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Editorial: India’s humanitarian disaster will impact the global situation

By Li Ping

As India suffers from the huge Covid outbreak, the medical system has collapsed, and a humanitarian disaster is imminent. The world’s major powers have offered assistance in different ways. If it can be said that the Covid outbreak in the U.S. impacted the presidential election, such that Trump, who was on a winning streak, encountered a total waterloo that altered the domestic politics and diplomacy of the U.S., then the outbreak in India that does not seem to be getting under control any moment is surely going to alter the international situation. India, a free and open pivotal member of the Indo-Pacific Alliance, is not occupied by the virus, and China is seizing the opportunity of forming an epidemic prevention ring around India as an excuse to snatch up resources and markets around the country.

At the moment, the number of people infected with Covid has inched close to 150 million. Epidemic statistics from Johns Hopkins University showed that three countries, including the U.S, India, and Brazil, have more than 14.5 million cases, and four countries, including France, Turkey, Russia, and the U.K., have more than 4 million cases. There are seven countries with deaths exceeding 1,000,000, numbers descending from the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, the U.K., Italy, and Russia.

India is currently in the midst of an epidemic crisis. It has a population of 1.366 billion, and is the second-largest country in the world. Considering the Indian living environment and medical and health conditions of the country, although the second outbreak is expected, its severity is truly surprising. As of yesterday, the number of confirmed cases in a single day has exceeded 300,000 for eight consecutive days. WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan further added that the current reports of confirmed cases and deaths in India are seriously underreported, and the actual confirmed cases can easily be 20 to 30 times higher than the official reports. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly stated that the virus has “shocked the entire country like a storm”.

Despite the confirmed cases and deaths being behind those of the U.S., India’s enormous population and a collapsed medical system will inevitably continue to contribute to the increase of cases within a short period of time. In order to prevent India from suffering from a humanitarian disaster, the international community has sped up with aid offerings. The U.S. is preparing to lift the ban on the export of vaccine raw materials for India, and to send 100 million U.S. dollars of supplies and 200 million doses of vaccines. The U.S. has begun sending ventilators and oxygen concentrators. However, whether these would reverse the situation, and whether there is the need for the United Nations to coordinate humanitarian assistance are still uncertain.

What’s particularly concerning is the political orientation of Indian officials and citizen’s public opinion towards receiving international aid. They are obviously willing to ask for help and receive aid from the U.S., the U.K, and Europe, yet with China’s repeated offer of assistance, the reception has been indifferent, and some Indian netizens even requested that China “recall its own virus.” This attitude is related to the anti-China sentiments stemmed from the Chinese-Indian border conflicts and the technological competition, as well as India becoming a pivotal member of the free and open Indo-Pacific strategic alliance.

As a member of the democratic world, India’s role in countering the CCP has been increasingly valued by the U.S., the U.K, Europe, and Japan. For the G7 summit scheduled to be held in the U.K. in June, the host plans to invite India, South Korea, and Australia. One of the topics of discussion is China. However, the virus has already impacted India’s diplomacy. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga successively canceled plans to visit India in late April. And both the U.K. and the U.S. have issued red travel warnings to India. The epidemic crisis in India is beginning to show its impact on the international situation. Whether the Indo-Pacific alliance is strengthened by assisting India in its fight against the epidemic, or weakened because of the differences in the fight against the epidemic, a large part of it will depend on whether the epidemic situation in India will turn into a humanitarian disaster.

On the other hand, China is not going to sit back and watch its neighbor get out of control for fear that it might be affected. At the same time, China is also not going to miss the opportunity to seize the market from its competitor. On April 27, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gathered the foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh to hold a video conference on the response to the Covid situation in India, and suggested forming an epidemic prevention circle around it. These neighboring countries of India have long been treating India like a major enemy, and some countries have even closed the border completely to India, yet have not succeeded in curbing the increase of the number of infections in their own countries. Naturally, they are willing to accept China’s assistance.

Other than Pakistan’s close political and economic relations with China, most of these other countries neighboring India have been its foremost or second-largest trading partner. India’s epidemic crisis has provided China with an opportunity to use the anti-epidemic measures as a way to get back at India and snatch its resources and markets in the ring. Regardless of whether the Indo-Pacific alliance is affected, South Asia’s resources and markets will inevitably bear the brunt, and China will be the only winner in this.

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