Political, commercial aims behind vaccine ploys show Quad's disinterest in helping the public good
Published: Mar 09, 2021 08:55 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

India has urged its three partners of the Quad alliance to invest in its vaccine production capacity in a bid to match China's vaccine push, Reuters reported on Monday. Citing two Indian officials, Reuters said that the Quad "was stepping up efforts to expand global vaccination to counter China's growing soft power."

India's appeal itself is ridiculous. Japan and Australia have barely done anything in vaccine development and production globally. They themselves are purchasers. So India's request was targeted at the US, with two main goals behind the curtain. First, New Delhi claimed that the move was done to counter China's growing influence. In other words, this reflects the notion that India is using vaccines as a diplomatic tool to help play a desirable role on the international stage. This is a political aim of India.

Besides, there is also a commercial element India seeks. If all the over 7 billion people around the world need to be vaccinated, this will generate a huge market with astronomical profits. 

India has world's largest vaccine manufacturer with sufficient hardware. It is producing the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccines for many countries. But it isn't capable of developing vaccines. India's domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine still has many mysteries surrounding it. But how effective is it? This remains unknown to the world. 

Hence, there are the petty calculations of India. It now believes it can make huge profits by producing and distributing the vaccines. For sure, India will not publicly prioritize its commercial goal over political ones. But its two goals are simultaneous. As the COVID-19 pandemic becomes gradually mild, India's commercial goals may become of primary importance. 

The Biden administration has said that the US will have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for every adult American by the end of May. 

If this is achieved, after that, the US, and perhaps some European countries, may eye more commercial interests from vaccines. From this perspective, a very vital commercial factor has been concealed behind their moves to politicizing the COVID-19 vaccine. But none of them will talk about this on the table. 

New Delhi, too, is trying to cash in on the high profits from the vaccine while also trying to foster an image that will give it the international clout it longs for. 

Objectively speaking, New Delhi is jealous of everything China has achieved. Now it wants to compete with China in terms of vaccines, as India believes it has advantages in this regard, particularly in the sphere of production.

What Indian officials told Reuters may reflect New Delhi's real thoughts. "The focus is also on making sure the Quad alliance secures all the key markets for vaccines," one of the Indian sources told the Reuters. The story also said, "Serum's Novavax partnership holds the key to the Quad's diplomatic alliance in vaccines and push China out of regional vaccine sales."

However, if New Delhi wants to compete for the market, it should compete on its own merits. It is ridiculous, narrow-minded and makes no sense to use China as a target to attack. This reflects the strong selfish purpose of India and the US in the fight against the pandemic.

 Quad, based on this selfish thinking, will have a hard time cooperating on vaccines and containing China. The four countries are harboring their own calculations. In the current context, the prospect of four countries really helping each other, supporting each other, selflessly providing everything they have to help the other side is bleak.

The Quad is a very loose mechanism. It was initially set up for security and geopolitics purposes. Their recent emphasis on vaccine issues is more of a temporary plan. Developed countries see a good chance of getting rid of the pandemic by the end of this year or after the summer next year. By then, other countries that have not brought their epidemic under control will become a huge market. 

Hence, India offered the US, Japan and Australia chances to invest in its own vaccine production services.

With this mentality, it is hard to imagine what useful public goods these four countries together can provide the world. The US has stressed the establishment of a rules-based Indo-Pacific and "freedom of navigation" in the region. But these are all ideas of the US serving only for itself. Hardly any public good can come from this. 

The article was compiled based on an interview with Zhao Gancheng, a research fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
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