“Just as Lord Hanuman brought the holy medicine from the Himalayas to save the life of Lord Rama’s brother Lakshmana, India and Brazil will overcome this global crisis by joining forces and sharing blessings for the sake of all peoples”[i]
President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro
The prompt response of the Government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been lauded by nation states and international organisations alike, with the likes of President Donald Trump[i] of the United States and WHO Director General Dr. TedrosGhebreyesus praising India for the leadership it has displayed in dealing with this pandemic. India’s active efforts in setting up a joint response of South Asia has been well received by members of the SAARC[ii], and has served as an effective counter to attempts by Chinese authorities to influence the narrative[iii] on the origin of COVID-19, more commonly referred to as Novel Coronavirus.
At a time when the Chinese have been attempting to buy the silence of various nations through a medical Marshallian plan of pushing medical teams and faulty protective equipment[iv], India’s diplomacy at the international fora has been well received, with many asking for India to be accorded a more dominant role in South Asian Geopolitics.[v]
India has for centuries practiced its preaching of VasudhaivaKutumbakam[vi] (The world is one family) where it has been at the forefront in dispatching humanitarian aid with no strings attached. This vision of India has been strengthened under the Modi doctrine which has sought to assist and aid, and has shattered the erstwhile image of an India that used to punch below its weight. In the case of this pandemic, while many nations chose to tread carefully in terms of placing advisories in the early stages, India was actively involved in dispatching medical teams to China[vii] and Iran[viii]. The MEA was prompt in getting back our citizens who were stranded abroad and worked closely with the armed forces and medical teams in setting up quarantine centres. India has also placed two naval ships which can be deployed to any nation that seeks assistance.[ix]
The stark difference between the Indian approach and that adopted by Beijing was also quite visible in terms of dealing with the South Asian region. While India chose to build quarantine shelters in close coordination with Maldives and Nepal, actively pursuing for cooperation amongst the SAARC, Beijing went about signing loans worth USD 500 million with countries like Sri Lanka under the garb of ‘helping it mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic’[x]. Countries like Pakistan, for whom relations with China take priority over everything else due to their financial condition, went a step further in refusing to withdraw their students from the epicentre Wuhan, in a show of ‘solidarity’[xi]. The attempts of China therefore, have culminated in giving rise to a wariness amongst various nations on receiving aid from Beijing, and has consolidated India’s position as a responsible leader in this Multipolar world. The pre-emptive, pro-active and graded response of India serves as an innovative model that must be taken into consideration by the various nations. A global pandemic has shown that it is time for the world to accord due recognition to India’s role as a leader in the subcontinent.
Shaurya Bhandari is a B.A.LL.B(Hons.) student at National Law University, Jodhpur.
[i] ‘Will not be forgotten: Donald Trump thanks India, PM Modi for supplying hydroxychloroquine to US’, Indiatoday.in (9 April 2020)
[ii]‘India reaches out to SAARC with rapid response teams, platform for health info exchange’, Times of India (3 April 2020)
[iii] ‘China is fighting the Coronavirus Propaganda War to Win’, Foreignpolicy.com (20 March 2020)
[iv] ‘Coronavirus: Countries reject Chinese made equipment’, BBC news (30 March 2020)
[v] ‘PM Modi’s CoVID-19 video-conference reasserts India’s leadership role in South Asia’, Economic Times (15 March 2020)
[vi]Vedantic dictum that appears in the Maha Upanishad (VI.71-73)
[vii] ‘India provided 15 tonnes of medical supplies worth Rs. 2.11 Crore to Coronavirus-hit China: Government’ Economic Times (18 March 2020)
[viii] ‘Coronavirus: A team of Indian Health officials is in Iran, says Jaishankar’, Business Standard (14 March 2020)
[ix] ‘Army medical teams, 2 Navy ships ready to help friendly nations’, The Hindu (26 March 2020)
[x] ‘China’s Coronavirus Debt Traps are coming’, Foreignpolicy.com (23 March 2020)
[xi] ‘Pakistan not to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan in show of ‘solidarity’ with China’, Indiatoday.in (31 January 2020)