The Chinese virus descended on us like a forest fire. It scythed through people, nations and economies. It upended the global order. A combative China controlled the virus spread and reopened its economy. The virus and health became domains of war through which China fought. Everyone predicted the dawn of a Chinese era of global dominance and the decline of the US and the West. It was well known even then that the long-term curative for the virus is eradication through vaccines. The vaccines have come. The virus has started mutating. We are entering a post ‘control phase’ of the virus into a ‘vaccination phase’/‘post vaccination phase’. Just as the soft power of ‘spread and control’ overturned the hard power of ‘economies’, the soft power of vaccination will again upend economies. Hence ‘efficacy of vaccinations, capacities, capability to vaccinate and ability to deal with mutations’ will be the new currency to dictate economic outcomes. As much as the virus has destroyed or enhanced economies, the vaccines have the potential to do so irrevocably. This story is all about the virus, the vaccines, their behaviour and how they are likely to affect economies and power structures.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS
The Chinese virus has mutated in the UK, Brazil and South Africa (SA). These variants are more contagious and lethal. Existing vaccines are proving to be less effective against them. The Virus continues to change the playing field. You can suppress and delay the Virus by isolation, lockdowns, social distancing, hand sanitation, tracing apps, testing, masks and more control measures. But the virus will infect you one day eventually. There is no escaping from that. Vaccines which are 100% effective prevent infection and onward transmission. That is utopian. In real life, vaccines are proving to be less efficient. However they will save individuals from the severity of disease. You could still get infected and pass it on to others.
The virus will be eventually corralled by herd immunity – achieved either by everyone getting vaccinated or infected. If herd immunity is not achieved through vaccination, suppression only delays the inevitable infection, disease and suffering. That is evident from China which declared victory through strict control. However it is now going through even bigger lock downs than at Wuhan. It has had the most cases since Wuhan in the last one month. Consequently, its manufacturing and services sector has started weakening. Every lockdown and mass testing regime has an associated extractive economic contraction. It is no brainer. People in the tropics are less affected by the Virus than those in the temperate areas. People who are from nations which have vaccination programs are less affected by the virus. Nations with younger populations are more resistant and less affected by the virus. These are empirical facts on ground (see fatality correlation chart). Hence, temperate countries without vaccination programs have to be either vaccinated or under strict prevention control. Tropical countries can tolerate the virus.
As we enter this phase we need to understand the vaccines and their behaviour. The data about leading vaccines, their efficacy, how they work, who are using them, the production capability, their status and other details are given in self-explanatory, charts and tables below. In about six months there will be more options. It must also be noted that there are enough vaccines and capacities to inoculate the entire world population with two doses within 2021. However geopolitics and vaccine nationalism will not permit everyone getting vaccinations in 2021.
Very clearly, the western vaccines have demonstrably greater efficiency. The combined capacity of the West and India far outstrips the Chinese capacities and efficacies. The influence operations of the Chinese propaganda system is thus slowly unravelling. Data about Chinese vaccines are hazy—technologically and capacitively as also not trusted. Its ‘vaccine diplomacy’ is jading. Countries committed earlier to China like Brazil, Cambodia, Bangladesh etc are switching to alternate options. It can be due to either low efficacy or non-availability as required/promised or high prices or all. It is also on cards that China will ditch everyone due to internal compulsions. In turn, it might get ditched by everyone. The first sign of a sinking ship?
HOW WILL VACCINES BEHAVE?
There are some fundamentals about vaccination behaviour which need focus. There is no clarity on the time span of immunity post vaccination. It could be anything between 12–18 months. In such a case annual revaccination is on the cards. Whether past infection will prevent reinfection is also not clear with the highly contagious variants. Hence everyone needs an annual jab to prevent being stricken. Now the crunch. The original virus had a transmissibility (Ro) of 2.5 – 3.5. With a vaccine of 100% efficacy and life-long protection, the estimated level of herd immunity was 60–72%. If the vaccine efficacy is 80%, then the herd immunity required is 75–90%. If the new variants become dominant, it is estimated that herd immunity will be achieved at about 80-85% when using Pfizer and Moderna kind of vaccines. In case of lower efficacies, the entire population would have to be immunised. This is the condition for the Oxford and Chinese vaccines. Additionally vaccine hesitancy will challenge achieving herd immunity in many countries. The negative consequences of all vaccines are not known. Further mutations and vaccine resistance is also unknown but on the cards. Availability is uneven. These are complicating factors. The virus had a severe effect on the major economies of the world with most of them contracting significantly. What will the effect of the vaccinations be?
SOFT POWER OF VACCINATION TO HARD ECONOMIC REVIVAL
A fast roll out in adequate numbers, even if it is of less efficiency, will save people, enable herd immunity and enable people get on with lives. The capacity and ability to do so will dictate future economic power. Hence an analysis was carried out on the vaccination drives of major economies of the world. The forecast is up to 1 June 2021 to get a sense of when herd immunity will be achieved. Beyond that issues will change. The indications seem quite interesting. The data is tabulated below. The EU has just started its vaccination program, Japan is set to start its drive in Feb and data about Russia is patchy. Vaccination drives have started in the US, UK, China and India in earnest. A reasonable analysis is feasible only of these countries. Asymptomatic cases are an important aspect in this analysis since for every case discovered, there are 4-5 times the people who are asymptomatic. This has been factored in. In view of the effect of variants it is approximated that 80 % vaccination is required for herd immunity in the UK and the US. For China and India 100% vaccination is required since their vaccines are less effective. See the table below for details.
United States: The US has sufficient quantities of five highly effective vaccines. All five vaccines with public results have eliminated Covid-19 deaths. It has already vaccinated 27.8 million people in January. It is now vaccinating 1.5 million people per day and will sustain it. By 1 June it is likely to have 160-200 million people who are infected or are asymptomatic. It would have vaccinated about 103 million people. Even allowing that 50% of immunised people might be asymptomatic, the US would have anywhere between 200-300 people in the immunity zone. Herd immunity would be setting in by then. By August it is estimated that herd immunity would have set in and would be sustained thereafter. By the end of 2021 the US economy should be chugging back. When that happens they will ‘build back better’. Also, as the body heals, so will the mind under the new administration (which seems focused). People who were foolish to write off this giant will have to seriously rethink. Its technological prowess has just been demonstrated.
UK: UK is racing against the clock to beat the spread of its local variant. They have put in a regimen to administer the vaccine post haste. They have the technology to put vaccines on the ramp. Their problem seems to be availability of adequate numbers to meet their demand in time. They have put together a ‘war time’ system which includes taking calculated risks. If they continue with the British ‘sensibility’ which is their national hall mark, around 44-50 million would have been immunised by June. Soon after that they should be hitting herd immunity marks. By the end of 2021, its economy should be in restitution.
India: By Jun only 10% of Indians would have been immunised. However India is a unique case. The case load has been inarguably large but effect has been low. It also appears the peak is well past India. Infections have dropped from 100,000 per day in Sep to about 10,000-15,000 per day. Seroprevalence studies suggest that India’s major cities may be approaching herd immunity—even before a vaccine is widely available. The tropical location, young population and a strong vaccination program for other diseases seems to be working for India. The economy is visibly rebounding. The country has tremendous capacity to churn out vaccines which will increase with time. As I write this around 60 countries have already approached India formally for vaccines and 10 million doses have been dispatched as gifts to neighbours. It is a unique opportunity to provide an alternative to Chinese supply chains, unbind itself from Chinese dependency grip and forge ahead economically. Its vaccine diplomacy should not only reap soft power but generate hard remuneration. When the UN Secretary General says that “India’s vaccine production capacity is one of the best assets the world has today”, he is saying a lot.
China: China is a temperate country with ageing population, semi vaccinated ( general vaccination was interrupted during the cultural revolution) with proven vulnerability to its virus. Its control of viral spread earlier implies that it has to now vaccinate more. It needs 2.8 billion doses to achieve 100% herd immunity. By June it might be able to vaccinate only 10% of its population. Even if capacities are increased, by the end of the year they might vaccinate, at best, 30% people. Officially, China will produce enough doses by the end 2021 to cover 70% of its population. However, a senior executive at Sinopharm, opined it would probably take ‘a year or two’ to vaccinate 500 million people domestically (36% of the population). Take the typical military ‘Section average’. Herd immunity in China is a long way off. China will continue with control measures, sporadic lockdowns, and mass testing through 2021 and into 2022. By then the annual revaccination will be due. They will also have to put in some control measures to keep the more contagious variants out. Till the virus swirls around China it will drag their economy down. The BRI is turning into a heap of bad debts. Their military expenditure has increased. Relocation of supply chains will happen. Technology denial will be a norm here after. All this is happening when China is at its peak productive phase. Soon China will start feeling the effect of ageing. Add all these facts. If after all this someone says that an era of Chinese global domination has begun—all the best.
Other countries: As per available literature, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia have secured enough vaccine supplies for their populations. Given the fact that they are smaller populations, they will manage to put in place measures to vaccinate their people to herd immunity levels as their programs roll out. Their economies will be getting back into shape by the end of the year.
Just as the virus destroyed the global order, the vaccines will reset the global order once again. I will not be surprised if China approaches India for vaccines to tide over a crisis. Time to play hard ball on many issues is approaching. Our vaccine capacities will give us enormous leverages. We need to use it intelligently to convert our soft vaccine power into hard economic and diplomatic power.
Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenization of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read onwww.gunnersshot.com.
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‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’
The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.
Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.
On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”
He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”
SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI
The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.
Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.
Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.
Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.
Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.
During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.
To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.
Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.
With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.
IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT
An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.
The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.
The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.
More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.
During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.
Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the
IAF, he said.
ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR
JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.
Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.
Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.
BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.
The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.
BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.
According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.
“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”
As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.
Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.
IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US
In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.
Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.
The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.
The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.
The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.
The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.
The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services.
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