Published: April 22, 2020 1:20:07 am
Speed had become the most distinguishing feature of the globalised world in the 21st century. But now, COVID-19 has hit humanity like a huge speed breaker. It has compelled us to turn the spotlight inwards. With an unimaginably serious threat of vulnerability to the virus, the fear of coronavirus will, quite understandably, haunt us for a long time. This disease is going to alter not just our ways of thinking, but also the ways of conducting ourselves as individuals.
The changes that the global community may well be staring at, are multi-dimensional. Prior to COVID-19, our public and private lives were, increasingly, becoming more contrived, “event” centric: Post-pandemic, we will be compelled to control our itch for turning everything into a spectacle. And when such “events” are reduced, perhaps, the level of our Facebook activism will also be proportionately lowered. The way we celebrate, worship and engage socially will undergo some change.
The ultra-individualist West is going to feel this sense of isolationism more. People in countries like India, where the culture of collectivism is more established, are more likely to withstand the tensions of this transformation. Because in India, there is near-perfect balance between individualism and privacy on the one hand, and collectivism and exposure on the other hand. Reconciling individualistic identities with their larger context is inherent to Indian philosophy. The essence of our great epics — the Ramayana and the Mahabharata — holds a mirror to this constant interplay between individualism and collectivism, which finally leads to a beautiful convergence.
In this context one has to see India’s remarkable role as the global community faces the COVID-19 challenge. India’s partnership with the global community has three main dimensions: It starts with the doctrinal and emotional, before moving on to the technical and knowledge-based dimension. Finally, it becomes about resource mobilisation and, in that sense, acquires a material dimension.
Devastated by the onslaught of COVID-19, the global community needed leadership that possess a firm resolve to face the challenge and a sensitive, healing touch. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiatives, like the special SAARC meeting on COVID-19, creation of a special SAARC fund and the virtual G-20 summit added to the huge expectations of the world from India. A series of tele-conversations happened between PM Modi and the heads of governments from other countries — this is testimony to how the global community is looking forward to a proactive role from India.
Since April 3, 2020, PM Modi has had telephonic discussions with a number of world leaders including the US president Donald Trump, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Australian PM Scott Morrison, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez Perez-Castejon, Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and the prime minister of Nepal, K P Sharma Oli. Issues like the status of COVID-19 pandemic, mutual support and facilitation as well as India’s steps to counter the pandemic figured in these dialogues.
India has helped many developing and underdeveloped countries with medicines and medical equipment, and has also tried to strengthen bilateral knowledge-relationship. It started with SAARC, and a major deliverable that’s underway is an information exchange platform (IEP) for SAARC countries. It is a platform to bring health professionals of SAARC countries closer and facilitate the exchange of information, knowledge, expertise, online training and best practices for combating the pandemic, in real time.
Besides helping developing countries, India is also engaging with countries like the US through collaboration in the areas of diagnostics and therapeutics of the disease. Under the existing bilateral collaboration in the healthcare sector, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US shared important reagents with the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in Gurugram. Such cooperation is expected to play a big role in developing new therapeutics and testing reagents for COVID-19. Countries worst-hit by the COVID-19 crisis in the European Union and other parts of the world have been investing in multiple research projects. Currently, the MEA is in the process of identifying the scope of collaboration with countries on vaccines, diagnostics etc.
India’s resources and material help, extended to several countries majorly in the form of medicines, is also remarkable. Under India’s commitment of $10 million, medical supplies/equipment have been provided to Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka. They will shortly be provided to Afghanistan and Nepal too. Medical aid, in the form of select supplies from India, has also been sent to countries like Seychelles, Mauritius, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar, and some African countries too, without compromising with the domestic need. When the US requested India, we supplied medicines to them too. The government has also cleared the export of COVID-19 drugs to countries such as Spain, Brazil, Bahrain, Germany and the UK, in line with the commercial contracts signed with Indian pharmaceutical companies.
Historically, India’s global role was never limited to Track-One or Track-Two diplomacies, to use established parlance. A remarkably confident, composed and, truly, “New India” is today partnering with the world community in this global struggle — and this partnership goes beyond established norms of diplomacy. What we are engaging in is, in fact, our endeavour to implement what we have always believed in: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the world is one family.
The writer is national vice president, BJP, and a Rajya Sabha MP
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