China was rejected once in late April, can the dispute wait for public health reasons now?
India declined China’s invitation to join in the COVID-19 arsenal with other South Asian countries. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a meeting with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka on the initiative. No reason was given on India’s absence, today is the by-product of a massive priority mistake.
China’s geopolitical clout
What came out of the meeting was Minister Wang’s pledge to provide vaccines to countries previously dependent on India. China not only extended military cooperation to Bangladesh, it also donated a batch of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines. Subsequently, the Bangladesh government inked the approval to purchase vaccines from China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). Close to 6 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine.
India’s own internal health crisis resulted in the export pause which sent shockwaves worldwide. Surprisingly, it underscored more countries’ reliance on China’s supply. Early May, President Xi Jinping vowed to oppose “vaccine nationalism” in a call with Indonesia leader Joko Widodo, whose government green-lit Sinopharm for emergencies soon afterward. Indonesia also secured 15 million more shots of Sinovac. Pando Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia observed India’s export ban made Indonesia increasingly dependent on China for vaccine supplies.
First things first
As it is now, India’s infections and death toll are increasing. Business leaders and members from opposition are pushing for a national lockdown, despite knowing the substantial economic losses to expect. In 2020, India’s lockdown resulted in a record 24 per cent output decline between April and June. The government cautioned that another lockdown will place the country in dire straits.
With the maritime currently suffering an intense labour shortage, should India place the dispute in the backburner for now and accept China’s help to contain the pandemic; purely on health driven basis? Start by allowing seafarers to be vaccinated and return to the workforce.
This is not withstanding countries have more than health crises to consider about especially if they are small and dependent/subjected to great power politics. The next big question is should the governments “wait” on the potential the political and economic trade-off in the long-run?