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Is Corona Virus (Covid-19) A Biological / Man Made Weapon Developed By China?

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Is Corona Virus (Covid-19) a Biological or Man-Made Weapon as many netizens are speculating? A new study published in the journal — Nature Medicine on coronavirus found no evidence that Covid-19 was a biological, man-made weapon in some laboratory.

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Shortly after the Covid-19 began, Chinese scientists sequenced the genome of SARS-CoV-2 and made the data available to researchers worldwide. The first known severe illness caused by a coronavirus emerged with the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in China followed by a second outbreak in 2012 in Saudi Arabia with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

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Based on their study, the researchers deduced two possible outcomes for the origination of SARS-CoV-2. According to the first scenario, the virus evolved to its current pathogenic state through natural selection in a non-human host and then jumped to humans as it did previously with SARS and MERS outbreaks after human beings came in direct contact with civets (SARS) and camels (MERS).

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In the case of coronavirus, researchers have proposed bats to be the most likely vectors for the virus. However, there are no historical cases suggesting direct bat-human transmission which gives credence to the theory that an intermediate host was likely involved between bats and humans.

In the other proposed scenario, a non-pathogenic version of the virus is supposed to have jumped from an animal host into humans and then evolved to its current pathogenic state within the human population.

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For instance, some coronaviruses from pangolins, armadillo-like mammals found in Asia and Africa, have an RBD structure very similar to that of SARS-CoV-2. A coronavirus from a pangolin could possibly have been transmitted to a human, either directly or through an intermediary host such as civets or ferrets.

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Corona Virus (Covid-19) Not A Biological Weapon?

As world blames China for the spread of Covid-19 pandemic and many netizens thought of it being a biological or man-made weapon, India has followed the United States to remind the world about their commitment to prevent the development, production and stockpiling of biological weapons days after the 45th anniversary of the biological weapons convention.

Currently, there are more than 183 countries who are signatories to the accord. India on Friday urged all the nations to recommit themselves to the accord with full and effective implementation and full compliance in letter and spirit.

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The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) officially known as Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of the bacteriological and toxin weapons and on their destruction was signed on March 26, 1975. 183 nations including China, the United States and India are signatories to this accord.

The statement issued by India comes in the backdrop of a similar statement issued by the United States highlighting the importance to the adherence of global Biological Weapons Convention norms.

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India has however thus far abstained from calling the Covid-19 outbreak as Chinese virus lending support to unsubstantiated theories that the virus was developed in a Chinese laboratory as a part of its secret biological warfare programme.

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The United States Government too has as of now not accused China of intentionally developing the Covid-19 virus, but a section in the US media and current Republican Senator Tom Cotton and former aide of President Donald Trump Stephen Bannon have supported the theories with some in Trump administration putting the blame at the doorsteps of the Chinese Government for their failure to contain the deadly virus.

Beijing has refuted all the charges and has started efforts to garner support. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to India’s External Affairs Minister on Tuesday and sought India’s support in discharging US allegations.

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India reiterated its call for the Biological Weapons Convention’s institutional strengthening, including “negotiation of a comprehensive and legally binding protocol, providing for an effective, universal and non-discriminatory verification mechanism to strengthen the implementation of the convention by state parties, ensuring full compliance and deterring non-compliance.

Asia Pacific

Chinese App Ban: Weibo Users Ask Indian PM Narendra Modi To Return $750M Loan Granted By China

The Indian government banned a total of 59 Chinese apps including the teen favourite TikTok. India’s IT ministry has announced the banning of 59 Chinese apps that include giants like ShareIt, UC Browser, Likee, WeChat, Weibo and Bigo Live.

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Indian PM Narendra Modi’ move to quit Weibo, after the Chinese app ban was announced hasn’t gone down well with its users. With comments like ‘shut the door on your way out’ and ‘some people leave and you never even knew they were there’, most of the users seem to be either unaffected or critical of the move.

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Another popular comment on Weibo was that India should return the $750-million loan, recently granted to assist the government in responding to the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a bank headquartered in Beijing.

