Fri, 21 Jan 2022

Washington [US], December 8 (ANI): As the world continues to campaign to overcome vaccine hesitancy, Pakistan appears to be creating anti-vaccine sentiment with the aim of spreading sectarian discord.

In an opinion piece for Washington based The National Interest, an American scholar has highlighted how groups apparently aligned with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency appear to be sabotaging vaccination campaigns deliberately.

This is being done to further sectarian discord and to deny any diplomatic gain their opponents' goodwill vaccination diplomacy might achieve.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, cited the example of Hindu faith-based charity group Sewa International USA which has nearly four dozen chapters across the country and serves Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

Sewa, which has been active in both vaccination and fundraising campaigns in both the US and India, began facing problems at the height of India's second COVID-19 wave, when then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced a USD 2.5 million donations for the group to help its anti-COVID efforts in India.

Soon after the announcement was made, the blogosphere erupted and an activist named Pieter Friedrich posted an article to a self-publication platform Medium, alleging that Sewa was the "welfare wing" of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Rubin said that sparked follow-on articles in more mainstream publications amplifying the criticism. Friedrich then announced a hunger strike to protest the donation, repeating the charge that Sewa was affiliated with RSS.

Rubin explained how that Friedrich is known primarily for gadfly efforts to cancel Mahatma Gandhi in both US and in South Asian circles. Friedrich often accuses the Indian founding father of everything from "white supremacy" to promoting Adolf Hitler.

The US scholar has argued that the Biden administration should continue to pursue its vaccine diplomacy and at the same time act against Pakistan's government, which is weaponizing COVID-19.

"American efforts to immunize those in India and elsewhere against COVID-19 can buy the same goodwill and have the same lasting impact that George W. Bush-era efforts to counter HIV in Africa have had," he said.

Meanwhile, Rubin also insists that it is important not only to provide vaccines and education but also to expose against unregistered foreign agents who seek to obfuscate and undermine efforts domestically.

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