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India Supplying Medicines To Afghanistan, While Pakistan Sponsoring Terrorism: Afghan Experts

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Afghanistan President – Ashraf Ghani thanked Indian PM Narendra Modi for medical and food shipments even as the war-torn nation continues to fight both coronavirus and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. 

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”Thank you, my friend, Prime Minister @narendramodi, and thank you India for providing 500K tablets of hydroxychloroquine, 100K tablets of paracetamol, and 75,000 metric tons of wheat that the first consignment of it (5,000) will reach AFG in a day or so, for the Afghan people,” he tweeted.

In another tweet, Ghani appreciated India for ”further commitments to supply more items including medicines and equipment as availability increases in India”.

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”Thank you also for further commitments to supply more items including medicines and equipment as availability increases in India. In the difficult times of #Covid19, closer cooperation between allies and friends will prepare us better to fight this menace and save our people,” he said in another tweet.

Responding to the tweet by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani – Indian Pm Narendra Modi said New Delhi and Kabul share a special friendship based on ties of history, geography, and culture.

“For long, we have fought jointly against the scourge of terrorism,” Modi tweeted. “We will similarly combat COVID-19 together, with solidarity and shared resolve,” he said.

Afghanistan is in the middle of fighting both coronavirus and terrorism. Recently, more than 30 Afghan security forces were killed in clashes with the Taliban despite the signing of the historic US-Taliban peace deal and swapping of prisoners.

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The Taliban has stepped-up their attacks following a week of reduced violence in late February that led to the signing of a peace deal between the group and the US.

However, following the peace deal, attacks have greatly increased and many Afghan experts have blamed Pakistan for supporting and sponsoring the Taliban insurgents to pressurize the Afghan government into submission.

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As per Tolo News, the Taliban blamed the Afghan and foreign forces for conducting over fifty attacks on the insurgent group post the peace deal. “This is a result of the inattention of the leaders, which has resulted in people’s sons being killed,” said Mohamad Azam Afzali, member of the Takhar provincial council.

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Health

Fact Check – Why Russia’s Coronavirus Vaccine Does Not Signal an End to COVID-19 Pandemic?

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine developed by Russia has been all over the media. With more than 13 million cases, 575,000 deaths globally, the Russian coronavirus vaccine has been welcomed with open arms.

However, experts at EurAsian Times present a fact-check of the claim and explain why the Russian COVID vaccine does not signal the end of the coronavirus.

News about the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Russia went viral on social media yesterday. Netizens globally welcomed the move and assumed that the world would return to the way it was before the pandemic. However, this will not be anytime soon.

What most media outlets failed to mention in their reports was that only phase-I of the clinical trials had been completed whereas phase-II and phase-III were still pending. Even after the successful completion of all three phases, it takes 12-18 months for the Russian COVID-19 vaccine to be available to the public.

A report by the TASS news agency of Russia on July 10 said the phase I clinical trials would end on July 15, while the second phase would begin on July 13. Only after phase-II is successfully completed, phase-III will be initiated.

Vaccination and immunology experts explain that in phase-I ‘safety and tolerability’ of a vaccine is tested, on a small group of volunteers. Since Russian volunteers from phase-I did not experience any side effects or reported any complaints, the vaccine development process has moved to phase-II.

In Phase-II efficiency and immunogenicity (generation of the immune the response)’ is tested. It is in this state that researchers try to see whether the vaccine is triggering the desired immune response in humans, and what could be the suitable doses to generate this response.

This phase began yesterday after volunteers were administered by the vaccine. This step usually takes months to complete and the success is not guaranteed. The success can only be ascertained after the completion of the trials.

In Phase-III a large number of volunteers, usually numbering several thousand, are enrolled in which researchers try to ascertain whether the immune response triggered by the vaccine is able to fight the virus in real-life situations. This process also takes several months, thus taking 12-18 months in total to prepare a vaccine.

While Russia has reportedly claimed that it would launch the vaccine by mid-August, only after two-phases, the World Health Organization’s protocols say that a vaccine has to go through three phases of studies before being approved for large-scale production.

In fact, no vaccine is approved for large scale production without undergoing the third phase of testing. There is absolutely no guarantee that a vaccine would effective only two phases and it would be ‘naive’ to believe that the end of the pandemic is here.

Race to Develop the Vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine in Russia is being developed by the Gamalei National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology, in partnership with the Russian Defence Ministry.

The first stage of the vaccine trial at the Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University was launched on June 18 in a group of 18 volunteers who were vaccinated against the virus. The second group involving 20 participants were administered the vaccine on June 23.

There are over 150 candidate vaccines for coronavirus being developed all over the world. Nearly half of these are still in pre-clinical stages, meaning they are being tried on animals or are still in the early stages of development. About 15 vaccines are in phase-I trials and about ten in phase-II trials. Three vaccines are in phase-III trials.

India is also involved in the race to develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. All India Institute of Medical Studies (AIIMS) Patna will begin human trials for the ‘Covaxine’ shortly. ‘Covaxine’ will be developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the National Institute of Virology (NIV).

Medical experts say that even after the completion of Phase-III, the vaccine is unlikely to be available for all at one go. Initially, it is expected to be made available only to people who are at higher risk of getting the infection, like healthcare workers. Just like it is the case with other vaccines, a universal immunisation against Coronavirus can take several years.

