In a remarkable turnaround of the fortune New Zealand citizens, residents and work visa holders with exemption from Immigration NZ to enter borders can come back home in the Indian govt’s assisted repatriation flights, subject to some active behind the scene diplomacy.
The Indian Weekender has reliably learned that both the governments are ready to engage and coordinate with each other to facilitate the return of remaining New Zealanders stranded in India.
The hope of getting Kiwis back to NZ on Indian planes set to fly-in possibly in next few weeks emanated from the government of India’s recent decision of allowing foreign nationals stranded in India to fly-out on those special flights, provided their respective countries allow them in.
Since then hundreds of foreign nationals stranded in India have flown back to the United States, as briefed by the Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand Muktesh Pardeshi in a press briefing earlier this afternoon.
Following a cue from the Indian High Commissioner and the decision of the Indian govt to allow foreign nationals return on the paid special flights, the Indian Weekender quickly reached out to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to check if it had any reservation to the idea - if an ever it reaches its table for a further decision.
To the delight of many, the Indian Weekender’s enquiry was reverted back with a positive response from an official spokesperson of the MFAT stating, “Recently we carried out the most complex repatriation mission the Government has undertaken to date, with over 700 people returning home on three New Zealand Government-assisted flights from India.
“There are a number of New Zealanders who were located too far from Mumbai or New Delhi to travel on those flights. We continue to explore options for this group, including actively seeking space on other countries’ repatriation flights. Last week we were able to secure around 40 seats on Australian organised flights from Chennai and Kolkata, for example. We also remain in contact with Indian authorities around its repatriation flights, and any opportunities that may arise for those New Zealanders,” the spokesperson said.
Indian govt’s repatriation mission and the possibility of flights to NZ
The government of India has recently commenced the biggest ever evacuation plan to bring back hundreds of thousands of citizens stranded overseas, including in NZ, due to covid-19 related border closures and global travel restrictions.
As a part of the mission, the Indian government has asked its national carrier Air India to come up with an evacuation plan for different countries around different regions of the world.
The first incoming flight landed in India’s southern state of Kerala from the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, May 7, as a part of the first stage of evacuation, which will continue till May 17.
It is expected that repatriation flights to countries like New Zealand where the numbers of stranded Indian citizens is comparatively less (than in middle East, Americas, the UK and Europe) and also which have been incredibly successful in flattening the curve of the spread of Convid-19, will only commence in the second or third phase.
The High Commission of India in New Zealand has earlier today confirmed that around 2000 Indian citizens are currently stranded in New Zealand and registered with them for repatriation, thus raising hopes that an Indian government's assisted-flight will soon come to NZ.
Can Indian flights to NZ also bring Kiwis stranded in India?
Indeed, till now, only Indian citizens stranded in New Zealand would have been keenly following the Air India’s ticket portal to see when it opens tickets for flight from Auckland to India, however, now possibly the Kiwis stranded in India can also keep an eye and see if a one-way travel is being offered to New Zealand as well.
The Indian Weekender had earlier reported that only 700 people out of the total 1200 people, including citizens, residents and work visa holders who had the exemption to enter New Zealand, could return home on NZ govt’s assisted charter flights.
Since then a large number of people were constantly in touch with the Indian Weekender to raise their voice for being evacuated and brought back home (Read the Indian Weekender story here).
Now there is hope for them as they can potentially catch the Indian government’s repatriation flights possibly coming to New Zealand in next few weeks to take their stranded citizens home
Behind the scene active diplomacy is still required
While the Indian Weekender’s reporting and independent confirmation from the two key offices - the MFAT & the Indian High Commission has confirmed the willingness on both sides to facilitate early and easy repatriation of people, it still remains a work in progress as the two offices need to talk to each other and seal the deal.
In politics and international politics as they say that governments do not respond to hypothetical situations, therefore it is required that both the offices coordinate further on this idea - which the Indian Weekender has learned that both sides are amenable to - for further refinement and concrete action.
However, for now, the stranded Kiwis back in India can take heart from the fact that another big avenue can become available for them to return back to New Zealand.
The Indian Weekender will continue to report and bring more details on this immensely important issue.