China witnessed the first case possibly in early Dec 19, by the time it realized that it was facing a crisis of an unknown and unparalleled nature it was middle of Dec 19. WHO declared it as Public Health Emergency of International on 30 January 20. Please refer to WHO official website. It was only on 11 March 20 that the WHO DG declared it as a Pandemic.
By this time China had already flattened the graph of growth of COVID19 in its country but the virus had started playing havoc in the rest of the world. At the time of writing this article the global figures stand at 34,168,420 with deaths at 1,018,896 and recoveries just stand at 25,437,787. On the other hand China is sitting pretty at their new Covid19 cases falling to almost negligible.
Important takeaways from events till now is that as time passes growth becomes exponential. Many European countries are seeing a second wave of Covid19. However, in case of China the growth has come under control within six to eight weeks. So what is so dramatic that China was able to do that rest of the developed countries with excellent medical facilities and low density of population are unable to achieve. It is this aspect which is raising questions in the minds of many.
Voices are coming from many quarters that it was a biological weapon plan of China that prematurely got initiated. Given China’s advance knowledge they were able to deal with it very effectively and efficiently!!
Reality Check of Bio-Warfare. On the face of it and given the allegation and counter allegation by US and China on each other in the media, impression of a bio-weapon agent getting awry leading to the Pandemic are gaining ground. However, a number of experts like Captain Raghuraman former Secretary, Government of India NATGRID has suggested against this idea. Besides, China having ratified the Biological Weapons Conventions in 1984 (Convention has 182 countries), the uncontainable nature of bio-weapons in terms of space and strain of mutation makes it unusable. These characteristics are likely to endanger the attacking country as well, hence normally militaries world over do not prefer bio weapons.
In addition, the reaction of the international community against a defaulting country is likely to be very severe with unacceptable consequences. Hence, China is unlikely to have planned for a bio-warfare. However, now that China has successfully, put an end to the epidemic, exploitation of the situation in the aftermath of COVID19 cannot be ruled out – especially to further its economic interests. Whether it can do so, is a moot point and subject of another discussion.
Who Can Use Such a Weapon? Above notwithstanding, the situation can be exploited by the non-state actor brigade led by ISIS and AQ. There have been a number of instances of use of bio -weapons by non-state actors in the past. Some examples are Tokyo Subway Sarin attack by Aum Shinrikyo, Anthrax attacks post 9/11 in USA and attempt by followers of Godman Rajneesh to use Salmonella typhimurium bacteria to affect a local election by infecting doorknobs and salad bars in restaurants in Oregon, USA.
These incidents may motivate the current crop of Islamic radical groups such as ISIS, AQ, Pak based groups like LeT, JeM, HuM to use COVID to spread bio terror. In the instant case of COVID-19, no evidence is suggesting till now of a non-state actor of being involved in either in initiation of COVID-19. However, it may be noted that non state actors may use their suicide squads to spread COVID19 in countries against whom they are fighting.
Therefore, we need to be careful of groups such as AQ, ISIS and Pak based terror groups such as LeT, JeM and HuA unleashing suicide squads to attack India, US and other countries considered by them as enemies of Islam. This calls for the intelligence agencies to remain alert to such a possibility and security forces to take pre-emptive action to neutralize such a threat when detected.
The important lesson that emerges is to institute necessary disaster and disease management control, either due to an accidental release of bio agent or its intentional use by a state or a non-state actor (terrorists). The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and State Disaster Management Authority (SDMAs) have to prepare themselves in right earnest and build capability to deal with bio disaster and epidemics.
Blame Game and Information Warfare. Finally, as highlighted earlier, demand is coming from a number of quarters in the public to make China accountable for COVID-19. Even China realizes this and has made some feeble attempts to throw the blame at the door step of US.
For example The Guardian has reported that in China, a spokesman of PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested that the US military could be to blame for the virus. Chinese government officials and the CCP’s propaganda machine is busy promoting this conspiracy theory. The Guardian goes on to add that even the US is leaving no stone unturned to put the blame on China. It also stated that one of the Republican senators called it a bio -weapon.
The truth can only be ascertained after a detailed investigation by a neutral agency probably under the UN. Till then we are likely to see an intense information warfare campaign. Recent hacking attempt on WHO site and overplaying of the Robert Redfield’s video, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted by the People’s Daily. Redfield was asked whether there may have been deaths attributed to influenza that could actually have been the result of Covid-19. He responded in the affirmative. Other reports that are flooding the Chinese media following this video read, “The US has finally acknowledged that among those who had died of the influenza previously were cases of the corona-virus. The true source of the virus was the US!” one commentator said. “The US owes the world, especially China, an apology,” another said. “American corona-virus,” one wrote.
The theory has gained further traction over the past few weeks, after a respected epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan, said in a passing remark at a press conference on 27 February that although the virus first appeared in China “it may not have originated in China”. Later on Zhong clarified that the first place where the virus was discovered does not equate to the source of the virus but it also does not mean that virus came from abroad. However, the Chinese media and authorities have underplayed his clarification and overplayed his initial statement.
These allegations may not be true as majority of experts feel that the virus was first detected in China and the consequent delay to cover up the cases by the CCP led to the virus going out of control for which the entire world is now paying a heavy price especially US and Europe in terms of lives and economic cost. Even India is reeling under an economic slowdown.
In conclusion what emerges clearly is that post COVID – 19, a number of questions will have to be answered by China. The best way to ascertain this would be through an impartial and neutral enquiry under the aegis of UNO. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) also needs to develop sound bio, chemical and radiation disaster capability. Similarly, Armed Forces should also look at enhancing their CBRN capabilities. Intelligence agencies need to remain on guard for a likely use of COVID-19 by terrorists to spread COVID cases in India. Security forces must also remain alive to the possibility of bio terrorism.
 WHO, https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen (accessed on 02 April 20)
Worldometer, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#page-top (accessed on 02 April 20)
 Raghu, Raman, ““Is COVID-19 a Bioweapon created by China?” https://medium.com/@captraman/is-covid-19-a-bioweapon-created-by-china-89784753aecf (accessed on 31 Mar 20)
 Mollie Williams; Daniel C. Sizemore, “Biologic, Chemical, and Radiation Terrorism Review,”
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493217/ (accessed on 2 April 20).
 Michael, H. Fuchs, “The US-China coronavirus blame game is undermining diplomacy”, 31 March 31, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/31/us-china-coronavirus-diplomacy (accessed on 31 Mar 20).
 “American coronavirus’: China pushes propaganda casting doubt on virus origin”, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/conspiracy-theory-that-coronavirus-originated-in-us-gaining-traction-in-china(accessed on 31 Mar 20)