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India’s support to probe Covid origin: Pressure to join anti-China group or strategic move?

India and 62 other countries have backed a draft resolution led by Australia and the EU to 'identify the zoonotic source' of Covid-19 and its 'route of introduction' to humans.

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India and 62 other countries have backed a draft resolution led by Australia and the European Union to “identify the zoonotic source” of the novel coronavirus and its “route of introduction” to humans. Covid-19 has affected more than 48 lakh people globally and is said to have emerged in Wuhan. China and the World Health Organization are facing global backlash over their handling of the pandemic.

ThePrint asks: India’s support to probe Covid origin: Pressure to join anti-China group or strategic move?

Disastrous impact of Covid-19 justifies India’s interest in ascertaining the truth. It’s not a bilateral issue

Kanwal Sibal
Executive council member, VIF, and former foreign secretary

The ‘Wuhan virus’ has had a devastating planetary effect and China is indisputably its source. Regardless of whether the coronavirus emerged from a wet market or a laboratory, it’s important to ask if the Chinese authorities took timely steps to identify and control its spread? Was the Covid-19 outbreak initially suppressed? Has China shared all the information about the virus to facilitate the production of a vaccine? All these questions have to be answered. Neither China nor the rest of the world wants to be ravaged by another pandemic.

An impartial investigation, with China’s cooperation, would be in collective interest. It is not a bilateral issue between China and any individual country. Why is China putting up such a determined fight to prevent an international investigation? The gross manner in which its ‘wolf warrior’ diplomats are threatening countries that are calling for transparency is a clear indication that China is hiding facts.

The disastrous impact of the Covid-19 on India justifies our interest in ascertaining the truth. Regrettably, the watered-down Australian motion, which Russia has supported but the US hasn’t, makes no mention of China. How, then, can India’s support for it be seen as a strategic anti-China move?

India has neither the courage nor the vision to make China pay or attract companies shifting base

Abhijit Iyer Mitra
Senior fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies

India may have joined the Covid-19 probe, but it will never have the gumption to name and shame China, much like it tried to avoid blaming China or North Korea for the 1950 Korean War.

All our rhetoric will be reserved for a forgiving West, rather than an unforgiving China, which remembers and pays back with interest. As Kennedy once said, “India takes slap after slap from China but pretends it never happened.”

Any investigation into the Chinese cover-up will harm the ‘Wuhan spirit’ gobbledygook under whose rubric China continues to grab swathes of Indian land. It will also expose India’s own diplomatic gullibility in going along with Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the head of the WHO under the airy-fairy concept of ‘south-south unity’.

Would it really be strategic to join our friends in ganging up against a country that has previously attacked us, continues to seize our land and inflicted a damaging economic lockdown on us? We should at least force China to compensate us or ensure some form of punishment that forces companies out of China (and hopefully into India). But India has neither the courage nor the vision for that.

India will end up doing what it did in the Korean War and give China a clean chit.

Neither pressure nor strategic move. Resolution shows China’s success in multilateral diplomacy

Rajesh Rajagopalan
Professor of International Politics, JNU

This is a very watered-down resolution, which neither names China nor does it call for a probe into the geographic origin of the coronavirus. The draft resolution merely seeks an evaluation of the international response to the pandemic. Even China is expected to join and support the countries that are already voting for the Australia-sponsored resolution. Given how nominal the resolution is, India’s decision to support it shows it’s neither succumbing to pressure nor making a strategic move.

Unsurprisingly, it seems China has managed to browbeat various member-states into coming up with a resolution for an investigation which may end up blaming other countries for their poor response to the Covid-19 outbreak, thus holding China’s totalitarian model as a success story.

China’s success in such multilateral diplomacy, even if based on economic coercion, is a reminder once again for other states to respond jointly. As Australia is finding out now, and as countries as diverse as New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Sweden and Norway already have, China is adept at singling out countries for economic coercion. Beijing knows that such non-military tactics are unlikely to lead to any concerted push back. Other countries have a choice to make — find ways to jointly fight such tactics or each, alone, bend the knee.

