On March 30 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned that Covid- 19 would wipe out US$ 220 billion of global income. It feared that the 21-day lock down in India which had “Stranded millions of migrant workers who were forced to walk hundreds of miles to their home villages” would affect India badly with half their population living below the poverty line. It added that “a lockdown may seem like a good plan…but in many developing countries it is simply not an option”. Similarly “Forbes” reported, quoting “Capital Economics” that India’s recent run economic growth is slow to just 1% this year, the lowest it has been for over 40 years.
Faced with this crisis UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called upon all nations on March 20 to “pull back from hostilities” and devote all their energies to “create corridors for life saving aid and to bring hopes to places among the most vulnerable to Covid-19”.Tragically some of those who are flouting this call are responsible members of the UN, one a permanent member of the Security Council.
On April 1 “Asia Times” reported that China conducted military drills and deployed military strength in the disputed South China Sea to make strides in exploiting the contested energy resources. It knew that USA was bogged down with Covid-19 and other countries like Philippines and Vietnam were also under military “Locked down” with their top leadership under self imposed quarantines. China “trumpeted” its achievement for becoming the first country for commercial exploitation of the gas hydrates and mineral deposits at the bottom of the South China Seas.
The other country to defy UNSG’s call was Israel which fired missiles on April 2 from Lebanese territory under their control to the Shayrat airbase in Syria targeting a meeting between Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah attended by Syrian military. This was interpreted as Israeli warning to Iran that the spread of corona-virus did not mean that Israel “would turn a blind eye” to Iranian interference in Syria. As of now Israel has reported 7851 confirmed cases and 44 deaths. Israeli newspaper “Yedioth Ahronoth” reported a welcome development for Israel that Iran would be forced to reduce its aid to Syria after the deaths of several Iranian commanders due to corona-virus.
The Jewish National Syndicate (JNS) made two complaints: It said that Iran was aggressively carrying on its pursuit of nuclear weapons despite being badly hit by corona-virus, taking advantage of America’s preoccupation with the spread of virus. Iran has 55,743 confirmed cases with 3452 deaths as this is written. The other complaint made by JNS is that the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf is carrying on unauthorized digging of the “Temple Mount” at the disputed Al-Aqsa Mosque to “destroying Jewish artifacts and history”. In the past the “Temple Mount” had been the flash point of clashes between Jews and Palestinians. [vii]
All these indicate that some countries are carrying on their usual aggressive over reach despite being hit by corona-virus.
Author: Vappala Balachandran
The writer is an author & columnist on security affairs