Journal : Global Times (Chinese) Date : Author : Special Correspondents in India, Hu Bofeng and Mo Ran Page No. : NA

With the continuous surge in confirmed cases of new coronary pneumonia in India, China has repeatedly expressed its willingness to provide assistance to India . However, many media, including some Indian and U.S. media, have been speculating in the past two days that “China is not sincere in helping India” and “is only taking the opportunity to be sarcastic and mock the U.S. for geopolitical reasons,” and averring that “the worsening epidemic in India has become a new battleground for U.S.-China diplomacy and that the U.S. is winning”. Is this really the case?

As a close neighbour of India, China has taken the initiative to reach out to India in the spirit of humanitarianism and the principle that life is supreme. Since last week, China has sent several friendly signals to India, expressing its firm support for the Indian government and people in the fight against the new corona epidemic and its willingness to provide India with the help it needs. State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, reiterated on the 27th of July, while chairing a video conference on cooperation among the six Foreign Ministers of China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh in dealing with the new corona pneumonia epidemic, that China is ready to provide support and help to the Indian people according to the needs of the Indian side, and said that an invitation was also extended to India for this meeting. Wang Yi said that Chinese enterprises concerned have already acted actively with the support of the government and the first batch of oxygen machines have arrived in India.

A day earlier, Chinese Ambassador to India. Sun Weidong. said in a post on social media that China firmly supports India in its fight against the epidemic. He said, “We will encourage and guide Chinese companies to actively participate in cooperation to facilitate India’s access to various medical supplies it needs”.

However, the Modi government did not comment on, or respond to, this. Indian media quoted sources as saying that India’s request to other countries for help and procurement targets do not include China. At the same time, the Indian government sent a signal to the United States for help, calling on the United States to liberalize the export of raw materials for the new corona vaccine.  Indian Prime Minister Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke on the phone on the 26th. According to the Indian news agency PTI, Modi stressed the need to cooperate to ensure the “smooth supply chain” of raw materials related to the production of vaccines and medicines. Modi also informed Biden of India’s position on issues such as the Vaccine Export Initiative, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and the Vaccine Supply Initiative within the framework of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

India has shown different attitudes as regards willingness to receive assistance from different countries. Some media “interpreted” India’s “silence” on China’s assistance offer as an indication that the country believes “China is not sincere in helping India. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post quoted Indian analysts as saying on the 27th that India’s attitude reflected that Beijing only wanted to use the epidemic to let the outside world know about the U.S. ban on exporting raw vaccine materials to India. Sibal, a former Foreign Secretary in the Indian Foreign Ministry, claimed that “China is trying to emphasize how (India) is begging, on its knees, to help control the epidemic” and “China wants India to realize that the U.S. (which initially refused to help India) stance has shown that it is not a reliable partner”.

China appears to be taking advantage of the rift between India and the U.S. over anti-epidemic aid to improve relations between India and India, U.S. News & World Report reported on 27th April under the headline “China Tries to Exploit India’s Criticism of Slow U.S. Aid. According to the report, the U.S. government initially ignored India’s request for support in fighting the epidemic, but after Biden spoke with Modi about the issue, officials at the White House, State Department and Pentagon “began to come out and tout the kinds of assistance the United States plans to provide to India. China, for its part, wants to see its goodwill toward India reciprocated and “claims that India’s orders for medical equipment from China are surging.

However, there is no denying the fact that the U.S. was initially indifferent to India’s request for assistance. Many in the media described the U.S. supply of raw materials for vaccines to India as “a thousand cries” for help. Even Sibal, a mocker of China, criticized the U.S. for “failing to provide India with timely help in vaccine production in the context of the first Summit of the Quadripartite Security Dialogue mechanism, which identified vaccines as a priority area of cooperation, and which would cause serious controversy and undermine its credibility as a global leader”.. According to the South China Morning Post, the initial attitude of the U.S. government led to an “anti-American sentiment” in India, with rhetoric of an “irresponsible U.S.” abounding on local social media. But senior Indian government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believe that the U.S. will definitely take a crisis management approach on on this, “because India is the only strategic partner that can contain the geopolitical threat of China.

Bloomberg quoted Aparna Pande of the Hudson Institute, a U.S. think tank, as commenting that “a slow U.S. response to India’s humanitarian crisis would reinforce India’s insistence on its position of strategic autonomy while weakening its intention to ally with the United States”. The Biden administration has previously emphasized the need for a strong U.S.-India relationship as part of a “strategy to contain and combat China,” but this time the response has indeed been poor, according to the report. In fact, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India, Poonawala, took to social media on April 16 to chide Biden, “begging” the United States to lift the ban on the export of raw vaccine materials to India. The United States decided to help India only after 10 days, during which time the increase in the number of confirmed cases in India climbed from about 230,000 to 320,000 in a single day.

According to an opinion piece published in Singapore’s United Daily News on 28th, India’s hesitation to accept Chinese aid is due to the Modi government’s preference for the US between China and the US. Indian analysts say that New Delhi is wary of Beijing’s goodwill, fearing that this goodwill is intended to undermine India-US relations and that “accepting Chinese aid will require geopolitical reciprocity”. In addition, there is also the trend in public opinion that since last year’s India-China border confrontation, India’s domestic “hostility toward China” has risen, and it is difficult to accept China’s assistance without losing face.

At a time when the epidemic is extremely serious, many experts have urged India to accept Chinese aid. Jerome Kim, Director of the Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute, told the South China Morning Post that India should turn to China for help, as “a neighbor helping a neighbor is not only crucial to controlling the epidemic, but also provides an opportunity for the two countries to bridge their differences. The United Morning Post commented that after the global pandemic of the new corona pneumonia, geopolitical factors have been hindering and interfering in  the fight against the epidemic. Now helping India control the epidemic at he earliest is a top priority for the global fight against the epidemic. If the fight against the epidemic is repeatedly ridden by geopolitics, the global battle against the pandemic may be stretched even longer.

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