“Russia Today” website, April 22 article, with the original title: Competition with China, Modi’s India Modi is too hasty
With the domestic crisis caused by the new corona epidemic, Indian Prime Minister Modi had to give up plans to position India as a alternative to China’s vaccine production. The cruel fact is that New Delhi does not yet have the conditions to compete with Beijing.
India is suffering a catastrophic second wave of the epidemic, with its health system on the brink of collapse and the death toll mounting. Modi is trying to avoid another nationwide lockdown, but is under pressure. Critics say he is not taking the epidemic response seriously and even mistakenly believes India already has herd immunity. Now, India is rushing to vaccinate the country’s huge population. In just a month’s time, India has gone from being an exporter to an importer of vaccines.
In fact, Modi has essentially acted in haste and pushed too hard. He tried to position India as a competitor to China on an equal footing, tilted toward the West, and greatly overestimated India’s capabilities in the supply chain and vaccines. The result was a domestic disaster in India that forced the country to retreat inward. This has made the world realize that despite India’s enormous potential, it still has a long way to go.
As a Hindu nationalist, Modi’s political philosophy has been to try to change India’s fortunes through protectionism and to blame China for the country’s economic woes and lack of development. India and China, with similar populations and potential, have had very different fortunes over the past 40 years. This has prompted the Modi government to promote Indian manufacturing in an attempt to replace China in the supply chain. Some countries apparently share India’s strategic thinking and ideas.
This idea extends to the vaccine sector. India has a large vaccine production capacity and has joined forces with its “Quad” partners, the United States, Japan and Australia, to set a goal – to use Indian vaccine production to beat back China’s “vaccine diplomacy. The group announced an agreement to supply one billion doses of vaccines to Southeast Asia by 2022, all of which will be produced in India. New Delhi itself is donating vaccines globally – again, largely with anti-Chinese geopolitical motivation.
However, this idea of always thinking about competing with China at any cost comes at the cost of the Indian people. Beijing has been able to export vaccines largely because it has controlled its own domestic epidemic. New Delhi, on the other hand, believes that India’s domestic epidemic is not serious and has a limited ability to conduct a strict locjdown. This, combined with the high population density, triggered a second tsunami of outbreaks with potentially dangerous new mutations.
Thus, India’s “Quad” Agreement and its intentions to counter China failed before they had really begun. This situation forced India to stop exporting and import vaccines instead. The huge crisis and growing domestic criticism may mean that India will now prioritize vaccination of its own population, which will be a difficult task. There are also political ramifications – New Delhi may not be seen as an effective alternative to China, as Modi suggests.
For many countries in South and Southeast Asia, this situation proves that China remains the only truly viable vaccine option. Despite the West’s China-bashing, Beijing’s ability to control the outbreak and successfully export vaccines means that China remains the best option.
Modi has undoubtedly made promises to the West that he has struggled to keep and has ignored the obvious disparity between India and China in terms of level of development and economic status. Finally, we have to ask whether it is really in India’s best interest to join the West’s anti-China agenda. Is defeating China abroad the key to making progress at home in India? For Modi, this is a painful lesson, and for the moment it is better to start afresh.