China’s obstinacy in delaying India’s proposed IAF C-17 Globemaster flight to China to evacuate the last 80 Indians still stranded in Wuhan goes beyond the inscrutability of the dragon’s decision-making. Given that the outbound flight was to carry medical supplies like masks and gloves as a humanitarian gesture in China’s greatest hour of need, the four-day delay is shaping into a political message for India.
Has China, guilty of initially suppressing news of the virus while discrediting whistleblower doctors, lost the plot? Has the shutdown of big cities with millions of people helped contain the virus’ spread. President Xi Jinping sounded humble while declaring this was the gravest public health crisis since the People’s Republic was founded in 1949, but there are signs that the disease is overwhelming totalitarian China as it employs measures impossible to even comprehend, far less carry out globally.
Experts are warning of an impending global pandemic as the Novid-19 virus has invaded 30 nations since December 8, when the first Wuhan patient developed symptoms. The fatalities stand at 2,619 in China even as 79,000 have been infected, while 27 died outside China. More worryingly, the virus is spreading in mysterious clusters. Person to person transmission, spread by carriers with little or no symptoms, far beyond the epicentre in Hubei province, including in South Korea thanks to mass prayer assemblies of the religious group Shincheonji church, and Italy and Iran, is pushing it into the pandemic category.
India has good reason to feel annoyed as its checks on medical exports to China are based on logistical issues and are temporary. China’s appeal for commerce to go on uninterrupted is understandable but hard to attempt in the prevailing atmosphere of fear and rising panic over a runaway pathogen for which a vaccine is still far from ready.