An Indian Air Force’s Chinook helicopter flies over Leh, on June 25, 2020 (AFP)

CHENNAI: As a diplomatic cold war raged between India and China over the Galwan Valley skirmish, Indian expats in China watched with trepidation a nationalist backlash that left them exposed to a vicious troll army on social media. Thousands of software professionals, garment exporters and businessmen settled for years in Dalian’s software hub, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are being dragged into the border crisis and dubbed traitors and unpatriotic.
These Indians, some of them married to local Chinese woman, are now suffering pangs of guilt, exacerbated by the trolls coming hard at them for refusing to return home. But even as they bear the brunt of vitriolic hashtag campaigns like #Indiansunitedagainstchina and #Indianswillcrushchina, most Indian expats have good reasons to stay on.
The Covid-19 pandemic is no more a worry. Only 490 who lost jobs in China enlisted to board the Vande Bharat evacuation flights on June 20 and 29.
‘Staying back in China for jobs doesn’t make anyone a traitor’
It is unlike many other countries where thousands of Indians are waiting to return home.
In Shenzhen, it is back to near normal for Shashi Shiraguppi and his family — wife Li Lan and their two children. “There is no panic. We have complete freedom and have no problems with local authorities. Neighbours are friendly and concerned for our well-being. Why should we want to return to India?” Shashi, a native of Bengaluru, told TOI over phone.
Shashi, who moved to this south China town 17 years ago, manages a YouTube channel ‘Shashi4x’. For this family, it’s no gain, no loss whoever (India or China) wins or loses the border war. “Let there be peace during the pandemic,” said Li Lan, Shashi’s Chinese wife.
According to the 2010 Census in China, of the six lakh foreign nationals (now one million), Indian expats constituted 3% of the population. Dismissing suggestions of tension in Dalian, software profession A Kumar said “98% normalcy” had returned to this port city in China’s Liaoning Province in the north. “We were watching channels here for news on the battle at the border. After the standoff began, I am unable to access the one Indian newspaper portal I was reading,” said Kumar, operations manager of the US-based software firm Artech China.
It’s a different narrative in the Chinese media that’s blaming India for the “unprovoked attack” at its border. “The news here is entirely different. Both India and China are trying to justify their actions,” said Kumar, who grew up in Delhi-NCR and took up the job in Dalian in 2008.
As for life as an Indian in China, Kumar said marketplaces have opened, public transport is back on the roads and the pandemic is under control. “For us, it is the safest here in China when the Covid pandemic is raging across the globe.”
Dalian’s IT hub has a significant Indian presence with 15,000 software professionals. “It is unnecessary hype on social media. The locals are friendly and they have huge respect for Indians,” said V Vijay, who works for a US-headquartered software firm in Dalian.
Back in India’s hosiery hub Tirupur, S A Oviya, who was doing her house surgency at Dalian Medical University, said she returned home for the December holidays. Her father, an ophthalmic assistant in a public health centre, is keen for her to return to Dalian to complete the course before she takes the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam.
Eagerness to remain in secure jobs in China amid hostilities with India does not make anyone a traitor, say expats who hold work permits. “This does not make us less patriotic either,” said Vijay, who has been helping Indians who have been laid off to return home

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