The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced India to accept foreign aid – including from the Chinese Red Cross – for the first time in 16 years. For Indians of a certain persuasion, there is a particular shame in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Indian government having to seek foreign aid. For their worldview comprises a mix of various resentments against the perceived outsider – Muslims, Westerners/Christian missionaries, Chinese/atheists. Indeed, the strength of articulation of the vishwaguru trope lies precisely in this reality and the need to have something that is apparently of India’s ‘own’ to offer.
China recently made it mandatory for people coming from India and 19 other nations to received Chinese-manufactured COVID-19 vaccines if they wanted to enter the country. The problem is, of course, that there are no Chinese vaccines available in India and nor are they likely to be given that India is a major producer of vaccines itself. It is tempting to call the Chinese decision a thoughtless act and one of wanton malice towards the thousands of Indians – students, professionals, family members – waiting to return to China, over a year after many left the country to visit their homes for the long Chinese New Year holidays.