Xi Jinping sends message to Modi, offers China’s support and assistance

It’s the first such known communication between the two leaders since last year’s border crisis

April 30, 2021 04:56 pm | Updated November 30, 2021 06:40 pm IST

Chinese President Xi Jinping. File

Chinese President Xi Jinping. File

China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday sent a message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering China’s support in dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis .

Mr. Xi’s message, the first such known communication between the two leaders following the pandemic and last year’s border crisis, was followed by a telephone call on Friday from China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to his counterpart S. Jaishankar. Mr. Wang had also sent a message to Mr. Jaishankar on Thursday offering China’s support.

“I am very concerned about the recent situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. On behalf of the Chinese government and people, as well as in my own name, I would like to express sincere sympathies to the Indian Government and people,” Mr. Xi said in the message, shared by China’s Ambassador to India Sun Weidong on Twitter.

“Humanity is a community with a shared future. Only through solidarity and cooperation can countries around the world ultimately defeat the pandemic,” he added. “The Chinese side stands ready to strengthen cooperation with the Indian side in fighting the pandemic and provide support and help in this regard. I believe that under the leadership of the Indian Government, the Indian people will surely prevail over the pandemic.”

Mr. Jaishankar said he had received a call from his Chinese counterpart “conveying China’s sympathies at the COVID challenge now faced by India”. “Discussed the international cooperation aspects of the public health response to this difficult situation,” he said on Twitter, adding that he had “highlighted the importance of supply chains and air flights being kept open in these circumstances” and “welcomed his assurances in that regard, as also more openness to Indian chartered flights”.

Both sides also “discussed the issue of full and sincere implementation of the Moscow Agreement of complete disengagement at all friction points along the LAC and full restoration of peace and tranquility in Eastern Ladakh” and “agreed to continue discussions in this respect”. Talks between military commanders are ongoing and have made slow progress since February following the first phase of disengagement at Pangong Lake, with the Chinese military dragging its heels on pulling back in other areas.

Mr. Wang, the Foreign Minister, said on Thursday that “anti-pandemic materials produced in China are entering India at a faster pace to help India fight the epidemic”.

A large number of orders for oxygen concentrators, ventilators and other medical supplies are in the process of being sourced from China. A first batch of 800 oxygen concentrators was flown in from Hong Kong earlier this week and Mr. Sun, the Chinese envoy, said on Thursday China had, since April, “supplied more than 5000 ventilators, 21,569 oxygen generators, over 21.48 million masks & around 3,800 tons of medicines to India” according to Chinese customs data. These were acquired on a commercial basis.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday “all social sectors in China are busy taking actions” to aid India.

“The Red Cross Society of China, local governments, many non-governmental organisations and Chinese enterprises are trying their best to collect anti-epidemic supplies urgently needed by India, and deliver them to the Indian people as soon as possible,” he said. “Chinese manufacturers of anti-epidemic supplies and medical equipment are racing against the clock in full speed to ensure production. In the next few days, more anti-epidemic materials will be sent to India.”

He said “freight air routes from China to India are operating normally” and “in the past two weeks, a number of freight flights from China to India remain in operation”. “Relevant Chinese authorities have provided and are providing convenience in customs clearance and transportation for India to transport liquid oxygen tanks, oxygen concentrators and other materials from many cities in China,” he added. “China will continue to ensure the smooth functioning of the export channel of materials to India.”

On Friday, China joined Australia in effectively barring its nationals in India from returning. While there was no formal announcement, Chinese nationals in India have been told they would no longer be issued “health codes” by the Embassy in New Delhi that are needed to travel to China.

Last week, the Embassy in Delhi had put in place new curbs by barring transit through some countries, including Nepal, as there are no direct flights between India and China. Now, the issuance of health codes on the only allowed transit routes through Germany and Oman has also been temporarily suspended. Indian citizens and foreigners based in India have been barred from travelling to China since November 2020.

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