As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, the Indian government banned a total of 59 Chinese apps including the teen favourite TikTok. India’s IT ministry has announced the banning of 59 Chinese apps that include giants names like TikTok, ShareIt, UC Browser, Likee, WeChat, Weibo and Bigo Live.

The Indian ministry called the Chinese-owned applications as “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order.” The Indian Cyber Crime Coordinate Centre under the Ministry of Home Affairs sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these “malicious apps”.

This marks the end of the “Weibo diplomacy” with China that started in 2015 as a means to directly communicate with the people of China before Modi’s first visit there. His first message said, “Hello China! Looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo”. He had 2.44 lakh followers on the application.

“Prime Minister Modi had 115 posts on Weibo. It was decided to manually delete them and after much effort, 113 posts were removed,” said a source.

“There were two posts left where PM Modi and these are posts with photos with President Xi. On Weibo, it is difficult to remove posts with the photo of the Chinese President. Which is why, two posts still remained,” said a source. A government official said that for reasons best known to the Chinese, there was great delay in granting this basic permission.

“Some believe Modi should have been a little thicker skinned, comparing his action to that of the U.S. ambassador to China who maintains his Weibo page despite being the subject of longstanding criticism from Chinese netizens,” wrote CX Tech.

The state-run, Global Times described the ban as “deliberate interference in practical cooperation” between the two countries. It slammed the move stating “a lacklustre explanation for the nonsensical move”.

“If India’s sovereignty can be damaged by a handful of apps, just how vulnerable is it?” the paper said. “It was not long before Indians realised that turning nationalist rhetoric into action is more difficult, as there are no available and affordable alternatives to Chinese-made products such as smartphones, chemicals, automotive components and many other items… It seems that not only has the Modi government failed to rein in the rising nationalism among Indians, it has also yielded to domestic pressure and even encouraged such a boycott to escalate.”

It also warned of a dip in investment as the paper said that it surveyed experts who “predicted Chinese overseas direct investment (ODI) into India will drop sharply in 2020, with two experts forecasting a more than 50 per cent cut.”

“Bad feelings go both ways, and the chance for China-India relationship to pick up in the short-term is slim. Chinese investors are on the edge with risk-aversion instinct kicking in,” Qian Feng, director of the research department of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University.

China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng said that India’s app ban could have possibly violated the World Trade Organization’s rules and commitments. “We hope that India can immediately correct its discriminatory practices against China and Chinese enterprises”, Feng added.

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Americas

Dominican Republic Goes To Poll; Results Will Decide The Fate Of US, China

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On Sunday, the Dominican Republic will hold elections as the Central American nation looks to elect their next President and renew the totality of senate (32) and deputy (190) seats.

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Elections were originally scheduled to take place on May 17 but had to be postponed due to an upsurge in coronavirus cases. Domestically, the election could lead to a change in government and end the decade long run of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).

Internationally, the winner of the Presidential election decides the future of the Dominican Republic foreign relations with regards to the United States and China.

The Candidates

To win the election, a candidate must get 50%+ 1% of the total votes. If none of the contestants is able to win a clear majority, a second-round runoff is held between the two candidates with the highest votes on the first round.

While a total of 6 candidates are hoping to serve as the next the President, according to experts, the outcome of the election will be determined by the three leading candidates from the PLD, Force of the People party (FP) and Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM).

The PLD has occupied the presidency for 20 of the past 24 years. Incumbent President Danilo Medina will not seek a third consecutive term ( his decision to do so was met by domestic resistance) and instead, Gonzalo Castillo, the former minister of public works and communications, will be contesting for the PLD.

Elections in the Dominican Republic will be monitored by 80 observers from the Organization of American States (OAS). Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, Dominican authorities ensure that all necessary precautions have been taken care of. Image source: Facebook

Those including to oust PLD include Leonel Fernández and Luis Abinader of the FP and PRM respectively. Fernandez, a three-time President of the Dominican Republic, quit the PLD after losing the PLD primary run-off against Castillo in 2019. Displeased with the defeat, Fernandez formed his own party and announced his decision to seek election for the fourth time.

