Vaccine Diplomacy by the Major States

Diplomacy is regarded as an art and science of pursuing and maintaining peaceful relations among states, groups, and individuals. It usually becomes part of the discussion of international issues such as terrorism, economics, conflicts, environment, technology, health, and security. Till 20th-century diplomacy was only confined to bilateral relations but with the establishment of international organizations such as Unites Nations, its role has widely increased within these organizations.

Diplomacy is usually adopted by states to carry and protect their national interest in the international arena. It may be in the form of foreign aid, like United States Marshall Plan for Western Europe to contain their rival USSR influence in the region. Or China Debt-trap Diplomacy under the BRI projects, or maybe in the other form depending on the national interest of particular States. With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent development of Vaccines by developed countries, the term “vaccine diplomacy” has become the topic of discussion in international politics.

Countries that have manufactured the vaccine for the virus have now started to exports it to countries where it has their national interest. China and Russia are ahead in this race who is exporting the vaccine to south East Asia, Serbia, Algeria, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, and other developing countries. Serbia is even ahead in Europe by vaccinating more population with the doses provided by Russia and China.  China has pledged that it will provide free vaccines to 69 developing countries and to 28 countries for commercial purposes.

China “vaccine diplomacy” revolves around their projects “Belt and road initiative” and the disputed maritime waterway “South china sea”.  To win the trust of the claimant of South China Sea countries, China has delivered vaccine to Philippine, Taiwan, and to the de facto leaders of ASEAN, Indonesia. However, Vietnam, one of the claimant to the maritime way has refused to receive vaccines from China. Others countries in the region have also show reservation on China vaccine, due to its efficacy, late delivery, and China violent behavior in South China Sea. China nearly has produced 250 million doses in which it has send 118 million to 49 countries.

On the other hand, Russia has sent vaccines to 22 countries, including the southern neighbor of the United States, Mexico. India is also not behind in the race, which has compromised its own population to build international trust and some observers believe to counter China. According to London-based pharmaceutical analytics, Airfinity, the country has produced 150 million shots and has donated or exported 64 million doses, mostly to its neighboring countries.

Although Russia and China have adopted vaccine diplomacy, the United States has chosen vaccine nationalism by prioritizing its own population. The Country so far has inoculated nearly 200 million of its population and has agreed to deliver merely 4 million doses of AstraZeneca- which it has abandoned to use- to Mexico and Canada. However, under the Biden administration, the US has pledged $4 billion to WHO for the vaccination drive. Under the Quadrilateral Security dialogue also known as  Quad, the United States with other members, Japan, Australia,  and India has decided to jointly produce 1 billion doses to inoculate Southeast Asian nations on a priority basis, which seems a strategy to counter China in the region.

Under the given circumstances of selective vaccines provision by the major countries, the target set by the COVAX under the WHO, to provide 2 billion doses to underdeveloped countries to the end of 2021 seems very difficult to be achieved