• Harsh Suri

Bharat: The Next Vaccine Superpower

When Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted a picture of Lord Hanuman taking the Sanjeevini mount from Bharat to Brazil it showcased how the world is willing to learn our cultural heritage and is getting into a consensus that Bharat is a reliable and powerful partner to count on. This was a grand global soft power shoutout for Bharat. Bharat is the world’s vaccine superpower and there is no doubt about it. Bharat is the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer. Bharat manufactures more than 60% of all vaccines sold around the world. Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest manufacturer and in 2015 it sold more than 1 billion doses of vaccines. After the pandemic era, one thing is clear, the nation which will have the capacity to produce affordable and quality vaccines will rule the world in 3 terms – soft-diplomacy, establishing health sector dominance and consent manufacturing in geopolitical terms. Bharat is ready to cover these areas with its vaccine production power and the nation has a far-sighted vision on this diplomatic front. Our nation has geared itself up to selflessly supply its neighbours with free vaccines as a gesture of goodwill.“This game of vaccine supply is right now the greatest diplomatic and geopolitical prize of the early 21st century”. In this article, we will examine what benefits are in this vaccine diplomatic game.

The Global Game

Bharat is not wasting a second in covering nations in the neighbourhood by giving them free vaccines which many of these nations cannot manufacture or afford in large numbers. This is a new way of expanding influence and manufacturing consent in the international arena. This proactive strategy of Bharat is bound to push China down a few notches in terms of its influence in the subcontinent and outside. Bharat’s vaccine diplomacy is knocking on the doors of nations that are strategic for expanding its dominance on a world forum.

  1. Bhutan: A nation with which we need good ties for Siliguri corridor’s security

  2. Maldives: A nation with which we need strong maritime ties to counter the Dragon

  3. Nepal: A nation with which we want to rebuild ties to counter Chinese influence in the subcontinent and expand border security

  4. Bangladesh: The nation was ditched by Chinese for not agreeing to share clinical trial costs of SinoVac. Bharat took no time and sent free vaccine consignment to them. This move creates positive public consent in Bangladesh and their dependence on us can also be further harnessed to tackle border security and create a pro-Bharat business approach.

  5. Myanmar: A nation with which again we want to establish strong relations to counter border insurgency, attach ourselves more to the east and Chinese influence.

  6. Sri Lanka: A nation we need for our maritime geopolitical security, increased economic and military ties to counter Chinese influence.

  7. Seychelles: This nation is needed for countering maritime piracy, establishing radars and giving Bharat’s navy an expanded area of patrolling.

  8. Morocco: This nation is now being used by Bharat’s businesses as a gateway to Africa and also a place where Bharat can expand its yoga, pharmacy and technology sector.

  9. Brazil: Business links with Brazil are the need of the hour for establishing the alternative supply chains which make this positive consent-based relationship even more important.

  10. Mauritius: This nation is important for maritime security, trade and maintaining geopolitical leverage over China.

  11. Afghanistan: A relation with this nation is geopolitically important and to keep Pakistan in check along with maintaining our influence in Central-Asia.

  12. Bahrain: This nation is a gateway into the Middle East for our businesses.

  13. Saudi Arabia: For maintaining balance in relations with the Muslim world and for tackling Pakistan’s Middle East power nexus.

What Bharat is doing has immense importance in the area of international relations. When all nations want the vaccine badly, Bharat providing it is not only crucial for their populations and economy but also their political establishments who want to look competent and prepared. This vaccine is not only a goodwill gift to the people of that nation but also to the politicians of that nation which these regimes will not forget.