This could work against India if countries blame us for spreading tuberculosis or for not doing enough against Kala Azar

Amir Ullah Khan
Professor of Health Economics at Indian School of Public Policy

India has now joined a broad coalition of countries seeking a WHO-backed inquiry into the Covid-19 outbreak. This is bound to stir up the controversial and the conspiracy-ridden political environment that has already been targeting the Chinese government.

From a pure epidemiological point of view, it is indeed important for the world to investigate the origins of the virus, its early spread and its virulence. However, that should be best left to virologists and other infectious disease experts. Any attempt at politicising the issue will only be counter-productive because China will turn hostile and leaders across the world will get distracted from keep the infection and mortality rates down and their economies alive.

There is no evidence to suggest that the virus was lab-made or that the Chinese kept the news of the infection hidden. Using assertions made by US President Donald Trump and India’s Minister for Road Transport Nitin Gadkari to demand investigations now is untimely. Right now, all hands must be on deck to find a vaccine and put a treatment protocol in place.

Apart from the political and the trade fallout, this move could be dangerous for India given our poor record in handling infectious diseases. This precedence could work against us if countries blame India for spreading tuberculosis or for not doing enough against Kala Azar. It could unnecessarily open up a fresh can of worms.

Also read: Will Trump’s WHO attack hurt global health readiness or much-needed wake-up call?

By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint

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  1. The COVID-19 pandemic across the globe and China in spot.
    This Vedic astrology writer chanced upon reading a news report on 15 May , 2020 in a leading newspaper of India , which said :-
    “ A top US Senator has unveiled an 18-point plan , including military ties with India , to hold the Chinese government accountable for its lies , deception , and cover-ups that ultimately led to the global Covid-19 pandemic. The prominent suggestions are moving manufacturing chain from China and deepening military –strategic ties with India , Vietnam and Taiwan”. A perception in Europe and America as well seems to be that China failed to share timely information about spread of coronavirus in their country. Some of Asian countries have also questions on delay in sharing the information by China. Sum and substance is that the US seems to be addressing a global concern in May 2020. In this context , it may be apt to refer readers to this Vedic astrology writer’s predictive alerts of 11 November 2019 , in article – “ Astrological probable alerts for 2020” – published at on 1 January 2020. The text of the predictive article which can be very well related to the issue brought out in the news report of 15 May , 2020 , reads like this :-
    “ 4. The months of April to June , 2020 , particularly May-June in 2020 look to be trending into the scene serious worrisome landscapes. There could be some war or war-like conditions across the world , which the U.S. may be called upon to address”.
    In short , it can be said that the predictive alert was precise and somewhere indicative.

  2. Khan statement that India is responsible for spreading of TB is utter false and baseless first thing here is that TB is not that much contagious and virulent disease like covid-19 and doesn’t spread at mass level and it is not a pandemic disease.
    Now it is curable

    As far as politics as concerned it doesn’t need any substantial issue . India should be mature , diplomatic and vigilant as west wants to settle it’s own account with China and has its own embedded interest to raise such issues .

  3. Amir Ullah seems to be exhibiting neurological manifestations of world-shutting chinese virus. covid 19. Tuberculosis did not originate in India nor does the rest of the world know how to even spell Kala Azar. And regardless ,the world was never shut down because of TB.

    Amir should go and see a neurologist, if they refuse to entertain him he should seek a psychiatrist.

  4. Ever since independence, China has been seeing India as a pushover, always ready to toe the line laid by China, ready to crawl when just asked to bend. As Prof.Rajesh Rajagopalan says, this is a watered down resolution which does not name China, or call for investigation in China. But, this is a heaven sent opportunity to stand up against China. India must not once again appease China.

  5. Perhaps not the best time for such a forensic post mortem when energies should be focused on saving the patient’s life. The virus is on a rampage, nearing five million cases worldwide, close to one lac in India. 2. Any honest appraisal of how each country has dealt with the pandemic would show up missteps in many, if not most. 3. President Trump has decided on shifting serious blame to China as part of his reelection strategy. Australia seems willing to go along, although former foreign ministers from the Labour Party have expressed misgivings. India obviously cannot be part of such an enterprise.

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