India should prepare itself for realpolitik over a covid vaccine

The first country to have full immunity to the coronavirus will enjoy a tremendous economic and geopolitical advantage, a once-in-a-century window of opportunity till other countries catch up. As much as the covid-19 pandemic is accepted as a challenge for all humanity, realism— that dismal but unfortunately accurate way of reading international relations—suggests that countries which acquire the vaccine first will be tempted to use this relative advantage to promote their national interests.

So it matters who gets to the vaccine first. India cannot afford to be a have-not, both for reasons of public health and to safeguard its strategic interests.

If there was ever a clear and present danger that confronted the human species as a whole, it is now. It should follow then that the world should set aside political differences and work together to defeat the virus. Vaccines and drugs should be made universally available as soon as they are invented. Yet, there is no sign that this would be the case.

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