The global figure of incidence of Covid is about to touch the 5 million mark, with death toll having exceeded 3.5 lakh. In certain countries, the pandemic is spreading at a faster pace than the entire preventive machinery in place. In Asia, India has overtaken in the figure of China and is heading to the continent's top spot. In many Indian states, the situation has reached the stage of community spread, regardless of whether officially recognised or not. There is also an evident mismatch between figures officially released and unofficial.
It is in the backdrop of such developments that a crucial session of the World Health Organisation (WHO) was held in Geneva over the last two days. It is hoped that the WHO sesssion, held via video conference, would help seek ways to prevent and eradicate the Covid virus and at the same time enable steps to detect the source of the virus. On the one hand, there are the repeated allegations by President of the US – so far the worst Covid-hit country - that Wuhan in China is the source of the corona virus and behind it is a vicious plan of China to destroy America. Trump also blames the WHO for helping China in hiding this fact despite being aware of China's role in it. He even suspended US funding for WHO on this basis, although it laer agreed under pressure to rethink on the decision. On the one hand, China which declared an aid of USD 2 billion for Covid prevention, has also said that efforts to develop a vaccine against Covid is fast progressing in their country, and as and when they find a vaccine, it would be shared with the entire world. At the same time, a letter sent to the WHO signed by 61 natons, including India, on the face of it lays stress on the need to find the source of the virus, but it is also seen as part of the move to put China on the dock. Allegations have also been raised that although Covid is not a creation of China, there was no sincere or serious effort on the part of Beijing to deal with the start of the problem. However, now that even China has accepted the demand for an independent enquiry about the matter, the path of wisdom would be not to join the dispute raised by Trump and his backers with ulterior agenda.
It is pertinent to wonder why Trump, when severely berating China, chooses to praise India and to reiterate that prime minister Modi is a good friend of his. India as a developing country cannot avoid a healthy competition with China, Asia's biggest economic power. Even as China has made major strides in development and industry, India cannot be allowed to continue for ever as a major market of Chinese products. Reports emerge that many multi-national companies are in a process of moving their production centres out of China, which bears a disrepute of being the source of corona virus. Then it is natural for us to invite the attention of such entities to India. But it is equally important that such policies should not be dictated by the wishes of countries like US, having no considerations other than its own selfish interests and with no sense of justice or humanism. In this context, no one can miss the fact that although the Modi government will keep swearing that national interests would be its top priority, in ultimate analysis the government is swayed by other considerations. It is important to ensure the prevention of the virus and means to stop its spread, as much as it is to get at the source of the virus. And it is no less important to develop a policy and acion plan to build a post-Covid world order. No doubt, this can be achieved only through attracting optimum foreign investments.
The 'Atmanirbhar' schemes that form part of the Rs 20 Lakh Cr package declared by the prime minister can be the steps in that direction. But at the same time when we go whole hog in manufacturing drugs using raw materials imported from China, China's capacity to produce them at a much lower cost and market them at much lower price is also to be realistically factored in. And a prospect that cannot be ruled out of multi-national companies and monopolies, given to focus on the sole factor of profit wherever in the world they are, is of their changing tack at any time. Therefore, when the assurance of WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to study the response of the world to the corona virus – that has spread all over the world – is implemented, it is important for India to take a position that is independent, impartial and pro-active.