A businessman by profession, Luis Abinader has no previous experience in public office. Abinader was a close associate of former President Hipólito Mejía. When Mejia quit the PRD in 2014, Abinader decided to join him at the newly formed PRM. According to poll predictions, Abinader is either close to or will outright win in the first-round election. Much of the rise can be credited to the rift between Medina (PLD) and Fernández (FP).

Even if Abinader does not win the election, he and Fernández have agreed to a deal for the run-off election. In November 2019, both formed an electoral alliance, agreeing that whoever between them captured the most votes in the presidential election would, in turn, receive the other’s political backing in the event of a runoff election. They also agreed to nominate joint candidates for mayor and Congress in 24 of the 32 provinces.

US-China to Closely Follow Elections

The Presidential elections in the Dominican Republic are being closely monitored by both the United States and China. In 2018, much to the shock of US an Taiwan, Danilo Medina broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established ties with China instead.

This was followed by Medina travelling to Beijing and inking 18 bilateral agreements including on agriculture, culture and tourism. Experts predict Chinese investment in the Caribbean nation will reach US$10 billion in the coming years.

For China, PLD remaining in power is essential for Sino-Dominican relations. Although PLD presidential candidate Castillo’s foreign policy platform makes abstract reference to the need to “deepen, diversify, and expand bilateral and multilateral relations,” one presumes he would maintain diplomatic and commercial relations with China.

Fernández and the Abinader, on the other hand, understand the importance of the US as an ally and will likely scale down ties with Beijing. Both candidates even declined invitations from the Chinese government to visit.

For the US, Abinader winning the election would be the perfect scenario. The 52-year-old is keen on strengthening strategic relations with the US, recognizing that it is the Dominican Republic’s main commercial partner, were about two million Dominicans or those of Dominican origin reside and were about 40 per cent of tourists who visit the Dominican Republic come from.

Regardless of who wins, the elections in the Dominican Republic will be interesting to watch. Elections in the middle of a global pandemic is a challenge in itself and the people of the Dominican Republic will surely be excited to see new faces in the country’s politics.

Written by- Armaan Srivastava. Views Personnel

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Asia Pacific

After Japan Backs India At LAC, Chinese Navy Intrudes Into Japanese Territorial Waters

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Days after Japan extended support to India and antagonizing China, patrol ships from the Chinese Navy entered Japanese territory twice this week. Japanese Coast Guard confirmed the presence of Chinese patrol ships in the territorial waters of Japan. 

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The latest intrusion by China comes days after Japan had supported India and called for a peaceful resolution, opposing any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in Ladakh.

As per media reports, two Chinese patrol ships entered the waters of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on Thursday before re-entering the area again.

The Chinese ships even approached a Japanese fishing vessel inside the territorial water and the Coast guard said it was the longest intrusion into the territorial waters by Chinese ships. Despite repeated calls to leave the area, the vessels stayed inside Japanese territory for nearly 30 hours before leaving on Friday.

The Senkaku Islands, as japan calls it, have been contested by China and Japan for nearly a century. Located 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometres) southwest of Tokyo, the islands have been administered by Japan since 1972.

Since April, Japan has reportedly spotted at least 67 Chinese ships near Senkaku islands. Japan has already deployed its missiles towards its border facing China amid its several maritime incursions.

To avoid any confusion, Ishigaki City Council in Japan’s Okinawa approved legislation to change the administrative status of the Senkaku islands by changing its name from “Tonoshiro” to Tonoshiro Senkaku” in June.

Chinese aggression could also be retaliation against Japan as they grow closer to each other in an effort to contain China, expert talking to EurAsian Times state. Japan is also looking to sign an intelligence-sharing pact with India, Australia and the UK to track Chinese Navy vessels in the region.

The ongoing feud at Ladakh has helped India and Japan to strengthen their ties even further. On Friday, Satoshi Suzuki, Japanese Ambassador to India, said that he had a “good talk” with Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla in this regard.  The Japanese Ambassador took to twitter to express appreciation for the briefing on the situation along LAC and hoped for a peaceful resolution.

With regards to the Chinese intrusion into Japanese waters, Tokyo has lodged strong protests with China. The disputed islands are also claimed by Taiwan.

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