Anti-American Sentiments on the Rise in India Due to U.S. Inaction on COVID-19

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By Quentin Choy

May 3, 2021

With around 19 million confirmed cases of coronavirus cases ravaging India, and with a reluctant United States to send vaccine support, anti-American sentiments in India is on the rise and for good reason.

Startling images of mass cremations have startled the world as India deals with a massive outbreak of coronavirus cases. India has pleaded for the U.S. and other wealthy nations to send vaccines over and to suspend patents o n COVID-19 vaccines from pharmaceutical companies. The Biden administration has agreed to send over some AstraZeneca vaccines, but that won’t be enough.

If vaccine patents were suspended, then India could begin to manufacture its own vaccines and bring the virus under control. Some in the American government are viewing the suspension of vaccine patents from a geopolitical, strategic viewpoint, arguing that suspending the patents will allow the Russians and the Chinese to use the advances to make more technological discoveries, pulling away from American innovation.

I recommend watching this segment of Rising with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti on the subject:

However, if the U.S. were to do this, it could claim to be a global vaccinator and the main country that helped to cure the world of COVID-19.

With India being a key ally in Asia, and with it being the world’s largest democracy, many Indians feel betrayed by the United States hesitation in helping the nation through this terrible time, and some Indians have begun to denounce the United States for its complicity in high levels of death. India is an important partner for U.S. interests in countering Chinese influence throughout Southeast Asia, and is a member of an informal alliance between the U.S., Australia, and Japan. With expanding influence into Pakistan, Central Asia, and Africa, the U.S. believes India can serve as a regional ally in slowing the spread of Chinese power.

Such a committed alliance makes the pain of this seeming betrayal by the United States hurt even more. Aside from the human cost which will be felt for years, if the United States does not help India, they will be compromising a key regional alliance, hurting U.S. foreign policy. If the U.S. wants to maintain India as a regional ally, they must suspend COVID-19 vaccine patents.

U.S Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh. Courtesy of Getty Images.

The United States has enough vaccines to inoculate its entire population, and around a third of Americans do not want the vaccine at this time. Why should vaccines be saved for people who don’t want them when people in an allied country are burning their dead day and night? Even if these people who don’t want the vaccine decide they want them later, the United States has technology and capital to make more down the road.

If I were Indian, I would feel even more betrayed seeing the way the U.S. treated another ally: Saudi Arabia. The U.S. supported the Saudi airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen until very recently, and Joe Biden’s airstrike in Syria against Iranian-backed rebels was in the Saudis’ interest. After the killing of U.S. citizen and journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government, the Biden administration did not punish the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite an intelligence report which showed bin Salman’s approval of the killing.

Biden commented on U.S. inaction, saying:

“We held accountable all the people in that organization — but not the crown prince, because we have never that I’m aware of, when we have an alliance with a country, gone to the acting head of state and punished that person and ostracized him.”

President Joe Biden on U.S. inaction against the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman

India, who has supported the United States in its regional efforts and is a democracy unlike Saudi Arabia is being left out to dry. In comparison, the Saudis were defended by the United States after they murdered a United States citizen. The differences between these alliances are stunning and must be stinging to the average Indian.

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. Courtesy of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Some comments on Indian sites such as The Times of India show the anger of Indians against the United States. One reader wrote about the elite in America and their disregard for India, saying:

“Guess what? It’s the same social media class people who got orgasms when Biden and Kamala were sworn in. People even celebrated Indian American becoming VP. But Americans are Americans, whatever be their country of origin, whether China, India or Somalia. They only care about their country.”

Comment on The Times of India

Comments like these show the disappointment in an ally for a basic human rights crisis and failure of the U.S. and the west to act.

An alliance and a nation are at risk, and the solution is clear. The U.S. must act immediately for the sake of Indian lives as well as for its own regional interests.

Image Courtesy of Time Magazine.

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