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China watches silently as India leads the fight against Covid-19

The true face of authoritarian China has been clearly unmasked in Covid-19 times after the Wuhan-triggered pandemic that has unleashed a mammoth wave of death and economic devastation worldwide was followed up with an aggressive military posturing against its neighbors.

Democratic India is bearing the brunt on both the counts and has now made it amply clear that it cannot be business as usual with the dragon. The contrasting policies of the world's two most populous countries are clearly coming to the fore at the world stage. India has joined the fight against the biggest scourge facing humankind in recent times and is making its contribution by committing its manufacturing facilities to the production of potential anti-virus vaccines, affordable medicines such as hyrdoxychloroquine and remdesivir and rolling out desperately needed PPE kits, masks and ventilators to fight the deadly disease.

China, on the other hand, after being less than transparent during the outbreak of the coronavirus at Wuhan and even going as far as hiding the extent of the danger, has taken to flexing its muscles both on the Indian border and the South China Sea. This has only served to distract the world's focus from the actual war confronting humankind on the dreaded coronavirus front and diverting attention to tensions created by intimidatory displays of military strength, ironically by a country from where the dreaded disease originated in the first place. The ruthless suppression of civil liberties in Hong Kong, too, appears to be part of this defiant stance against world opinion.

China also cut a sorry figure when several European countries including Spain and Turkey complained at the outbreak of the pandemic that Chinese-made test kits for detecting coronavirus were defective and proving to be a setback in efforts to control the disease. The European countries had rushed to China in March this year to get these test kits as they thought the country already had experience in tackling the disease. An embarrassed Chinese government was then forced curb exports of these defective items and introduce quality checks.

India has been dealing with the deadly coronavirus crisis on a war footing with both the government and industry functioning in close coordination. The Indian government has fast-tracked the development of three indigenous vaccines that are now undergoing various stages of human trials. Leading government institutions such as Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are spearheading efforts to expedite the rolling out of a vaccine.

India's strength lies in having the capacity to deliver these medicines and vaccines at affordable prices to the developing countries. With its experience in tackling tropical diseases, India has the largest vaccine producing facilities in the world. This will play a crucial role in rolling out the vaccine shots on a mass scale to control the pandemic which has spread like a wildfire across the globe.

It also goes to the credit of Indian entrepreneurs like the unassuming father-son duo of Cyrus and Adar Poonawalla who were the first to forge an alliance with Oxford University and British pharma giant AstraZeneca to produce the anti-Covid vaccine. The alliance has emerged as a trustworthy front-runner for what is expected to turn out to be a silver bullet against coronavirus. The vaccine has entered third stage trials and is scheduled for delivery by the end of this year.

The Pune-based company has already started manufacturing the vaccine on the back of scientists' expectations of a very high chance of success with the vaccine candidate. The company has risen to the occasion in this global hour of crisis and is willing to incur a loss in case the vaccine goes wrong at the last moment as this is the only way to cut time for the final delivery of the product. The human trials of this vaccine in India have also entered the second and third stages as the government has stepped in at the highest level to expedite clearances in a country where bureaucratic red-tape is known to hold up proposals.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has pledged as much as $150 million to assist the efforts of the Poonawalla-led Serum Institute of India to enhance the production of the vaccine to make it available for distribution to developing countries at a cheap price. Gates is also bullish on India’s efforts to develop a vaccine and has stated that it may even turn out to be the first country to roll out it out.

Serum Institute has indeed placed India at the centre stage in the war against coronavirus and ensured that it will be among the first countries to get the vaccine.

Meanwhile, AsrtraZeneca has signed manufacturing deals globally to meet its target of producing 2 billion doses of the vaccine, including with two Bill Gates-backed ventures and a $1.2 billion agreement with the US government.

More recently, it signed a contract to supply up to 400 million doses of the vaccine to Europe. The deal includes France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands to secure vaccine doses for all member states as soon as possible..