India is currently mired in the second wave of the new corona pneumonia epidemic. According to official statistics, as of June 16, India has accumulated more than 29 million confirmed cases, ranking second in the world after the United States, and more than 370,000 cumulative deaths, ranking third in the world. An investigative report in the New York Times concluded that the statistics on the Indian epidemic are far underestimated and that the actual number of infections and deaths may be 13-30 times higher than officially disclosed. The Western media is full of tragic images of Indian patients fighting for oxygen, bodies burning in the streets of cities, and bodies floating on the banks of the Ganges.
It is inexplicable that the Indian government continues to procure weapons and equipment from other countries, purchasing Rafale fighter jets from France, four Heron TP drones on loan from Israel, and For the first time, K-9 self-propelled guns from South Korea for deployment along the India-China border under these circumstances with a large number of patients dying every minute due to lack of medical care and medicine. In May alone, India purchased six P-8I anti-submarine patrol aircraft from the US at a total cost of US$2.44 billion. The Indian Defence Ministry has also set up a huge programme of autonomous development of weaponry, including spending $5.8 billion on new submarines. The Indian media said this was to “contain Chinese submarine penetration in the Indian Ocean”.
The Indian army has also organised massive manpower to build roads and bridges, tunnels and outposts along the India-China border, despite the massive spread of the epidemic in the military camps. Indian military sources disclosed that “summer is the perfect time for us to carry out infrastructure development”. Individual Ministers of the Indian government have also claimed that India-China relations are at a “crossroads”, stubbornly insisting on linking the border situations to India-China relations and clamouring that India-China relations will not be restored as long as the border situation is not resolved. This leads one to suspect that the Indian authorities are trying to repeat the same tactic of stirring up trouble in the India-China border region, in order to divert attention away from domestic conflicts and create pressures of “treating internal problems externally”.
India has been reduced from a “world pharmacy” to a “world ward” and from a “vaccine power” to an “epidemic power”. If we try to treat the disease from the inside, we will definitely be prescribing the wrong medicine, and will only add to the disease. Am afraid we will, in that case, suffer triple “unbearable pain”.
The first is the pain of suffering. Faced with the rapid spread of the epidemic on a wide scale, the people of India are struggling on the brink of death, with a bottle of oxygen hard to come by and even firewood for cremation hard to come by. When the people’s basic right to survival is not even guaranteed, the Indian government does not spend its limited resources on the right things, but instead militarises and expands its military preparations, which is the greatest disregard for people’s livelihood and human rights.
The second is the pain of domestic strife. The recent data from Indian pollster C Voter shows that the satisfaction rate of Indian people with Prime Minister Modi’s administration has dropped to 37% from 65% a year ago, a record low since he came to power 7 years ago. Indian National Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi, publicly accused Modi of “seven sins” on the occasion of his seventh anniversary in office. The Indian Supreme Court has also questioned the government’s inadequate response to the epidemic. If the Indian government does not concentrate on the fight against the epidemic, I am afraid that “those who lose the hearts of the people will lose the world”.
The third pain is the damage to its image. The Indian government’s inability to fight the epidemic has not only led to a spurt in the country, but has also rapidly spread to neighbouring countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia and even the US and Europe. According to the WHO, Delta (B.1.617.2), the first variant of the virus found in India, has spread to at least 53 countries or regions and has been upgraded to a “variant of concern” by the WHO. Many countries have issued travel bans and restrictions against India, in contrast to the previous phase of vaccine diplomacy and the popularity of the country.
A distant relative is said to be better than a close neighbour. In the face of the suffering of the Indian people, China has been the first to express its concern and goodwill. Chinese President Xi Jinping and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed their condolences and pledged China’s firm support to the Indian government and people in their fight against the epidemic. According to incomplete statistics, China has exported more than 100,000 ventilators and oxygen concentrators, 20,000 monitors and 5,000 tons of medical materials and medicines to India since this April. The Chinese Red Cross Society donated 100 oxygen machines and 40 ventilators to the Indian Red Cross Society. Although India has not publicly expressed a word of thanks, the Indian people’s sincere gratitude to China can be felt in tweets to the Chinese Ambassador in India.
A year has passed since the incident in the Galwan Valley, and as Wang Yi said at the press conference of the two (NPC and CPPCC) sessions this year, “the rights and wrongs of the conflict in the border area last year are very clear, and the benefits and harms are also clear at a glance. Facts once again prove that unilateralism and confrontation cannot solve problems and that the right path is to return to peaceful negotiations”. The way forward for India-China relations, said to be at “crossroads”, depends entirely on India’s choice. As the new pneumonia epidemic is the common enemy of mankind, the Indian government is advised to focus on prevention and control of the epidemic at home, stop militarising the India-China border region and not to go further and further down the wrong path. It is believed that insightful people in India can follow the strategic consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and firmly follow the right path of good neighbourliness, mutual trust and cooperation between neighbouring powers, rather than the crooked path of suspicion and doubt, dumping and shifting blame on the other side, not to mention the road of no return of passive confrontation and beggar-thy-neighbour approach.
(The author is an observer on international issues)