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Global solidarity needed to combat Covid-19

opinionGlobal solidarity needed to combat Covid-19

Ghosts of the Wuhan virus victims will haunt China’s leader as long as he is able to last in power and beyond.

The way Covid-19, the great pandemic, unfolded its tentacles across the globe has raised a number of questions including finding ways and mechanisms to combat it. For the first time, the world is witnessing both developed and developing countries facing similar challenges. The most advanced countries, particularly in the field of health sciences, such as the United States and Italy have experienced far greater challenges than developing countries like China and India. The effects of Covid-19 are being felt at multifaceted levels—political, economic, social and diplomatic. Instead of understanding the common predicament across the spectrum, the nation states are busy underscoring their points and the blame game is at an all-time high.
Whether one agrees or not, the current geopolitical environment is still full of mistrust and suspicion. The contemporary debates on Covid-19 have gone much beyond expectations and some of these have gone to the extent of analysing the future of the world system and the balance of power getting tilted towards China, in a completely restructured global order. It seems China wanted the balance of power tilted in its favour and hence used this opportunity to reflect its aspirations. One should be cautious about reaching such conclusions in these critical and difficult times. The US will still remain the largest economy despite the current crisis. However, no country can afford to isolate China because of the nature of inter-dependent equations in the economic sphere. India has been watching these developments with utmost caution. India has shown its global leadership ability in dealing with a global crisis at the domestic level. Its expanse of public health diplomacy and global outreach is well reflected in signalling that it can take on complex responsibilities and address these with well calibrated policy.
There is no denying that the deadly coronavirus originating from Wuhan in China is probably one of the worst pandemics in the history of mankind, affecting the whole world, and for which the scientific community is still searching for an antidote.
The egalitarian nature of the new affliction is ironic. Ideologies, dogmas and countries that prophesised a global unified power structure are now grappling with a common threat that seeks to treat the rich and the poor, the developed and the underdeveloped equally. The mighty global institutions that the Western world built over the years to preside over the destinies of lesser mortals appear to have gone into oblivion. The all powerful Communist Party of China is busy suppressing the truth and secretly burying the dead. Nonetheless, the ghosts of the victims of the deadly Wuhan virus will haunt the supreme leader as long as he is able to last in power and beyond too.
The pandemic seems to have shaken the confidence of the major powers in the contemporary world order. Countries that were boasting of state-of-the-art medical equipment, the best healthcare systems, disease free ideal living conditions and rich and fabulous lifestyles are begging for medicines from an emerging economy whose pharmaceutical products were not found to qualify for even free distribution. India has shown its resilience and has proved that its medicines can be depended on during these critical times.
Meanwhile, the blame game has begun even before scientists have found a vaccine and researchers have zeroed in on the nature of the virus. Everyone is fighting an unknown enemy whose origin is a mystery, whose tools are enigmatic and whose motive is highly suspect. After initially referring to it as the Chinese virus, President Donald Trump seems to have come to terms with his Chinese counterpart and stopped attaching the country of origin tag to Covid-19. This, however, does not absolve China of its culpability in foisting the pandemic on millions of global citizens. It may be easy for China’s supreme leadership to hide facts from its people but a number of keen researchers all over the world are close to determining the chronology of the coronavirus and the sequence of events leading to global epidemic.
It is now established beyond reasonable doubt that even world bodies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) have been careless, sloppy and almost irresponsible in the discharge of its duty. For whatever reason, in its over enthusiasm to protect China from blame, WHO seems to have lowered its guard and covered itself with disgrace. Yet there are a number of WHO functionaries who are passionately carrying on with their assigned duties. The Trump administration has stopped the US’ contribution to WHO’s budget. At about $2,200 million, the budget is just 10% of the total annual advertising expenses of pharmacy companies in the US. Little wonder that the fund crunch seriously impacted WHO’s fight against Ebola epidemic in 2014 just as it has failed this time in tackling Covid-19.
The way global efforts to contain the coronavirus are being undertaken one thing is evident and that is, there is absolute lack of coordination among countries. The UNO also could not find ways to coordinate in an effective manner. There is a lack of common solution to the common problem.
The US and EU are in no position to lead the fight against Covid-19 and no country will trust China in the leadership role. It would therefore boil down to a collective global strategy and solidarity. It is highly imperative for world leaders and global institutions to forge a common platform and put in place a short term strategy to deal with various aspects of the pandemic.
India is already leading the fight against Covid-19 among SAARC countries and has been able to establish a working relationship with a number of countries through its steady supply of medicines and other disposables. With some more effort, India’s manufacturing sector can bounce back, which would address the needs and challenges of both the developed and the developing world. India will require to convert its challenges into opportunity in the current context.
No matter who begins the process, it is of utmost importance that a global platform is created to tackle the situation before half of the world perishes before our eyes. Global solidarity is the need of the hour. Nation states have to shed their differences and come together to find ways and mechanisms to address this challenge. Even to develop a vaccine, nation states have to work together and harness the knowledge pool every nation has. Global solidarity will also be vital for addressing the challenges emanating from the slowing down of the economy.
Dr Arvind Kumar teaches Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Manipal. Seshadri Chari is a political commentator and formerly Convenor of Foreign Affairs Cell of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
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