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Q.9 What impact did the two Covid-19 waves have on India's diplomacy? What challenges does India face in dealing with the pandemic's aftermath in the near future? Explain. (250 words)
Paper & Topic: GS II à Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora
- The world will recall occurrences as either pre-Covid or post-Covid in the future.
- Even India's diplomatic structure reflects this.
- While the focus in 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, was on coordinating COVID-19 medicine exports, flights to repatriate Indians abroad (the 'Vande Bharat Mission') after the lockdown, and then exporting vaccines worldwide ('Vaccine Maitri'),
- Covid Diplomacy 2.0 has a different order of tasks, both in the short and long term, following the second wave.
- Covid-19 waves have had a variety of effects on India's diplomacy.
- When it was supposed to be a prophylactic, India provided hydro chloroquine pills to the United States and many other countries.
- When the Vaccine Maitri programme provided 6 crore vaccines to smaller countries, it received a lot of positive press.
- India also sent Remdesivir, which it is running out of in the second wave.
- India contributed ambulances to Nepal and dispatched a medical team to Bangladesh and Bhutan, among other neighbours.
- The immediate priority was to address the oxygen and pharmaceutical shortages that claimed thousands of lives across the country in a matter of weeks.
- In the last week of April 2021, about 3,000 people died in Delhi alone.
- After the initial rush to send Remdesivir and favipiravir in from the US and Russia, Indian missions are now asking black fungus treatment.
- For its 140 million citizens, India is also considering buying foreign immunizations.
- Challenges arising from the pandemic's aftermath :
- The country's vaccine shortage is the result of three factors:
- The government's failure to plan and place procurement orders on time; two India-based companies' failure to produce vaccine doses they had committed to; and the MEA's focus on exporting rather than importing vaccines between January and April this year.
- These include asking the US to transfer a large chunk of its AstraZeneca stockpile and to release more vaccine ingredients that are now banned for export.
- To purchase additional stock directly from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson in the United States, and to boost vaccine production in India.
- The MEA has had to tread a difficult path on each of these topics.
- Despite support from world leaders such as the United States, Russia, and China, the promise of patent waivers from India's joint proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will not reap early benefits.
- The third major difficulty confronting Indian diplomacy is dealing with the aftermath from the vaccine failure.
- It had to defend its decision to export vaccinations on a national level.
- Smaller countries throughout the world are waiting for second dosages and are in a bind.
- Bhutan's vaccine drive, which relied entirely on India's promise of vaccines for the entire population, is perhaps the most egregious example.
- Making amends and regaining trust for India's vaccine and pharmacy exports in the future will be a challenge left to the MEA and its missions in several capitals.
- With a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council and a seat on the WHO Executive Board, India might try to reclaim the ground it has lost in recent months due to COVID-19 mismanagement by taking the lead in ensuring the world is safeguarded from the next pandemic.