Biden-Modi phone call, WHO’s probe into Covid origins & Modi-Azad’s ‘rare’ emotional moment

Biden-Modi phone call, WHO’s probe into Covid origins & Modi-Azad’s ‘rare’ emotional moment

In episode 679 of Cut the Clutter, Shekhar Gupta discusses the Biden-Modi phone call, WHO's probe into the origin of Covid-19, and PM Modi's farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad.

PM Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden | Wikipedia

File photo of PM Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden | Wikipedia

New Delhi: The subtle differences between the transcripts from New Delhi and Washington DC of US President Joe Biden’s call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday may be seen as an indication that Biden will not be as uninterested in domestic social cohesion, the state of democracy and freedom of speech in India as Donald Trump might have been, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta said in episode 679 of ‘Cut the Clutter’ Tuesday.

Gupta was referring to the fact that the White House readout mentions Biden spoke about his commitment to spreading democratisation — while the Ministry of External Affairs’ transcript does not. It’s early days, added Gupta, but these are some visible differences.

Gupta also addressed speculation that Biden took “too long” to call Modi, given that the US defence secretary, secretary of state and the national security advisor had called their Indian counterparts earlier.

Tracing Biden’s call log, he explained that first on the list were US’ neighbours and key US treaty-bound allies in Europe, then Russian President Vladimir Putin followed by leaders of countries “generally [in] the Quad region”. India was the first among non-treaty-bound allies to be called, added Gupta.

WHO’s probe ‘adds more confusion, raises doubts about those investigating’

The novel coronavirus is unlikely to have leaked from a Chinese laboratory and is more likely to have jumped to humans from an animal, a World Health Organization team visiting China, concluded Tuesday. Gupta called it a case of “khoda pahad nikla chuha voh bhi mara hua (an insignificant outcome after much work or effort)”.

The team also said that after their probe, they don’t even think any further investigation is needed, said Gupta, which is “something that will be greeted with a great deal of relief by the Chinese but scepticism across the world”.

He also pointed out that the WHO itself “does not have clean hands” given that it had issued a tweet last January saying there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission. Gupta explained that the WHO team had concluded that the virus did not first spread from the Wuhan wet market but elsewhere based on evidence at the market provided by the Chinese, like utensils, etc. The team also said they weren’t able to identify an animal source though it looks that way. “So once again, it makes no one any wiser,” added Gupta.

And, the suggestion by the Chinese National Health Commission expert Dr Liang Wannian, who assisted the WHO team, that the virus emerged from cats brings us “back to square one”, said Gupta. “All of this brings no clarity at all. If anything, it adds more confusion and also raises doubts about the ability of those investigating,” he added.

Modi’s farewell to Azad was a ‘rare’ moment in Parliament

In a sentimental farewell to Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, whose term ends in the Rajya Sabha, PM Modi wished the best to his “true friend” and said he would continue to take his advice going forward. “Leaders, when they work together for a long time even if they are on the opposite sides of the aisle, also develop a human equation, which means your rival does not have to be your enemy,” said Gupta. He added that this was a rare moment in Parliament.

The Prime Minister also broke down while recalling an incident where Azad, the then chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, helped arrange for the transport to Gujarat of the bodies of four Gujarati tourists killed in a grenade attack in Srinagar on 25 May 2006.

Azad, in his speech, said he cried only five times in his life — when Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi died, during the tsunami, and during the incident described by Modi.

Gupta recalled that Modi, in his reply to the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address Monday, had made a “snide” remark about the 23 Congress members who had written a letter last year asking for changes and reforms in the party — Azad was one of signatories to that letter.

Watch the full episode here: