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The Great Game 2.0 in Asia: The Dragon starts and wins?!

It is encouraging to see how a science-based approach to predicting events works in practice. One example is the author's theoretical forecast which is a month old, that seems to be starting to take shape.

I recall the issue was (based on one of the Indian experts' opinion) the theoretical possibility of Beijing's institutionalization of the "Himalayan Quad" project (China, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan) as a counterweight to the pro-American "Quartet" (Australia, India, the United States and Japan). A relevant article was also published in the Indian media space to become a precedent for the author's commentary for the South China Morning Post.

The fact is that in February, at their first virtual summit, the Quad leaders agreed to launch a vaccine collaboration program for the Indo-Pacific region, with a focus on Southeast Asia (ASEAN). Based on that, it was hypothesized that the noble goal of this initiative could be seen as a hidden attempt to counter Chinese vaccine diplomacy (the Silk Road of Health).

And now, just slightly more than two months after, China is making a countermove that could well be considered through the prism of the real construction of the "Himalayan Quad", but only in a targeted, practice-oriented format, with an emphasis on vaccine diplomacy.

For example, the Chinese Global Times reports that against India's surging morbidity, on April 27, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a meeting with his counterparts from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to discuss efforts to fight COVID-19 and post-pandemic economic recovery of the region's economies.

China also extended the invitation to India to attend the online meeting, the article said, but in fact it was held without Indian representatives.

Given the emphasis placed in the article, there is no doubt that, using the "grave epidemic situation in India" that "may cause a spillover effect in India's neighboring countries, and then spread to more Asian countries", under the pretext of "urgent task to protect people of South Asia countries from the spillover effect of the outbreak in India", Beijing intercepts the "Quartet's" strategic initiative.

This, in particular, may be evidenced by the agreements reached in the course of the meeting.

In view of the disrupted vaccine supplies in the region due to pandemic outbreak in India and considering its status as a major vaccine manufacturing hub, the foreign ministers who attended the online meeting agreed on building a reserve platform for emergency-response supplies from China, enhancing capabilities in dealing with public health crises and exploring vaccine cooperation.

They also reached a consensus on protecting vulnerable people and ensuring the supply chain stability while resuming people-to-people exchanges with regular epidemic prevention measur.

Of particular note is the joint statement on opposing any form of "vaccine nationalism".

The head of Chinese diplomacy reiterated that "China firmly opposes willful and illegal interference with other countries' internal affairs or coercing others to pick sides, and unilateral, protectionist and bullying tactics".

The Chinese representatives explained that as a developing economy, China has always offered its vaccines to the rest of the world as public good, compared with India who tends to act with a geopolitical consideration.

It is emphasized that China's support to Asian countries in fighting COVID-19 is consistent and aims to strengthen regional health safety. Dismissing claim that China is playing vaccine diplomacy in South Asia, it is noted that China's aid to neighboring and other countries had never stopped, and other statements are ill-motivated.

The number of companies that can produce COVID-19 vaccines in China will expand from five to 18, which will significantly increase production capacity, will stabilize cooperation on vaccines and while gradually increasing localization.

Of special attention is the fact that Chinese vaccine producers are committed to providing technological transfer in accelerating vaccine development and ensuring the supplies, first of all, in developing economies along the Belt and Road routes.

To summarize this brief overview of the event, it would be appropriate to recall one of the conclusions made by the author in the above-mentioned article and shared by most foreign experts (mainly Indian): "Experts believe that further dynamics of the Quad's development will depend on the China's response, its perception by ASEAN, as well as the ability to actually implement their commitments»…