Around 40 years ago in the 1980s, India and China were almost on the same level in terms of economy, now the Chinese economy is approximately five times the size of the Indian economy. But when it comes to credibility, India essentially stands far ahead of its neighbour. Vaccine diplomacy is the latest evidence in which India has truly outraced China and reliability is a big factor behind it.
According to reports, China had promised around 3.9 million free vaccines to the world, but India has already provided around 6.8 million free vaccines to various countries. Not only that, for the COVAX initiative of the World Health Organisation - launched to get vaccines for the poorer countries - China assured 10 million doses of vaccines, but the first dispatch of 6 lakh vaccines was made by India on Wednesday.
What makes the contrast sharper is that the pandemic has hit India more severely in comparison to China, killing over 157,000 people here, while the Chinese official toll stands at 4,636. Plus, China claims to have contained the spread of coronavirus within three months of its outbreak, while the second wave Covid-19 looms in India.
Economically, due to lockdowns, the pandemic had severe negative impacts worldwide and India went into recession after 25 years, but China not only managed to avoid the decline but reported a 2.1% growth in GDP in 2020.
To top it all, China claimed to be the first country to develop vaccines against Covid-19 and rollout the inoculation drive. But it has achieved only four-fifths of its immunisation target reportedly. Even though, China has four vaccines now to inoculate its approximately 1.4 billion population.
India built trust, China created confusion
China failed to infuse confidence in its citizens because the vaccine producers Sinopharm, Sinovac and Cansino kept their trial data under wraps. The lower efficacy rate of Chinese vaccines has further damaged their credibility.
It is important to note that the Chinese vaccines are still under the WHO regulatory evaluation while the Serum Institute of India's Covishield vaccine has already been approved by the international body.
This is how India has built substantial trust to have exported over 33 million vaccine shots to different countries (apart from the number of free vaccines). India didn't disappoint even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he sought help from PM Modi, days after backing the farmer protests, in securing vaccines for the people of Canada.
China recently claimed that it has provided vaccines to 53 countries, exporting them to 27 nations, but the neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka could launch their immunisation drives only after receiving vaccines from India, China had kept them waiting.
In the race for political influence in the developing world, two Asian giants, India and China, have always been competing with each other. But vaccine diplomacy, based on well-founded trust, has distinctly given India an edge over China. With the Serum Institute of India being the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, India always had this lead but it refused to resort to vaccine nationalism and came to the world's rescue when the world needed it.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV. The author can be reached on Twitter @iamomtiwari)