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
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
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.
By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint