Addressing the townhall on ‘The Indo-Pacific and the Covid-19 Crisis’, External Affairs Minister, Shri S Jaishankar focussed on three issues: the rationale for the Indo-Pacific, the Indian response to the Covid-19 crisis, and how the two come together.
Commenting on the redundancy of the post WWII thinking which led to the division of the world on the lines of Indian and Pacific Ocean, he said that to begin with, the intensification of globalization and inter-dependence has expanded the horizons of all nations, especially major ones.
In India’s case, the Indo-Pacific is a natural extrapolation of its Act East policy that has made China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Australia major economic partners. India does more business on its East than West, which is quite a reversal from the immediate post-colonial era.
Talking about the rebalancing that has taken place in the global order, he said, there have been changes in the capabilities and reach of nations, making some do more and others less but both categories treat the Indian and Pacific Oceans in a more seamless manner than before.
The resulting multi-polarity also requires the like-minded to work more cooperatively and effectively than before. As a result, we have seen initiatives that go beyond alliances and working arrangements that are more flexible and imaginative than before.
From any objective viewpoint, the Indo-Pacific is a more contemporary description of current reality. Such a landscape actually creates an ethos for greater cooperation, one particularly necessary at a time when global goods are in short supply.
It is a reiteration that the world cannot be frozen for the benefit of a few, even if that is the case with the United Nations. He iterated that It is an indication of our future, not a throwback to the past and only those harbouring a Cold War mindset will see such intentions.
Highlighting the recognition of the logic of the Indo-Pacific across the world he mentioned that the ASEAN’s Outlook on Indo-Pacific has turned positive and apart from the nations of the larger region, Germany, France and the Netherlands also subscribe to this approach.
The need of the day is to give it a practical shape. This can be done by plurilateral diplomatic consultations such as the Quad. This is built on the seven pillars of Maritime Security; Maritime Ecology; Maritime Resources; Capacity Building and Resource Sharing; Disaster Risk Reduction and Management; Science, Technology and Academic Cooperation; and Trade Connectivity and Maritime Transport.
Talking about the positive taken from the impact of the CORONA virus, he said that India responded with determination and discipline to this challenge. An economy which did not make ventilators, testing kits, PPEs and N95 masks today not only caters to its own needs, but those beyond.
By setting up more than 15,000 dedicated Covid treatment facilities, India has created an infrastructure to respond effectively. India’s high recovery rate and low case fatality rate speak for themselves, as indeed does a social distancing culture and mass adoption of preventive measures. Stressing on the cooperative feeling that India has towards that world he said that what is more relevant is the emphasis that India puts on global cooperation to deal with a global challenge.
Covid-19 created a spike in demand for pharmaceuticals, especially hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol. Today, the focus has shifted to vaccine production and rapid testing, both so essential to the return of travel normalcy. India is deeply involved in many international collaborations and initiatives.
He mentioned that Prime Minister Modi has committed to the UN that we will help make vaccines accessible and affordable to all.India has provided assistance to Solomon Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu and Palau for procurement of medical equipment and supplies to assist in their response to Covid-19.
Appreciating the effort of the countries in helping migrants return to India, the EAM said that the pandemic underlined the extensive nature of global mobility and migration.
As people sought to return to their homes, cooperation between Governments to create the necessary logistics and protocol was central to that objective. In India’s case, more than 2.5 million citizens came back, almost 24,000 of them from Australia alone. From India, more than 110,000 foreigners returned to 120 countries.
Concluding his speech he said, “ Above all, it is a call for more international cooperation on the key issues of our times. In a world where trust and transparency are now at greater premium, it highlights the importance of building more resilient supply chains. It is also a reminder of the importance of multilateralism. And that, in turn, requires adherence to a rule-based global order. Out of every traumatising experience, we try to come out better. We should ensure that this is the case this time too.”