COVID-19 largest crisis to hit humanity since Second World War: Foreign Secretary

Stating that coronavirus pandemic is the worst crisis to hit humanity since Second World War, Foreign Secretary Harsha Vardhan Shringla, on Monday said the world has not seen economic contraction of this magnitude in decades.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been the largest crisis to hit humanity since the Second World War. The last such pandemic was the Spanish Influenza in 1918. COVID-19 has already cost us over 500,000 deaths and countless livelihoods,” the Foreign Secretary said during his ‘virtual address to ICAI on implementing the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat’.

The world has not seen economic contraction of this magnitude in many decades, he said.

The Foreign Secretary said the primary cause of the disruption is pandemic.

“As India enters Unlock 2.0, our Government’s efforts are geared towards further expansion of economic activity while not letting our guard down. We have been proactive in assessing and dealing with the challenges caused by COVID-19. Saving lives has been our foremost priority,” he said.

Shringla noted that “while our case load continues to be high, we have fared comparatively better than many other countries with a low death rate and high recovery rate”.

“This can be attributed to early steps to protect and insulate our people. We have also substantially ramped up our capacities in the healthcare sector in the past few months,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary also recalled the stimulus package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in order to provide social safety net to vulnerable sections.

“To deal with the economic challenges posed by the pandemic and bring our economy back on track, the Prime Minister has enunciated a forward-looking economic approach under the rubric of Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan. The stimulus package of nearly USD 270 billion (Rs 20 Lakh Crores) launched by the Prime Minister under the Abhiyaan aims to both reinvigorate the economy and provide a social safety net to our vulnerable sections,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary underlined that the idea of self reliance or “atmanirbharta” does not mean “seeking self-centred arrangements or turning the country inwards”.

“The call for Aatmnirbharta is not about reverting to economic isolationism. Its essential aim is to ensure India’s position as a key participant in global supply chains. Through building capacities at home, we also intend to contribute to mitigating disruptions in global markets,” he said.

He went on to highlight that a virtual conference of SAARC leaders was hosted by India at the Prime Minister’s initiative.

“The Prime Minister also encouraged early convening of the virtual G-20 summit. Later he spoke at the virtual Global Vaccine Summit, where India pledged USD 15 million to GAVI, the international vaccine alliance,” he said.

“A crisis of this magnitude has required a coordinated global response, making sustained communication between countries all the more essential. The increase in tensions in different parts of the world, including on the Line of Actual Control between India and China, have only emphasised the criticality of continued communication,” said Shringla.

The Foreign Secretary also mentioned that diplomacy has adapted to the new situation and has gone strongly digital.

Shringla stated that as health security and health supply chains move up on the priority lists of the world’s governments, India must prime itself to emerging opportunities.

“Indian diplomacy will support this process all the way. This is in line with the overall vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, and the Ministry of External Affairs is actively engaged in promoting India as an alternative manufacturing and innovation destination,” he said.

“There are lessons we are learning in all contexts and domains – whether in diplomacy or the economy, whether in policy making or in society. I am confident they will serve to strengthen our systems, our resolve and our country as we put our current challenges behind us,” the Foreign Secretary added.

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