Covid-19 pandemic is a meticulous test for inter-country relations and also an ideal platform for many governments like the US, China, Russia, etc to project their influence globally, writes Dimitar Bechev for Ahval.
Bechev says that Beijing has had a first-mover advantage when it dispatched aid to coronavirus-affected nations — Italy and Spain in mid-March and managed to enhance its image.
China has never placed much importance on taking responsibility for the world’s problems, but the situation has changed now, writes the author. China is leaving no stone unturned to portray itself as a kind pillar of global cooperation which has been wrongfully blamed for initiating the pandemic.
Russia has followed the Chinese example writes the author. Last week, a plane loaded with medical supplies landed in New York, the hot-bed of the coronavirus infection in the US. “A very nice gesture on behalf of President Putin,” U.S. President Donald Trump commented at one of his regular briefings.
Russia also reached out to Italy which did not go down very well within certain establishments. As per the author, Moscow has supplied 60 tons of cargo, besides Kamaz trucks, 66 servicemen “of the radiological, chemical and biological defense troops,” eight teams of medics and one full laboratory to Italy.
Bechev writes that the soft power contest is playing out in the western Balkans. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić praised China for dispatching medical supplies to Serbia and rebuked the EU. “European solidarity does not exist. That was a fairytale on paper,” he regretted. “These are the same people who have asked us to fix our tender processes to eliminate the Chinese so that EU companies would get Serbian money. Now our money is no longer good enough for them.”
The author says that Ankara could not afford to watch Russia and China take the lead. After all, it considers the western Balkans part of its neighborhood. On April 6, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov acknowledged Turkish efforts for setting aside masks, protective suits, and test kits for North Macedonia.
Turkey also pledged to help Bosnia and Herzegovina after a tele-conversation between the two foreign ministers. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama had already requested Turkish President – Erdogan for assistance, as both leaders share a special relationship.
The author, however, misses on one country — India. Even though China and Russia are working hard to create a global goodwill, India has been getting organic PR after Modi-Government lifted the ban on the export of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) drug which is seen as a potential treatment for Covid-19.
India is the largest producer of hydroxychloroquine and exports around $50 million worth of medicines annually. India takes pride in being the world’s largest supply of hydroxychloroquine — manufacturing roughly 70% of the world’s total supply, according to Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance.
Earlier, the US and Brazilian Presidents — Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro respectively expressed their gratitude towards Narendra Modi after the Indian PM lifted the ban on the export of the drug. Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu also thanked his PM Modi after a five-tone shipment landed in Israel within just three days of his request.
India has now approved the first list of 13 countries that are set to receive COVID-fighting drugs from India, including the anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine or HCQ. The first list includes 13 countries — US, Spain, Germany, Bahrain, Brazil, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Seychelles, Mauritius, and the Dominican Republic.
New Delhi is not coming to the fore to gain global attention or project is so-called soft power. The author mentions how China and Russia are leading the PR race and Turkey’s quest in joining the soft power race ignoring the fact that India is already winning it, unintentionally.
Nitin J Ticku is a MARCOM specialist with a deep interest in Education, Defence and Geopolitics. Nitin holds a double masters degree in Business Management and Journalism and is a frequent contributor to the EurAsian Times.