India, Japanese scientists in touch to find COVID-19

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India envoy to Japan Sanjay Kumar Verma has said that Indian and Japanese scientists are in touch with each other for a solution to the COVID-19 crisis.

Speaking to our diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Verma said that Japanese PM Abe has “expressed his respect for PM Modi for demonstrating leadership in the South Asian region such as by hosting summit by video conference”.

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He also spoke about how the mission has reached out to the Indian community who are stranded, saying no decision has been taken about the nationals who want to go back to India and logistics and other arrangements still have to be put in place.

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Question: How is the Indian mission taking care of Indians in Japan?

Sanjay Kumar Verma: I would like to congratulate WION for doing a series of interviews with Indian envoys who are facing the brunt of COVID-19 pandemic, trying to reach out the larger Indian diaspora everywhere in the world. As far as Japan is concerned, it has close to about 40,000 Indians who are residing here and the number had gone up by about 4,000 last year itself. Out of this number, 2,000 are students who are pursuing their undergraduations, post graduations and doctoral courses. We are in regular contact with most of them, we have already publicised our hotline number on our website and other social media handles and we are glad to inform you that we are receiving a number of calls and emails from those Indians who have any concerns regarding the stay in Japan.

Our consulate general in Osaka is also doing the same and we talk to each other often to keep our policy outreach and initiatives convergent to each other. Largely, we are trying to tell our fellow citizens to avoid any panic or misinformation while following instructions of Japanese authorities and keep up with prescribed precautions to protect themselves and maintain a good immunity of themselves.

Very recently, the ministry of Ayush has adopted yoga and Ayurveda protocol to boost immunity and that is something that is practised extensively by Indians and many Japanese here. The video of PM Modi on yoga has attracted a lot of attention by Indians in Japan and many of them following routine and protocol as demonstrated by the honourable PM.

Many students have already finished designated courses in universities and engineering colleges and they are eager to go back to India. Another category of Indians, who are temporary residents here and largely short term professionals and visiting business personnel in addition to students and researchers who are facing restrictions of travel and are unable to go back to India at the moment.

There were several issues on visa extensions, and we actively collaborated with Japanese authorities to get visa extensions easily, and I am glad to share with you, we do not know any Indian who has approached us for visa extension and has not been able to get it done.

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Question: How is the NRI community helping in the mission’s efforts? 

Sanjay Kumar Verma: Indians residing in Japan are actually the extensions of our helping hand to fellow Indians and I must put it on record that all Indian associations across Japan have been proactive and have been talking to us, have been liaising with us, thereby reaching to stranded Indians or Indians in difficulty or helping them out, whichever way they can.

Question: How are India and Japan cooperating in the containment of COVID-19 crisis?

Sanjay Kumar Verma: India and Japan have the unique advantage of having a special strategic global partnership. We are working very closely to address the humanitarian crisis emanating from COVID-19 pandemic and to find ways to minimise the impact on our societies and economies.

This has been done bilaterally, both PMs spoke to each other and exchanged notes details of best practises which are being followed. That was done on April 10 and they exchanged notes again on the G20 platform and a lot of global consensus and challenges emerging out of COVID-19 pandemic.

PM Abe of Japan expressed his respect for PM Modi for demonstrating leadership in the south Asian region such as by hosting summit by video conference and establishing emergency fund besides expressing gratitude for Indian government’s assistance in facilitating the departure of stranded Japanese nationals in India.

We have earlier seen a situation in which many Indian crew members on the luxury cruiseliner Diamond Princess were evacuated from Japan. PM Modi thanked Japan for the assistance they provided for the evacuation in February.

As far as the scientific community is concerned, they are in regular touch for scientific and technological intervention that could be thought of in order to control the situation better.