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Asia Pacific

India-China Economic Romance Cannot End With A Mere Border Clash – Chinese Experts

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India and China have been at each other’s throat for more than a month now. Aside from the military confrontation in Ladakh, India has also moved to disengage from China economically.

While the move has got the support from the majority of Indians, Cui Hui’ao of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) writes that disengaging from China might not be a choice for India and that economic de-coupling is driven politically by Narendra Modi.

As reported by Eurasian Times consistently during last month, the feud between India and China has been a rollercoaster ride. From military buildup, deadly clashes to de-escalation and eventual withdrawal, the clash of the two Asiatic giants has seen it all.

Cui writes that apart from the military confrontation, India has retaliated in the economic sphere, referring to the decision by the Indian government to ban 59 Chinese application including TikTok, WeChat and ShareIt and the call to boycott Chinese products.

The journalist at CGTN writes that decoupling from China may be easier said than done for India. He says that India is not a manufacturing powerhouse, so in terms of bilateral trade, it actually buys much more from China than the other way around.

Cui analyses trade data to support the fact that New Delhi will find it difficult to reduce its dependence on Chinese imports. Between April 2019 and March 2020, India imported over 65 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of goods from China.

Cui is of the opinion that the coronavirus pandemic has hit the Indian economy hard and in fact, the disengagement is driven by politics rather than economics. He finds it difficult to accept that India’s disengagement from China would take place at a time when the Indian economy is projected to contract by 4.5% according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Economic Disengagement Driven Politically 

Speaking to Cui, Cheng Xizhong, a visiting professor from Southwest University of Political Science and Law, says that the decision to de-couple from China economically is because of the domestic pressure on Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi.

‘’Since his second term began yet Indian economy is a mess. He has to find a way to shift the public attention elsewhere,” he said.

The author agrees with the point made by Cheng Xizhong and writes that pressure on the Indian PM Modi comes from multiple fronts, including his own supporters, businesses, and farmers union. But this time, the nationalistic voice is even louder.

Other experts interviewed by Chui agree that New Delhi would benefit more if it partnered with Beijing. Professor Cheng, a former Chinese military diplomat in South Asia, said that since India started its opening-up in the 1990s, its economic growth has been crippled by lack of high-quality infrastructure and it would wiser if India and China work together.

Similar views are shared by Indian economist Biswajit Dhar, who says that India’s decision to start producing domestically has to be strategic and it cannot take the decision to produce everything.”

While India and China disengage at the battlefront in Ladakh, the Indian government is looking for solutions to reduce its dependency on Chinese imports. PM Modi has encouraged all Indians to become self-reliant (Aatmanirbhar) by producing and purchasing indigenous goods and boost the Indian economy.

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South Asia

Modi unleashed the Indian Army against China while Congress kept a tight grip – Experts

India and China saw the worst face off in the last 45 years on the border. After the troops of the two neighbouring countries clashed on the LAC in the Galwan valley leaving 20 Indian troops dead and an unknown number of Chinese casualties

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After the India-China clash last month that killed 20 Indian soldiers in a border skirmish, several anti-China protests erupted around the country. Protestors burned effigies of Chinese President Xi Jinping and called for an “economic war” against China.

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Analysts have said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aggressive approach fits the mood of the public but it doesn’t go as far as wanting a full-blown war with its nuclear-armed, economically mighter neighbour.

As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, India and China saw the worst face off in the last 45 years on the border. After the troops of the two neighbouring countries clashed on the LAC in the Galwan valley leaving 20 Indian troops dead and an unknown number of Chinese casualties.

The efforts to defuse border tensions were somewhat resolved after a telephonic conversation between India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and through other diplomatic channels.

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PM Narendra Modi paid a surprise visit to troops near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) where he made a veiled comment on China saying “age of expansionism is over”. “History is witness that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back,” Modi said addressing soldiers in Ladakh’s Nimo.

“Modi would not let the nationalist fervour lead India into a war with China. He wants to use this nationalist sentiment, but he is also scared of the blowback it might cause,” said Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the South Asia and China Centre at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.

Analysts have also argued that after the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) came to power, Modi has given a freer rein to the army since taking power in 2014. According to S. Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Congress party sought better relations with China after the brief border war in late 1962, which meant keeping the military on a tight leash.

“Congress was always very persuasive and would ask the military not to do this or that along the border because it would aggrieve China,” Kondapalli said.

Sumit Ganguly, a professor of political science at Indiana University explained that Modi and the BJP represent a Hindu-centric ideology, away from the secular and pluralistic nationalism that defined the country for more than half a century.

In August of last year, India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir which had granted the northern Muslim-majority province a significant autonomy. Ganguly said the BJP’s Hindu-centric nationalism influences India’s approach to the issue with China because the contested border is in Kashmir.

He further said that Modi and the BJP justified the removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by pointing to separatist Muslim insurgents in the region supported by neighbouring rival Pakistan.

Ganguly argued that because of the large Muslim minority in India, and Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims, it is easy to whip up a degree of nationalist fervour by painting Muslims as fifth columnists of Pakistan.

“Whereas with China, it’s much more difficult to whip up a similar kind of nationalism because the Chinese community in India is so minuscule, but that doesn’t mean Modi isn’t trying,” he said.

“China’s military power is nearly four times that of India. Even after the deaths of the Indian soldiers on June 15, Kondapalli said the BJP had never thought of taking the dispute into anything beyond the defence of a few kilometres of land along the border with China.

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