China on Friday said that there was no link between the two stranded Indian cargo ships at the country’s ports and its strained relations with India, reported PTI.
Twenty-three Indian sailors were on board cargo vessel MV Jag Anand, which has been anchored near Jingtang port in China’s Hebei province since June 13. Meanwhile, 16 others were on MV Anastasia, which has been off the port of Caofeidian, also in Hebei, since September 20.
Beijing has not allowed the vessels to change crew members to be replaced and stopped them from disembarking due to coronavirus restrictions. However, no coronavirus cases have been reported on bulk carrier MV Jag Anand, as China continues to implement anti-epidemic protocols.
“As to whether this has anything to do with the bilateral relations, I don’t see any link,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Friday when asked about the matter. He asserted that the country was only following its quarantine measures, according to PTI.
“Concerning this, China has stayed in close communication with the Indian side and responding to their requests as well as providing necessary assistance for them,” Wang said. “As far as I understand, China allows the crew change while meeting certain quarantine conditions.”
The Chinese diplomat added that the Jingtang port was not in the list for crew changes. He, however, did not refer to the 16 crew members at the Caofeidian port.
On Wednesday, another Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had said that the country was in touch with Indian authorities regarding the condition of the sailors. Following this, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Thursday said that there was a “considerable amount of stress on the crew members”, PTI reported.
“Our Embassy in Beijing has been in constant touch with provincial and central government authorities in China, requesting that the ships be allowed to dock and/or the crew be allowed to be changed,” he said.
India and China have been engaged in a standoff since May along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. The discussions to resolve it hit a stalemate after some initial disengagement. Both sides have made preparations to maintain thousands of troops and equipment in sub-zero conditions.
The tensions along the Line of Actual Control started with initial scuffles that led to a pitched battle – without firearms – in June that saw 20 Indian soldiers killed. Beijing, however, refused to release casualty numbers on its side. Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time in 45 years.