The global vaccine battles have escalated, and within Asia, a rather consistent pattern is becoming visible. Moscow is trying to bring back the days of Soviet glory, by using its vaccine, Sputnik-V for geopolitical purposes. Russia is actively looking to push Sputnik-V in post-Soviet Republics in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Apart from Eurasia, Moscow is also targeting Southeast Asia and Indo-Pacific regions with its vaccine.
On the other hand, China is playing spoilsport by using its influence within the World Health Organisation to promote its own vaccine and bury Sputnik-V. Amidst, the Sino-Russian tussle, New Delhi has now come to Moscow’s rescue. India is going to be a huge manufacturer of COVID-19 vaccine and therefore India’s support to Sputnik-V can turn around things. Also, India carries ample soft power, giving the Russian vaccine a major shot in the arm in terms of credibility.
In fact, Russia might as well be looking to capitalise upon India’s support to Sputnik-V. RIA news agency has even quoted Vladimir Putin as saying that India may start the production of Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine to battle Coronavirus.
In August, Russia had become the first country to register a Coronavirus vaccine to date. According to interim results, Sputnik-V is 92 per cent effective when it comes to protecting people from the Wuhan virus. Yet, the vaccine has not become as popular as Putin would have expected it to become. The Russian vaccine has been ghosted by the WHO that clearly works at Beijing’s behest.
On the other hand, China has been able to win “understanding and support” from the WHO for its Coronavirus vaccine candidates. Clearly, the paper dragon wants to bring down Sputnik-V.
It is in this context that India’s support to Sputnik-V becomes really important. Indian drug companies are major manufacturers and suppliers of vaccines. When it comes to supplying a COVID-19 vaccine all across the world, India’s role will be indispensable. India sits right at the centre of vaccine supply chains and given the high demand for COVID-19 vaccines, it will be difficult for other countries to do without India when it comes to vaccine supply.
By choosing to manufacture Sputnik-V, India can give a signal to the rest of the world- if you want to immunise yourself from the Chinese virus, buy the Russian vaccine.
And at the end of the day, India’s support to Sputnik-V is not just about practical supply chain issues. What India also brings to the table is enormous soft power. The world trusts India. It knows that New Delhi wants to work towards better global health and welfare. Therefore, if India supports the Sputnik-V, then it means that the Russian vaccine is definitely effective. Russia will find it a lot easier to market Sputnik-V with Indian support.
On the other hand, any Chinese vaccine will suffer from major trust issues. China is known for manufacturing fake vaccines with major side effects that can go as far as causing fatalities. Moreover, India is also likely to snub any Chinese vaccine which Beijing markets in the near future. This is again a word of caution to the world to stay away from unsafe Chinese vaccines.
India is therefore helping Russia bury the Chinese vaccine even before it takes off.