A team of coronavirus scientists associated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China has been reportedly testing dangerous pathogens, with Pakistan in tow, for the past five years. The experiments are being conducted under the guise of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), reports claim.

The news comes less than a month after reports surfaced that China and Pakistan have entered into a secret three-year agreement to expand potential bio-warfare capabilities including research projects related to the deadly anthrax. Pakistan, however, has repeatedly refuted such claims. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has drawn the international spotlight in recent months because the novel coronavirus is thought to have originated in Wuhan.

What are China's Plans?

Coronavirus Patients
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has drawn the international spotlight in recent months because the novel coronavirus is thought to have originated in Wuhan (Representative Image) Wikipedia

Scientists from Wuhan are believed to have been experimenting with deadly pathogens somewhere in Pakistan since 2015, according to a new report by Australian investigative newspaper The Klaxon. The report claims that results of at least five high-profile studies conducted by Wuhan and Pakistani scientists have already been published in scientific papers. Each of the studies involves the "detection and characterization" of "zoonotic pathogens".

The report comes at a time when the entire world has been crippled by the coronavirus outbreak that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. The COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 is at present being considered the deadliest pathogen although there are scores of such "zoonotic pathogens" that can be equally fatal for the human race.

Zoonotic pathogens are infectious diseases that can pass from animals to humans. The studies that are reportedly being conducted by the Wuhan scientists along with their Pakistani counterparts comprise experiments and genome sequencing of the West Nile Virus, MERS-Coronavirus, Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Virus, the Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Virus and the Chikungunya Virus. Among these, none presently have a cure and most are considered highly contagious and deadly.

Pakistan Supporting China

Coronavirus
Patients are seen at a temporary hospital converted from "Wuhan Livingroom" in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 10, 2020. In face of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic, Wuhan authorities have transformed public venues such as exhibition centers and gymnasiums into temporary hospitals. The hospitals have a large capacity of treating patients with mild symptoms and play an important role in isolating the source of infection and cutting off the routes of infection during epidemic prevention. The first batch of patients was hospitalized on Feb. 5. (Xinhua/Xiong Qi/IANS) Xinhua/IANS

The results of the five studies were reportedly published between December 2017 and March 9 this year. For the five studies, blood samples were collected from thousands of Pakistani men, women and children, mainly those who resided in remote areas and worked closely with animals during this period. Moreover, each of the studies was "supported" by the International Cooperation on Key Technologies of Biosafety along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship component of China's massive BRI infrastructure project.

The report also claims that Wuhan scientists are not only testing this deadly pathogens but also are imparting "extensive training on manipulation of pathogens and bio-informatics" to their Pakistani counterparts with the aim of enriching a "potential offensive biological program".

The news comes less than a month after it was reported that China entered into three-year deal with Pakistan military's Defense Science and Technology Organization (DESTO) to expand potential bio-warfare capabilities, including running research projects related to the deadly anthrax.

The fresh report once again heats up the debate on whether the deadly coronavirus was man-made. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has drawn the international spotlight in recent months because the novel coronavirus is thought to have originated in Wuhan. There had been speculation that the disease may have emerged from that laboratory, however most experts have since discounted the theory.

Pakistan entering into a deal with China at the same time also raises concern over Islamabad using the technology in bio-fare in the future. However, Pakistan has earlier claimed that such reports as "politically motivated and fake story".