Source: Times of Malta
Provided by: The High Commission of India, Malta
Written by: Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar
The world had been witnessing a rapid flux in geo-politics and international relations over the past few years. These trends became much more pronounced in 2020 with the advent of the coronavirus. At the beginning of 2021 the world was looking at the coming year with some hope and optimism. However, last year witnessed the eruption of the most devastating Delta variant in March, 2021. Today the world is staring at the havoc being perpetrated by the new Omicron variant.
Under these demanding circumstances, India has taken several bold steps to emerge as a global leader in many significant areas. Not only has it been able to effectively handle the numerous challenges domestically but it has also resolutely moved to extend a helping hand to many foreign partners to ameliorate their suffering. This is in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion at his first address to the UN General Assembly Session in September 2014, soon after assuming power, that India’s foreign policy is governed by India’s age-old maxim of ‘’Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’’ (The World is One Family).
Vaccine Maitri Initiative
One year ago, on January 16, 2021, India set out on the formidable journey of vaccinating its huge 1.38 billion-strong population against COVID-19. Over this period, more than 90% of the Indian eligible population has received the first dose and above 65% have received both the doses. Additionally, precautionary doses, commonly known as booster shots, are now being given to frontline workers and vulnerable individuals above the age of 60 years. Youth between the ages of 15-18 years started receiving their first dose from January 3, 2022. Vaccination of children between 12-14 years is expected to start soon.
Following the vision of ‘’One Earth, One Health’’ propounded by PM Modi, India started sharing its vaccines with the outside world within four days of the commencement of its own vaccination drive. In accordance with the ‘’Neighbourhood First’’ Policy enunciated by PM Modi at the beginning of his first term, Bhutan and Maldives became the first countries to receive 150,000 and 100,000 vaccines respectively on January 20, 2021. Bangladesh and Nepal came next on January 21, 2021. Myanmar, Seychelles, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan followed soon thereafter. Although India has not recognised the Taliban dispensation in Kabul since it took over power by force on August 15, 2021, as has no other country in the world, it has not hesitated to provide, essential medicines including additional one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and about four tons of life-saving drugs and equipment as humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. All these items were supplied to the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul by air via Dubai and Iran as Pakistan did not allow use of its territory for overland transit to Afghanistan, which would have been the shortest and quickest route.
Supplies of vaccines were welcomed with deep gratitude by the recipient countries. Bhutan’s PM applauded “the gesture that signifies compassion and generosity of PM Modi, and people of India for wellbeing of humanity.” He added: “It is of unimaginable value when precious commodities are shared even before meeting your own needs.” Bangladesh Health Minister said that India had stood by Bangladesh during the Liberation War of 1971 as well as the pandemic. Nepalese PM thanked PM Modi and the Indian government for the “generous grant..at this critical time when India is rolling out vaccination for its own people.” Brazilian President thanked PM Modi with a picture of Lord Hanuman bringing the holy “Sanjeevani”. Prime Minister of Dominica said after receiving the COVID-19 vaccines: “I must confess that I did not imagine that the prayers of my country would be answered so swiftly.” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres termed India’s vaccine production capacity as the “best asset”, the world has to fight the pandemic. US State Department; PM of Mauritius; DG, WHO; Bill Gates and several others spoke appreciatively of the selfless manner in which India helped several developing countries with the vaccines.
India had to temporarily curtail these supplies when the second wave of the virus struck India in April, 2021 but they were resumed as soon as the situation and supplies normalised.
This initiative significantly enhanced the influence and image of the country. The fact that India has been able to develop, manufacture and use several vaccines domestically has significantly enhanced India’s status as a rising scientific and technological power.
India took several initiatives during this period to ensure that its growth in the coming years would be green, clean, sustainable and reliable. At the COP 26 Summit in Glasgow in Oct/Nov 2021, India committed to the target of net zero by 2070. India, with 17% of the world’s population contributes merely 5% to the global greenhouse gas emissions. As a result of efforts over past years, 40% of India’s energy generation is being contributed by non-fossil fuel sources. This emphasizes India’s commitment to sustainable development as it achieved the target under the Paris Accord, nine years before the due date of 2030. India is the only G20 member which is meeting its commitments under the Paris Agreement. This has enabled it to emerge as a world leader in this critical area where earlier it used to be on the defensive.
India registered significant progress in several other domains, both domestic and external, during the pandemic period. More than 10 thousand start-ups were registered in the last six months. India is promoting Ease of Doing Business, minimising government interference. Last year alone, more than 25 thousand compliances were implemented. The number of startups which was a few hundred some years ago has crossed 60,000 today. It also has more than 80 unicorns, the third-largest in the world, of which more than 40 were formed in 2021. During the Corona period, when the world was focusing on interventions like Quantitative Easing Program, India paved the way for reforms. The biggest projects to modernize digital and physical infrastructure got unprecedented momentum during the corona period. The US$10 billion incentive plan to roll out the fab, chip and display industry is a testament to India’s commitment to making the global supply chain seamless. India is marching forward with the spirit of Make in India, Make for the world. India today presents limitless opportunities in the fields of aerospace, telecom, insurance, defence and semiconductors.