Time magazine’s latest story is titled “Modi Never Bought Enough COVID-19 Vaccines for India. Now the Whole World Is Paying” (https://time.com/6052370/modi-didnt-buy-enough-covid-19-vaccine/) The story is that Narendra Modi did not buy enough vaccines, so the world is now suffering. The title to the article is a Freudian slip, revealing a particular mind set. The article does not blame China for the pandemic, or Xi Jinping, but it blames Modi. It seems that it is not the Wuhan Virus that is responsible for the crisis nor those who were contributing funds to the research at the Wuhan Virology Institute, but it blames Modi’s failure to buy the vaccine. Modi is thus sought to be painted as the ‘global villain.’ The irony is that the writer is talking about a popularly re-elected leader of the world’s largest democracy.
The bottom line about the charge that Modi did not buy vaccines is that purchases in large quantities would have been from American companies like Pfizer and Moderna. However, the US and UK governments had hoarded vaccines, far beyond their national requirements and refused to share it. There has also been resistance to relaxing the patent regime to enable others to buy the vaccine.
For those who may wish to pursue this a bit more may read this author’s book, ‘The Ultimate Goal (2020)’. The book highlights the pandemic and the role of big pharma companies, the changing equations and price wars for maximizing profits. “Traditional wars on the battlefield will become even more unfashionable. The pharma-industrial complex will be an addition to the existing military-industrial-intelligence-technology complex.”
Given the current comfortable state of India-US relations at many levels, it may not be the official policy to denigrate India but there are surely immensely powerful interests in the US also at work. The idea now is also to shift the narrative away from China and target India. This is because China is far too powerful and there are too many deep western financial and trade entanglements with it and therefore any harsh action against China could rebound on the western corporate interests. This truth is known to both China and the West. So, pick on a country where blame can be fixed to change the narrative. The usual tactics is at play here, create a narrative, and then let events unfold. And narratives do not have to be based on truth but need to have acceptability. Besides, the western world has had the means to build and sustain its narratives of superiority, justify its actions or the righteousness of its causes, through its global dominance of multiple means of communication of the message. One classic and recent example being the way the narrative for the Iraq War in March 2003 was built. The world was told that Saddam Hussein was harbouring Al Qaeda and that he possessed weapons of mass destruction. None of this was true.
Mike Pompeo, former Director CIA and Secretary of State in an interview with Bari Weiss, an American journalist, on May 19, 2021, made some significant statements. (https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/did-covid-come-from-the-lab-mike). Weiss started the interview with the question “….do you think that the COVID-19 virus came from a lab in Wuhan?” Pompeo replied “I do and have for quite some time…” In the hour-long interview, Pompeo asserted that Chinese Communist Party had gone into a full coverup mode because all the evidence gathered pointed to “the single direction of this having been a laboratory leak from a place called the Wuhan Institute of Virology”. Pompeo added that when these doubts were raised early last year, “we were accused not only of being a little bit unhinged but of being racist or xenophobic, somehow denoting that the Chinese were lesser than other human beings. Nothing could be further from the truth.” The Chinese used “every available information warfare strategy that they have in their toolkit to knock down the storyline.”
Pompeo goes on to explain how the CCP was operating in the US. “They are working with something called the United Front. This is China’s external influence operations…. Working something called a Confucius Institute. It seems noble, to learn Mandarin, learn about Chinese culture and life will be better for everyone and maybe you will even get a good job working in a big bank in New York working on Chinese accounts…. The Chinese Communist party working on our college campuses, on our research institutions. What are they doing there? They are providing real money like providing research body grants. So that these professors can do all kinds of different research, mostly in engineering, science, math, blockchain technology, artificial intelligence. They’ll put a couple of Chinese scholars alongside them and then they’ll work together to find a problem and they will steal intellectual property like you can’t imagine and we just looked the other way for so long.” When asked why the Americans were looking the other way, Pompeo’s elaboration was detailed.
