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Some astute observers had warned as early as last year that the chaos created by coronavirus is not natural. It has been imposed on us. But when our house catches fire, we try to extinguish it—instead of heeding the apprehensions. Now, when it is a common belief that we have to learn to live with covid-19 for a long time, the need for a serious assessment of such conspiracy theories is also being felt. US President Joe Biden last week ordered intelligence officials to submit an investigation report about the origins of the virus within 90 days. With this, the low chorus of conspiracy theories has turned into a clamour.

Before Biden, Donald Trump had also expressed such apprehensions. At that time presidential elections were being held in America and Trump was not taken very seriously. But even at that time, many scholars were busy researching these issues. These included Nobel Prize-winning virologists as well as military experts. Similar voices were being raised by countries like Australia, the UK, France, etc. Everywhere it was being discussed that the virus did not spread on its own, that there might be a special purpose behind this. The arguments put forward do indeed emphasize the need for a thorough investigation.

The P-4 lab in Wuhan, where the virus is said to have originated, has been run by scientists from the Chinese Air Force. A major general leads this organization even now. China started recruiting scientists in its army in 2015. This year marked a very important juncture in Sino-US relations. It was the time when Chinese officials told their American counterparts that since the Chinese defence system is equal to theirs, China should be treated as an equal power.

In some news articles published in Australia, it has been claimed that a report of the Chinese defence ministry during the same period clearly states that the Third World War will be fought and won with biological weapons. The veracity of this report is also strengthened by the fact that during this period China prepared its selected military divisions to deal with biological weapons. Is that why China initially tried to cover up the covid-19 outbreak?

American intelligence agencies claim that in November 2019, three scientists of the Wuhan Institute of Virology were infected by it and admitted to the hospital. China must have informed WHO about this to alert the rest of the world in time. But this was done only at the end of December. It is also being questioned that China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping restricted all internal movements in the country, but international flights continued and sea routes were not sealed. And by these routes, the virus spread all over the world.

Another question is that how did the RT-PCR test start in the hospitals of China in January? Were they already prepared for this? The speed with which China overcame this epidemic is also astonishing. The world is still battling this havoc, but China is on the path of progress. It is the only big country in the world where the annual budget is not in the red. It also needs to be kept in mind that nuclear weapons are now becoming a story of the past. It’s no more the monopoly of a few. In such a situation, only biological weapons are going to give the status of superpower.

In such a situation it is hard to get rid of such apprehensions, even for neutral people. China has long been behaving like a major economic and military superpower. Once US President George Bush had projected it as the biggest rival at the beginning of this century. Had it not been for 9/11, the US and China might have already been locking horns. After 9/11 for the next two decades, the US was fully engaged in the fight against terrorism and the rest of the issues were kept on the back burner. This is why Wuhan scientists continued to get help from many countries of the West, including America. Perhaps they did not think that they were helping to create some kind of a Prometheus.

These facts might be astonishing but they also require caution. With every calamity, we always get a huge number of conspiracy theories. One should not make the mistake of taking them as the truth without proper investigation. China is the second largest power of the world and before taking any steps, western countries should check their findings objectively. Here, China is also expected to offer cooperation during the course of the investigation itself. Though not much is expected, if it happened it will show the good intentions of China. It allowed the WHO’s team to enter after 10 months. The team could not even visit the Wuhan lab, only to be content with studying the wet market. Such a mischievous attitude of the leaders sits heavily on humanity.

Once again, the question arises from this turmoil: Are we heading towards a new Cold War or something even worse?

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal.

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