The Indian government said it was in diplomatic talks with China to repatriate 39 Indian sailors who had been stranded at A Chinese port. India’s Minister of Ports, Shipping and Shipping, Mansukh Mandaviya, noted that diplomatic negotiations were proceeding smoothly and that the crew would soon be back in India. Counsellor Ji Rong, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in India, said on Twitter that Chinese authorities had been in constant contact and offered assistance, stressing that no cargo ship had been prevented from leaving Chinese ports.
The plight of the 23 Indian crew members of the MV Jag Anand, an Indian bulk cargo ship, is far from over, with Indian media saying that the Chinese government has reiterated its ban on changing crew members and not allowing them to leave the ship because of epidemic restrictions. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian stressed that Chinese local authorities are keeping close contact with India and responding to their requests in a timely manner regarding the clear provisions on quarantine measures and quarantine for crew members. While meeting quarantine and epidemic prevention requirements, necessary facilities and assistance have been provided.
Mandaviya said in a statement that diplomatic talks between the two countries were proceeding smoothly and Indian sailors would soon come to India. Meanwhile, China says the main reason for staying in China is commercial interests. “The Chinese authorities have been in close contact with the Indian side and are providing timely assistance and necessary supplies to the Indian crew,” counsellor Ji Rong wrote on Twitter. “China has never prevented any ships from leaving the port, and the real reason for this is that freight companies don’t want to change their plans for commercial reasons.”
The leader of The Indian Muslim political party AIMIM, Asaduddin Owaisi, also responded to the developments, saying the Indian authorities should take action to bring the sailors back to India as soon as possible. “It’s time for the Indian government to respond to this and I hope prime Minister Modi at least tweets about it and let’s all call on the prime minister to respond and bring them back,” he said.
China said on Dec. 25 that the Indian sailors stranded at Chinese ports had no connection to tensions with Australia, a statement made a day after China’s Commerce Ministry said a total of 39 Indian sailors on two cargo ships had docked in Chinese ports. Anurag Srivastava, a spokesman for India’s Foreign Ministry, had previously said: “The crew are under considerable pressure as a result of this unprecedented situation. The COVID-19 outbreak has led to crew regrouping and cargo handling delays, and the ship owner and consignee have been notified in accordance with Chinese regulations. He also said That India continues to be in regular contact with the Chinese authorities to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the Indian crew are addressed and that these issues are addressed as soon as possible.”
Amid the trade tensions between China and Australia, Abdulgani Serang, chairman of India’s National Seafarers’ Union (NUSI), told Indian media that two Indian merchant ships carrying Australian coal mines had been stranded in Chinese ports, adding that the ships had become “floating prisons” and that Chinese measures were seriously harming the well-being of the crew. “Since mid-June, 23 Indian sailors aboard the MV Jag Anand, an Indian bulk cargo ship, have been transporting more than 16 tonnes of Australian coking coal at The Port of Jingtang in China. Another Indian merchant ship, the MV Anastasia, was also carrying coal from Australia, and its 18 Indian crew members had been forced to stay in Caofeidian anchorage since August 3. India is facing a humanitarian crisis and our crew are being treated inhumanely.”
Among the crew of the MV Anastasia were 16 Indians, a Russian, and a Filipino. The Sydney Morning Herald previously reported that at least four crew members were now on “suicide watch”. Although Chinese ports do not allow crew changes, anyone in need of medical treatment will be allowed to dock ashore temporarily, according to Chinese authorities. The 29-year-old Indian crewman, Gaurav Singh, is currently being held aboard the MV Anastasia vessel and is not allowed to enter the port, let alone leave. He said he and the other 17 crew members were walking into despair after five months of escalating Chinese trade sanctions against Australia. He said: “Mentally we were really struggling. We even had crew members who tried to commit suicide on board the ship. Each crew member became extremely frustrated and angry. We are being punished for crimes we did not commit, and we are looking for every possible way out, but there is nothing we can do.”