Updated: May 18, 2020 9:05:13 am
India is among 62 countries that have moved a proposal at the World Health Assembly to “identify the zoonotic source” of the coronavirus and asked for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the WHO’s response to Covid-19. China and the US are not part of the resolution.
The proposal is part of a seven-page draft resolution moved by 35 countries and the 27-member European Union, and is likely to be taken up on Monday at the Assembly, which is the decision-making body of the WHO.
The resolution is being backed by three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — UK, Russia and France — along with Japan, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, South Africa and Turkey, among others.
But Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan are not signatories to the resolution. From the SAARC nations, only Bangladesh and Bhutan have signed up.
This is the first time India has taken a position in an international forum on the origin of the virus and the need for an independent evaluation of WHO’s response to the crisis. So far, New Delhi had maintained that it is engaged in the fight against Covid-19, and will revisit the issue after the crisis is over.
The virus is widely believed to have originated from China’s Wuhan, where the first case of Covid-19 was reported. China had recently indicated it may support a review “at an appropriate time”, but also slammed the “politicisation” of the virus’s origin “by the US and some other countries”, and an inquiry “based on the presumption of guilt”.
The draft resolution asks WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to “initiate at the earliest appropriate moment…a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response, and the actions of the WHO and its “timeline” of the pandemic.
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It asks the WHO chief to work with the World Organisation for Animal Health to conduct “scientific and collaborative field missions” and “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts”.
India has been part of several inter-governmental consultations with some of the signatories of the resolution — Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has had multiple conversations with his counterparts from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. There have been at least 7-8 group-phone calls with these countries, along with the US Deputy Secretary Stephen E Biegun.
On Sunday, Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Weidong tweeted: “As neighbours, friends & partners, China & India share the same feelings & face the common task at this difficult time. On 70th anniversary of our diplomatic ties, we must win this battle against COVID19 together & build a community with a shared future for mankind.”
Earlier, Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong had tweeted: “Wuhan city in #China first reported COVID19 cases, but that does not mean the virus originated in Wuhan. #WHO has specific rules on how to name the virus. It is irresponsible to connect the virus with Wuhan and stigmatize China.”
On Monday, the Assembly will also hold a vote to determine whether to grant observer status to Taiwan. China is opposing the move, while the US is leading a group of powerful countries in support of Taiwan’s claim. India has not made its decision public.
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