India backed calls this week for an independent investigation of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic and the World Health Organisation’s (W.H.O.) response at the World Health Assembly (W.H.A.) annual meeting this week, the Times of India reported on Monday.
India joins an international coalition of 116 member states – out of a total of 194 – putting forth the draft resolution for review at the summit for the W.H.O.’s decision-making body. This puts the resolution close to the two-thirds majority needed to pass. The vote is scheduled for Tuesday.
Led by the European Union (E.U.) and Australia, the proposed inquiry aims to investigate “the zoonotic origins of the coronavirus,” or how the Chinese coronavirus was transmitted from animals to humans, according to Reuters on Monday, which previewed a draft of the resolution. Many have posited that the virus originally jumped from animal to human at a Chinese wet market – where exotic animals are sold for human consumption – in December. While unproven, this theory competes with others, including one that the coronavirus originated in a virology lab in China. The calls for an investigation hope to clarify the virus’s origin.
According to the report, the coalition also hopes that the probe will allow an “impartial” evaluation of the W.H.O.’s response to the pandemic, which has been widely criticized. Many countries accuse the W.H.O. of being complicit in China’s cover-up of its initial outbreak in the city of Wuhan last December. The resolution calls for a timeline of the W.H.O.’s response to the virus outbreak.
India’s decision to support the inquiry marks “the first time that India has formally articulated its stand on the coronavirus outbreak,” according to the Hindustan Times, although Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has previously indicated his support for W.H.O. management reform. At a Group of Twenty (G20) summit in March, Modi called for “a new crisis management protocol” for global health bodies in the wake of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, India took over as chair of the W.H.O. executive board, meaning it will have considerable influence on the world health body’s management moving forward.
Indian government sources who previewed the draft resolution pointed out that it does not specifically mention China or Wuhan.
“It has language that was acceptable to all including [the] E.U. and Australia and wasn’t objected to by either China or the U.S.,” an anonymous government official told the Times of India on Monday.
In response to the mounting calls for a coronavirus inquiry, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping insisted that Beijing had “always had an open, transparent, and responsible attitude,” throughout the coronavirus crisis in a video call at the virtual W.H.A. on Monday.
Xi said that China supports a “comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the coronavirus pandemic, but added that an inquiry should be carried out only after the situation “has been brought under control.” Xi said that any investigation into the coronavirus outbreak should be guided by the W.H.O.
China has previously rejected calls for an independent international investigation into the coronavirus outbreak, labeling the demands for an inquiry “politically motivated.” Chinese foreign ministry officials have claimed that the coronavirus may have originated outside of China, sharing conspiracy theories that virus was spread by the U.S. military.
In supporting the resolution, India joins Japan, South Korea, Chinese ally Russia, Britain, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, South Africa, and an African group of 47 member countries.
Since its outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019, the Chinese coronavirus has caused at least 316,898 deaths.