Geopolitics of Vaccine Diplomacy

Vaccine Diplomacy has its own geopolitical benefits attached to it. The neighbourhood is important for securing our borders so that we can concentrate on the bigger issues like Chinese intrusions and Pakistani border clashes. By creating a new consent and goodwill based relationship through Vaccine Diplomacy, we are creating a geopolitical safe zone as these nations in our backyard are dependent upon us for a vaccine which has both political and economic benefits. These nations cannot afford to upset us or degrade relations with us at this time. Nepal’s low behaviour is no more in play, Bangladesh is ready to sit and discuss pending issues be it about border security or economic, Bhutan is ready to deepen ties with us, the Maldives is ready to give a reset to the relations and Sri Lanka which is geopolitically important for our navy to establish a patrol zone and keep Chinese submarines out and at the watch is also now open to a reset of relations with us in good terms. Seychelles plays a similar role as being important in terms of geopolitical security of Bharat and its interests in Africa and the Indian Ocean. Seychelles also provides an important radar installation location. South Africa too provides a geopolitical and economic gateway to Africa for Bharat. It will receive vaccine consignment in coming weeks. So these Vaccine Diplomacy driven resets and relations are not just goodwill based but economically, geopolitically driven. You see the international arena is in your hands when you command something that is politically and economically detrimental, in this case – the Vaccine. We are a Vaccine superpower and it is time to command rather be commanded.

Vaccinating Consent

What is more important than having a powerful military in the 21st century? It is having a soft power based relationship globally. This manufactures consent among the people and politicians of nations. In Bharat’s case, Vaccine Diplomacy is essential in creating a perception that we are humane, reliable and an emerging superpower. This consent will have its long-term benefits ranging from goodwill towards our nation, better treatment of our diaspora, establishing cultural and economic relations which in return brings business and investment. This consent-based relationship can be harnessed in international organisations like United Nations, WHO, WTO and ICJ during any voting or dispute. This consent has a long history – American citizens are treated with great respect across the world, not because of American hegemony but because programmes like USAID have uplifted many people, the same stands for the French, the British and the Japanese. Our Nation’s consent manufacturing and the reliable image will lead to many benefits in the international arena. This improves the image of Bharat as a nation that can be relied on during emergencies. A nation which is selfless and above all a powerful partner. This is the post-pandemic “respect” that our nation wants to gain among the neighbours and the global community. In this turn of the 21st-century consent is not manufactured as it was by economical means but is vaccinated deep into the nations. Bharat is creating a foreign policy fixed deposit. What we are doing through Vaccine Diplomacy is expanding our influence, deepening our ties, taking place of China in areas where it abandons it, creating consent both in that nation’s politics and people and establishing ourselves as a reliable and powerful partner.

Brand Bharat

Bharat is creating a brand image for itself as a manufacturer of reliable and safe vaccines.To the contrary, nations are sceptical of China because of clinical trial lapses and the low quality of its products. Also contributing to this low-grade image of Chinese products are the Western nations who don’t trust China and are quite vocal about it. This further strengthens our nation’s image as Brand Bharat. This image of Bharat is beneficial not only in terms of vaccine diplomacy or pharmaceutical industry but also in terms of long-term economic tie-ups, exports, and foreign direct investments. This powerful brand image will give an added weight and power to the products that are manufactured in Bharat. All this shows the various benefits of Vaccine Diplomacy.

Announce it to the World

In the international arena, doing involves announcing. This means that we need to create an active media and diplomatic presence globally to firmly establish the benefactor behind such actions of goodwill. This is the need of the century where fake news and alternative facts have affected the mindset of the populace. Propaganda never gets old, its shape and size changes but not its basic structure. We may be winning the vaccine race but we should not be lacking in the positive awareness propaganda race.

The Way Forward

The way forward for Bharat is to be the true vaccine superpower that it is because right now there is nothing that is more valuable than a vaccine. This is the time to promote and propagate our nation as the vaccine superpower. Our diplomatic missions should also be active in providing urgent help to those who require it. Apart from our neighbours, we need to help more Latin American, Southeast Asian and African nations with vaccine goodwill consignments as these nations are upcoming powerhouses. We also need to keep our European partners happy so as to establish a line of alternative supply, foreign investment and export. While doing all this internationally we also need to keep our populace aware about why we are doing this and make them understand this through our history of goodwill and culture of giving. They should understand how important is a global alliance, friendship and consent building to rise to a powerful political, soft power and geopolitical post. This awareness should come through media and social media domains. We should also make sure that we keep up the pace and where China lacks we take up the opportunity. It is high time that Bharat seizes the opportunities that it is presented with and establishes itself as a true global vaccine superpower.

By Harsh Suri kukuharsh@gmail.com

The featured image first appeared in The Quint on 22 January 2021.

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