US, India, China need to put differences aside to fight pandemic : Ex-US diplomat
New Delhi, June 12 2020 - The United States, India and China need to put differences aside to combat a crisis like COVID-19, but that has not happened, said former US diplomat Nicholas Burns to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday.
Speaking to Rahul Gandhi through video conferencing, Burns, who is the Professor of Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard's John F Kennedy School of Government, said, "It is a terrible disappointment to me. I'm sure it is to you. You know, this crisis was made for the G20. It was made for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump to be working together."
The former NATO ambassador said, "All of us are confronted, every Indian American is vulnerable to this disease. And I would have thought at the beginning of the crisis, I would have predicted that countries would have put down their differences and worked for a vaccine together or how to distribute that vaccine in an equitable and humane fashion and it hasn't happened."
He said, this happened mainly because Trump doesn't really believe in "international cooperation".
"He (Trump) is a unilateralist. He wants America to go it alone in the world. And Xi Jinping shows to compete with Trump," Burns added.
The Professor said that even the US and China at the heart of the problem here. "I hope when the next crisis comes, will do better to work together in a more effective way," he said.
Burns was responding to a question by the Congress leader why the nations such as the US and China have failed to cooperate in the coronavirus crisis.
Rahul Gandhi then said that similar was the case in Europe.
He also lamented at the BJP-led central government for taking "unilateral" decisions and imposing the biggest and most-stringent lockdowns in the world.
"There is atmosphere of fear. You take unilateral decisions, you do the biggest lockdown in the world, most rigorous lock down in the world and then you have millions of manual laborers walking thousands of kilometers back home," the Congress leader said.
"So it is this unilateral episodic type of leadership, where you just come in and do something and go away. It's very destructive. But it's the flavor of the time that's the unfortunate thing. It's everywhere. And we are fighting it," he said.
he Harvard Professor responding to Rahul Gandhi's question that in terms of the balance of power does he think that's going to shift in any way or does he think that's going to stay the same.
Burns said, "China is gaining from Covid but I actually don't see it. China has a fearful leadership, trying to preserve their powers, increasing the grip that they have on their own citizens."
"Look what's happening in Xinxiang and the Uyghurs and in Hong Kong just to give those examples. And I actually think I'm hopeful about the future of India and United States. I worry the Chinese system is not going to be flexible enough to accommodate the desires of the Chinese people for human freedom and liberty," Burns added.
He further asserted that he has confidence that democracies will survive these tests.
Rahul Gandhi also raised questions about what he believed was the change in the nature of India-US ties.
"A relationship that used to be very broad- education, defence, healthcare and multiple fronts has sort of focused mainly on defence is now more episodic and transactional," the Congress leader said and asked Burns where the relationship between India and the US was going.
To this Burns, who oversaw the completion of negotiations that led to the 2008 India-US nuclear deal, said that on strengthening ties with India, Democrats and Republicans were on the same page.
Describing India and US as two important democracies, he further said, "The US ought to have a very close, supportive and all-encompassing relationship with India. The secret weapon in the relationship, I'm sure you will agree has been the Indian American community."
"There has been a maturation of that community and it is a profound bridge between the two countries. So I'm very hopeful that the US and India, our societies and not just our governments are very closely intertwined, integrated and that's a great strength. If you think that one of the challenges we face is the coming power of authoritarian countries.
"I mentioned two before, China and Russia. We never want to fight, we don't want war but we want to preserve our way of life and we want to preserve our positions in the world," Burns added.