By Sushil Kutty
Are we past the worst of the coronavirus crisis? From the looks of it and the behaviour of lots and lots of people across the world, yes! Countries worldwide are lifting lockdowns and markets are tentatively started selling with people buying into the belief that things are back to before it all started. In India, streets and markets in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are as if Covid-19 is not a clear and present danger. A couple of days into Lockdown 4:0 and large parts of India is in motion, resigned to co-exist with the coronavirus which has taken on an endemic role. In Puducherry, liquor shops open at 7 am!
Not just India, several other countries have concluded that the “worst” is over and now it’s to bother about a likely “second wave” and how to fight it. Will lessons learned from “wave 1” help? Meanwhile, Slovenia became the first European country to declare itself “coronavirus-free.” But that doesn’t mean Slovenia is opening up for tourism and tourists all in one go. For a complete sense of normalcy to return more countries in Slovenia’s neighbourhood will have declare themselves coronavirus-free. And that is not yet forthcoming. Nations have great respect for the coronavirus.
How about asking the question of India, is India anywhere close to be coronavirus-free? Is pinning China down to admitting that it created the coronavirus and exported it worldwide more important than eradicating the Covid-19 virus from within the borders of India? Will the “impartial investigation” into who created and from where the coronavirus originated be a distraction from more pressing matters affecting the lives and livelihood of the coronavirus hit Indians? Will India by “leading” a global investigation divert attention from the “migrant workers crisis” in India?
China, the perceived epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, is already in the thick of a second coronavirus wave with a slew of Covid-19 cases reported from Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province in northeast China bordering Russia. China is being very secretive about the number of cases in Harbin but it is blaming Russia for the outbreak, the virus allegedly entering Harbin through Suifenhe, a city bordering Russia. This even as a leaked Chinese Military Commission document put the number of Wuhan coronavirus positive cases in the first wave at 640,000 cases, five to six times more than the 89,000 admitted to by China.
What China is up to nobody can tell for sure, but United States President Donald Trump talks as if he knows. Trump wants to hang China by the rafters. He’s concentrating his ire and ammunition on the WHO, which, sad to say, has bound itself with China-made cello-tape and can’t extricate from it for all the water in South China Sea. Trump is gunning for WHO but the target is China and nobody think otherwise. India while playing impartial is in the American camp. There is a new axis building. The world has changed. There are no longer allies. China has changed the rules of the game. Ergo the change in rules of engagement.
But some European nations are more concerned about what Covid-19 might have done to Vladimir Putin. How Russia and Putin will act post-Covid 19 will shape history in the coming years. A “coronavirus weakened” and oil price collapse-hit Russia could be a dangerous proposition and could hit Europe’s security interests. Putin’s alleged menacing personality traits are also a threat to global security, say analysts, who feel Russia might even end up playing second fiddle to an imperious China. The greatest fear is an economically-crippled Russia testing a considerably weakened by Trump NATO.
To be fair though the world post-Covid 19 should be more worried about China and its sole superpower ambitions. Taiwan and the USA are in its cross-hairs and Japan is probably sensing this more than any other country. The PLA’s shenanigans at the LAC in Ladakh and the Chinese Communist Party’s plans for Bhutan are equally indicative of China’s post-Covid strategy. And if India now takes a lead in “investigating China” will it sour India-China relations to the point of no return?
There is talk of a USA and China Cold War, but there also seems to be civil war-like conditions between India and China helped along by a devious Pakistan. There already was tensions between China and India but things have worsened after the coronavirus outbreak. President Xi Jinping is chaffing at the bits. And maybe Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had enough of toying with Pakistan, a little “investigation” of the all-powerful China also falls in the category of his muscular policy, doesn’t it? (IPA Service)