External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar on Monday said that the world is counting on India for making Covid-19 vaccines accessible and affordable.
India is at the heart of international and multilateral collaborations in rapid testing and reliable vaccines, he said.
“Prime Minister Modi has committed to the United Nations that we will help make vaccines accessible and affordable to all. And believe me, from the regular conversations that I have with so many counterparts, the world is counting on us to do so,” he told the Deccan Dialogue organised by the Indian School of Business (ISB) in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs.
The minister, who is a member of the Ministerial Group that was charged with monitoring the Covid challenge and coming up with a response, stated that the way India responded to Covid-19 pandemic should give confidence in its future.
“A nation that had no preparedness for such an enormous crisis responded in a way that should give us all confidence in our future. A country where PPEs and ventilators were not made, where N95 masks were assembled in small quantities, where testing kits were not produced – and we should really ask ourselves why not earlier – today not only meets its national needs but helps beyond.”
“If we created 15,466 dedicated facilities with 1.5 million isolation beds, if more than a million are tested daily by 7,000 centres, if Aarogya Setu was devised to facilitate contact tracing – then it speaks volumes about our inherent capabilities. Not just that, our social discipline was extraordinary – standing out in comparison with many developed economies.”
He pointed out that under Vande Bharat Mission, more than 24 lakh people were repatriated through flights and by land and sea. “From Air India to the Indian Navy, we pressed all our resources to achieve this goal. The intention was very simple – today’s India will not leave an Indian abroad in distress. After all, we are in many ways a unique economy that is heavily reliant on mobility and migration. Our credibility depends on the assurance we provide to those abroad who contribute to progress at home.”
Jaishankar said he believes that the diaspora is not just an economic factor but they helped determine India’s branding in the world. “I was just struck yesterday at the range of Deepavali messages that I saw from politicians in different countries on the social media, underlining how much our community today matters to the world.”
He also noted that the Covid-19 crisis has really brought out the importance of international cooperation.
Citing the example of Vande Bharat Mission, he said that it would not have been possible if multiple governments had not standardised procedures on testing, quarantine, movement or on transit protocols. He noted that many governments, especially in the Gulf, went out of the way to expend their own resources for the welfare of foreigners.
“India also reciprocated in full measure. More than one lakh foreign residents were assisted to go back to their home in these difficult times. As demands for medicines – especially Hydroxychloroquine and Paracetamol – spiked, we stepped up production and supplied 150 countries, more than half at our own cost.”
He stated that transforming this crisis into an opportunity for nations to work together on the “big issue of our times is really the main challenge for diplomacy today”.
Jaishankar also observed that in the name of openness, India allowed subsidised products and unfair production advantages from abroad to prevail.
“It was quite extraordinary that an economy as attractive as India allowed the framework to be set by others. With the passage of time, our predicament became increasingly serious. The choice was to double down on an approach whose damaging consequences were already apparent; or to have the courage to think through the problem for ourselves. We chose the latter.”
Referring to Aatmanirbhar Bharat he said: “This approach, instead of allowing others to decide our future prospects, is a case for building strong national capabilities and deep strengths. It is far from turning our back on the world; in fact, it is to enter the global arena with cards to play, not just to provide a market for others. This is really about seriously building comprehensive national power. Our success in doing so will determine future terms of engagement and our standing with the world.”
On terrorism, he said while the era of “not my problem” came to an end in 9/11, it has still to produce a whole-hearted international collaborative effort.
“We have, in our immediate neighbourhood, a particularly egregious example of state-sponsored cross-border terrorism. The world is gradually becoming aware of the global nature of international terrorism. Our relentless efforts have kept it in spotlight, bringing out related aspects like terror finance, radicalisation and cyber recruitment. The goal remains to reach a comprehensive convention on the subject and we will not rest till that happens,”he added.