When India sent its aircraft to evacuate Indian students from China’s Wuhan after the novel coronavirus outbreak, the government had made an offer to bring back people from neighbouring countries including Pakistan, foreign minister S Jaishankar told Parliament on Friday.
India had earlier this month brought back over 600 Indian nationals from Wuhan, a sharp contrast to Islamabad which had declined to evacuate its students to express solidarity with China. Beijing had later lauded Pakistan for its stand, describing Islamabad as its “iron ally”.
Jai Shankar’s statement on the evacuation efforts came after Health Minister Harsh Vardhan gave Parliament a status report on the coronavirus cases in the country and the steps taken by the government to limit the spread of the infection.
In the questions that followed, some wanted the government to spell out its stand on evacuation of nationals from other countries. BJP Rajya Sabha from Bengal Rupa Ganguly asked the government if the government would consider making efforts for the evacuation of Pakistani students or make some arrangements.
Jaishankar told the Rajya Sabha that an estimated 80 Indian students were still put in Wuhan. Seventy of them had volunteered to stay back but there were 10 other students who were running fever and were disallowed by Chinese officials.
Jaishankar said the embassy was in touch with them to track their welfare. He also made a special mention of two embassy officials who had travelled from Beijing to Wuhan at great personal risk to help with the evacuation process.
“And, finally, the question regarding Pakistan. At the time when our two flights were going, we had told all the students and the larger community in Wuhan that we were prepared not only to bring back our own people but also bring back all the people of our neighbouring countries who would like to come back,” Jaishankar said.
“So, this was an offer which was made to all our neighbours. And, of these, seven nationals of Maldives chose to avail of the offer. But, I would like the members to know that the offer was made to everybody,” the foreign minister told the Rajya Sabha.