has evacuated around 650 of its citizens in two separate flights this month, but many are still stranded in Hubei province and now eager to return home as the outbreak continues.
India, however, has defended its export ban, saying “these items are in short supply here too.” “Just like any other country, India with a billion plus people has the responsibility to take necessary measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak,” an Indian government spokesman said, responding to China’s complaint. The Indian spokesman appealed to China to grant permission for the special relief flight to operate, and to “allow Indian citizens and those of our neighbouring countries to return by the same flight”.