Indian envoy Partha Satpathy with Ukraine foreign minister Photograph:( WION )
Both India and Ukraine have been engaging with each other on the COVID-19 crisis
With India all set to begin repatriation of Indian students from Ukraine, students will be the main focus.
Speaking to our Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Kiev, India's envoy to Ukraine Partha Satpathy said, "14,000 students registered but that is an intention. The actual number we are manually sorting out because we have a criteria list to determine the necessity of students going back."
Both countries have been engaging with each other on the crisis with India which is one of the largest pharma suppliers to Ukraine gifting medicines to the country to deal with COVID-19 pandemic.
WION: How is the Indian mission reaching out to stranded Indians in the country?
Partha Satpathy: Ukraine has a certain number of characteristics which are special to the country, primarily being that it is the student population who we are catering to.
We have about 15,000 students most of them studying medicine here and as you can understand anxiety was amplified on both sides, back in India by the parents and students themselves here.
So we used all the social media messaging platforms and have been conveying all the programming we have been doing for the safety of the students and potential movement. But we utilized Ukrainian authorities to transmit the message of comfort and care.
In that connection, I met the central and state government authorities and reached out to local governments to and amplified the messages of safety, concern and security of the Indian students and I must say things have been fairly okay till now.
WION: Six repatriation flights are coming in phase 2, how many Indians are expected to come back?
Partha Satpathy: As of now, we have 14,000 students registered but that is an intention. The actual number, we are manually sorting out because we have a criteria list to determine the necessity of students going back.
The other limitation is the number of flights, we are starting from May 25, we have six flights lined up, both to the south and north India and what I have tried to do is take out students from Red Zone areas of Ukraine.
There are about four Red Zones in Ukraine and they have about 5-6 universities and an attempt is to remove students and give them the opportunity to go back, those who feel insecure.
Of course, stranded passengers in Ukraine and emergency categories here both will get priority. They will need a large number of flights given the number of students and it will be an ongoing operation for quite some time.
WION: How are India and Ukraine cooperating on COVID-19 pandemic?
Partha Satpathy: Both governments have been in touch and regarding its response. Just like in India we have followed regimented lockdown measure, in Ukraine too it was very strict and it was strictly enforced and complied by the people of Ukraine.
We have exchanged experiences and critical part was in the pharma sector. As you know India is one of the largest pharma suppliers to Ukraine and we play a big and important role in access and accessibility programme of medicines in Ukraine and I got a request from foreign minister requesting for HCQ and other such antiviral medicines which the government of India was very gracious in not only gifting it free on the humanitarian ground but also allowing companies of Ukraine to import it.
It was very well appreciated and also it sent a message to all the Indian citizens that we are helping Ukraine to stock up medicinal requirements and helped in removing a lot of concerns. So, yes this collaboration has been going on at various levels.
WION: How has the ground situation in Ukraine changed, how have Indian diplomats faring?
Partha Satpathy: I must thank the authorities in Ukraine, they have been extraordinarily cooperative in every request we have made.
They are aware that the Indian community is not only a strong community but a value-driven community and on top of that the Indian students, which is a big segment both in terms of bolstering their educational capacity and sector but also in terms of revenue.
Ukrainian authorities' reaction, facilitation and cooperation have been very very good. So this kind of helped into the narrative on how to control and how to assuage and finally help the Indian citizens move back.
Students have to give exams, these are medical exams, they are very technical exams, they are qualifying exams so they will take a considered view on when they will move.
So from Red Zone areas of Ukraine, there will be movement and the country on its part has been strict enforcing lockdown and quarantine measures because they find this way best way to contain the spread of the pandemic.
They were also concerned because a large number of Ukrainians work abroad especially in the stricken areas like Poland, Italy and Spain and they were coming back so they had had to take these measures and these lockdown measures have helped and the things are easing up.
So if no further spike, maybe then things will get easier.