“Oh, by big money, which is at stake”, he said. “There are 3,60,000 Chinese students studying at those universities today. Those students pay full freight. They are carrying a significant financial burden for those educational institutions. So, I remember when we started to look closely at the level of Chinese spying on campuses, I immediately got letters from every major college institution in America from their presidents and from their trade associations saying, ‘Hey be very careful. These students are here. They are noble, they’re wonderful, they just want to learn about the American way of life and oh, by the way, they make up 40% of our operating budget.’
Pompeo also said that he was privy to a lot of conversations with hedge fund managers and businesspeople. Their refrain was that it was true that China was terrible at human rights, stole American intellectual property but China was also unstoppable, was a huge market and Americans now had no choice other than to do business with them. So, in the end they basically said “let us cover our eyes, let us plug our ears and keep the money. What do you want to say to those people…with vested economic interests?” Pompeo reminded that the Chinese Communist party was operating inside American financial institutions, agricultural institutions, in a way that is deeply intentional right to suck this intellectual property out for a purpose. The Chinese have a hold on Hollywood, sports attire industry, and they also attend city council meetings across the country evaluating every official as friendly neutral or hostile when they are not busy stealing secrets from Los Angeles’ innovative energy companies.
The desire is to shift the narrative away from China and pick a more ‘convenient villain’. In India’s case, this kind of personalised targeting has other motives too. It seeks to demonise Narendra Modi who is seen as a major impediment to western corporate interests in a growing India. Modi’s schemes like Atma Nirbhar Bharat and Make in India have been viewed with suspicion. According to this standard western script, India is a market and resource base, not a competitor or much worse, a rival. It is great if it is a pliable democracy, even a pliable dictatorship will also do, but a strong independent self-reliant democracy is an awkward entity and best prevented.
Regime change in a democratically elected government is not easy. Military coups are impossible, and wars as seen in West Asia, are expensive with results uncertain so the best way is to try and internally destabilize a government. This needs local assistance and we have seen that all too often in recent years, since 2014 but more desperate since 2019. From the JNU and Jamia agitation to Shaheen Bagh to the riots of Delhi; all organized in detail, financed generously and logistics worked out. Leading on to the farmers strike, it shows a combination of various vested interests desperately trying to destabilize the government. In fact, the farmers strike indicates huge financial and logistic support from groups who feel it worthwhile to pursue this and who seem to be well endowed to manage this.
Besides, the Indian economy, buoyant till recently has now taken a severe knock, and will take a while to recover. It certainly suits China if this were prolonged. China, as we all know, has not taken kindly to India for spurning the Huawei attempt on acquiring 5G rights in India. There are many who believe that this was retribution in a frighteningly cruel manner. Doklam and Galwan were attempts to coerce India into submission on other issues. Simultaneously, the west with its sluggish economic growth sees the spectre of three Asian economic giants, Japan, China, and India staring at them ten years down the line. Obviously, this cannot be good news, and this must be stopped. The western powers also think that the unintended consequences of supporting Chinese economy since the 1990s to apparently further their own economic interests are now proving very costly. Therefore, they believe that, there is no scope for repeating the same mistake.
There is no denying that there have been some miscalculations and poor strategies in handling the crisis, apart from the fact that there is a very creaky health infrastructure, which was inherited by the present government and attempts to rectify them had just begun. There is a global government to government declaration of support to Indian efforts, but the pharma world has different yardsticks. Profit not healing is the driving force. Adam Smith and not Hippocrates, is their role model.
Vikram Sood was a career intelligence officer and served in the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s external intelligence agency. He headed the organisation and retired in March 2003. He has been regularly writing on intelligence, terrorism, security, foreign relations and strategic issues in journals and newspapers. He is the author of ‘The Unending Game – A former R&AW Chief’s Insights into Espionage’ and ‘The Ultimate Goal – A Former R&AW Chief Deconstructs How Nations Construct Narratives’.
We work round the clock to bring you the finest articles and updates from around the world. There is a team that works tirelessly to ensure that you have a seamless reading experience. But all this costs money. Please support us so that we keep doing what we do best. Happy ReadingSupport Us