The government of India has allegedly informally directed air carriers not to bring Chinese citizens to the country, according to local media. The move is seen as a major response measure against China after the Chinese government banned Indian citizens from entering the country in November 2020.

On December 28, 2020, all Indian and foreign airlines were reportedly told not to board any Chinese citizens on flights to India. Some air carriers reportedly asked the Indian government for written order in this regard to be able to refuse to board Chinese travelers who have already booked their tickets and explain a reason for the refusal. 

While direct air operations between India and China are suspended, Chinese travelers are currently allowed to enter India via a third country with which India has an air travel bubble agreement. Besides, Chinese citizens who are staying in such countries with which India has an air bubble, are also allowed to enter the country for business and work purposes. 

The government’s alleged ban of Chinese citizens comes following China’s refusal to allow two cargo vessels with 39 Indian sailors aboard to come to the Chinese shore and unload the cargo, Indian media point out. According to local media, a cargo vessel MV Jag Anand with 23 sailors aboard has been on anchorage near the Chinese shore since June 13, 2020. Another vessel MV Anastasia with 16 Indian nationals onboard has been waiting for the Chinese authority’s permission to discharge its cargo since September 20, 2020.

On November 5, 2020, China indefinitely suspended all direct commercial flights to and from India, prohibiting non-Chinese citizens to enter the country following a spike in COVID-19 cases at the time. The Chinese government also suspended the entry of non-Chinese citizens from Britain, Belgium, and the Philippines in response to a rising number of COVID-19 virus cases worldwide. 

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The Chinese foreign ministry argued the decision to ban Indian citizens from entry to the country was a reasonable measure to hold in the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, China suspended entry to its territory for Indians who hold valid Chinese visas and residence permits.

While commercial flights between India and China have been suspended, Air India has been operating special repatriation flights to different regions of China.