Thursday, Jan 20, 2022
Outlook.com

Shots Across The Seas

India’s laudable supply of vaccines around the world has a strategic underpinning. Now it has to balance that with pressing domestic need.

Shots Across The Seas
Shots Across The Seas -

The exercise of soft power—a spread of influence only peripheral to military or economic might—that creates a strata of overwhelmingly positive perception of a country in foreign lands is a continuous process, often taking decades to yield results. Then there are global crises that offer influential countries an opportunity to seize the initiative and be seen as a saviour of near and faraway lands: a leap, as it were, in its matrix of soft power. Global efforts towards vaccination for COVID-19 gave India—the world’s largest producer of vaccines—just such a call for action.

Ever since coronavirus vaccines became available since January, India has striven, through its ‘vaccine diplomacy’, to boost its international image and goodwill. Indeed, every planeload of precious vaccines flying to foreign lands is seen as a step towards that end. China, too, is doing the same, but has the added burden of living down its image as the country where the COVID-19 originated, as well as fighting accusations of trying to hide the magnitude of the problem. The Asian rivals—both pharma superpowers— hope to make a good impression at a time when vaccine nationalism is in full play among Western nations, who are buying up and hoarding available vaccines and bickering among themselves about vaccine availability. In contrast, by sharing scarce doses, India—among the world’s worst-hit countries, with a billion-plus population at risk—is acting as a responsible world power. This is all very good, but will the total of India’s largesse add up to its expected results?

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