Caught in US-China Diplomatic Spat on 'Labelling' Coronavirus, India Chooses Silence


New Delhi: As India along with the rest of the world struggles to combat the COVID-19 threat, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi on Wednesday called External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

The call came at a time when China and the United States are engaged in a raging diplomatic tussle over who is responsible for the coronavirus pandemic. China asked India to oppose America’s move to push for accountability of the Chinese regime over the outbreak.

Amid the biggest global health crisis, Wang asked India to “oppose the narrow mindset” to “label the virus and stigmatise China”. US President Donald Trump has been referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls it “Wuhan virus”.

While Jaishankar tweeted to say he and Wang discussed working together to combat COVID-19 and also that the global challenge requires global cooperation, he said nothing about agreeing or disagreeing with China on opposing the term “Chinese virus”. However, the Chinese media press release said, “The Indian side does not agree with the practice of labelling the virus…”

The Ministry of External Affairs refused to add anything more to the minister’s tweet when asked specifically to respond to this statement.

Continuing its denial of the virus originating in Wuhan, Councellor Ji Rong, spokesperson of the Indian Embassy in Beijing, said the origin of the novel coronavirus is a matter of science requiring professional and scientific assessment. "Research by scientists from the United States, Europe, China and Japan as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) has shown there is no certain conclusion as to the origin of COVID-19. Although Wuhan city in China first reported the outbreak, there is no evidence that China is the source of the virus that caused COVID-19," said Ji.

In an interview to a US media outlet, Mike Pompeo said, “The virus began in Wuhan, China. There’s no doubt about where it began. Indeed, the Chinese Communist Party itself acknowledged that that’s where the virus began. And unfortunately, the Chinese Communist Party covered it up and delayed its response in a way that has truly put thousands of lives at risk.”

When US President Donald Trump was asked at a press briefing as to why he insists on calling it the “Chinese Virus” when it has led to racial attacks, his reply was curt and same – because it started in China.

The fact that China accused the US of exporting the virus seems to have irked the US even more. Putting forth a conspiracy theory, a Chinese government spokesperson had alleged that the US army brought the epidemic to Wuhan.

The US has even lashed out at Russia and Iran. Pompeo launched a full throttle attack saying Iran instead of focusing on the needs of Iranians “lied about the Wuhan virus outbreak for weeks.” Pompeo called the “Iranian regime an accomplice.”

Meanwhile, Russia reacted sharply to Pompeo. Russian first deputy Permanent Representative to UN tweeted, “Make America sane again, blaming others is mean tactics…” This was specifically in response to Pompeo calling CCP, Russia, Iran “ bad actors around the world” spreading misinformation and lies about coronavirus.

When News18 spoke to WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris on whether accountability will be fixed once the threat is over and China be questioned about the allegation of suppressing information, she chose not to get into the specifics. She said that the World Health Organization will assess areas where the response to a crisis of this nature needed improvement.