ANURADHA CHENOY | 24 MARCH, 2020
The Geopolitics of the Covid 19 Pandemic
Politicking on Corona virus
As the Covid 19 virus spreads, health workers work over time, people panic, and nations lock down, many of our dear global leaders continue business as usual by indulging in cynical geopolitics in the name of the coronavirus.
US President Donald Trump in almost all his media briefings insists he is doing the best ever job by calling this ‘the Chinese Virus’. Even the WHO has objected to this unsubstantiated and ethnic stigmatising, that is intended to assert his racial ‘superiority’ as well. Meanwhile not to let this pass, the Chinese leadership along with that of Iran have stated categorically that this virus was brought to Wuhan by the US soldiers.
The US meanwhile continues to levy harsh sanctions on the badly virus-hit Iran and even Venezuela so that the people, knowingly or not, hit out at their own governments that are trying to cope under severe economic restrictions while the US looks on. India had a teleconference with the other South Asian countries and decided to give one million dollars to the SAARC emergency fund, which is like flogging a dead horse that all collectively helped to kill. Meanwhile the Chinese offered assistance to all South Asian nations except India - a position the two have remedied now.
Italy is in a state of collapse with the EU closing its borders, with Spain and France in close competition. China has offered health assistance here too in keeping with its claim of a non militarist rising super power.
The Saudis and Russians have chosen this opportunity to have a price war over oil so as to corner markets and hit out at the US for increasing its shale oil production. Earlier the US was trying to strike a deal with the Saudis to out manoeuvre the Russians. So Russia outmanoeuvred both and left OPEC in the lurch. The US placed sanctions on the Russian major oil company Rosneft for selling oil for Venezuela, which is also under US sanctions. So Russia now has the opportunity to hit back at the US as they both militarise the virus.
Meanwhile as 8 of the 10 ASEAN countries report on rising cases, ASEAN has just about recognised that they are not capable of a regional response as each country is trying to close their borders to the other. In fact Singapore and Indonesia just had a public spat, and all ASEAN states blamed Malaysia for having a huge religious event where people from all regions had attended and are now back and being locally stigmatised.
The other two remaining ASEAN states- Laos and Myanmar continue in a state of denial and focus instead on repressing their societies as before, and supporting the Chinese Belt and Roadway Initiative (BRI).
The Central Asian Countries squeezed between Iran, Russia and China say they have no such virus, but Russia has clamped down on Chinese nationals on their borders even as they welcome Chinese investments and benefit from the planned BRI close to the Arctic, which is seeing new militarisation.
Brazil’s President Bolsonaro first said the virus was a media myth to discredit him, while his son, a Congressman blamed the Chinese while the Brazilian health minister said Brazil had no capacity to take on the epidemic. Now the Chinese ambassador has said Brazil has a mental virus that is damaging relations with China.
The Taliban continue to bomb other Afghans as their final bid for control of all Afghanistan amid a recently signed ‘Peace Deal’, which barely mentions the word peace. So the Americans soldiers can finally leave and Taliban take control, before Pakistan or others do.
As the virus goes on from country to country, our dear leaders continue with their politics of building taller walls, surveillance is on a all time high, there is little empathy with the sick and the poor who are losing their jobs by the day, while gimmicks from denial to clapping hands continue. There is no acknowledgement, not even recognition, that the enormous expenditure on defence security and the heavy cuts on the social sector budget has promoted this global health breakdown. Vanity projects from unusable roads to statues glorifying the self continue at great cost to the exchequer. Multilateral institutions and regional associations have failed as they were built by these very leaders and not from the ground through people to people relations.
As for the virus it sees no boundaries, no age, no ethnicity or religion. It almost seems like a more ideal human than the world leaders and their geo- political habits.
Anuradha Chenoy was Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.