There seems to be a thaw in the frosty equation between India and China, and it is to be hoped that the overture from Beijing shall be sustained. President Xi Jinping’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the first such communication between the two in the aftermath of last year’s pandemic and the border crisis.
Not that the tension on either side of the frontier has ebbed; yet the subtext of the letter is profoundly critical for the people of India, now struggling to cope with the deadly resurgence of the second wave of Covid19. Pre-eminently, Mr Xi has offered China’s support to address the potentially mortal recurrence with the death toll and the number of afflictions increasing each day.
His message was followed by a telephone call on Friday from China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, to his counterpart, Mr S Jaishankar. Mr Wang had also sent a message to Mr Jaishankar the day before Mr Xi’s letter to the Prime Minister, offering China’s support. Altogether, therefore, it was a calibrated diplomatic build-up at the highest level.
“I am very concerned about the recent situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in India. On behalf of the Chinese government and people, as well as in my own name, I would like to express sincere sympathies to the Indian Government and people,” Mr Xi said in the message.
“Humanity is a community with a shared future. Only through solidarity and cooperation can countries around the world ultimately defeat the pandemic.” China’s President has spoken at the peak of the health emergency not the least because the resurgence after exactly a year has been far deadlier than last year’s outbreak.
“The Chinese side stands ready to strengthen cooperation with the Indian side in fighting the pandemic and provide support and help in this regard. I believe that under the leadership of the Indian Government, the Indian people will surely prevail over the pandemic,” was Mr Xi’s assurance.
Covid knows no frontier. Nor for that matter should humantarian assistance which ought to move across borders… in the truest sense of the Nobel prize committee’s dictum ~ Medicines Sans Frontieres. What must inspire optimism on this side of the fractious frontier is that the assurance has been followed through by the establishment in Beijing.
This can be contextualised by the Chinese foreign minister’s statement that “anti-pandemic materials produced in China are entering India at a faster pace to help the country fight the epidemic”. Orders for oxygen concentrators, ventilators and other medical supplies are being sourced from China, although there are some complaints of predatory pricing.
Eight hundred oxygen concentrators had been flown in from Hong Kong some days ago and China had, since April, “supplied more than 5,000 ventilators, 21,569 oxygen generators, over 21.48 million masks and around 3,800 tons of medicines to India” according to Chinese customs data. It is the spirit of the give-and-take amidst the border crisis that ought now to transcend the festering frontier and the frequent meetings of Generals.