The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is the most catastrophic event after the Second World War, said Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla on Thursday, adding that it was inevitable that the people were going to experience a different world in the post-pandemic era.
While speaking on the topic ‘Leveraging Strategic Autonomy in a Turbulent World; at the Diamond Jubilee Seminar of the National Defence College, Shringla said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is the most catastrophic event after the 2nd World War. It is therefore inevitable that we will experience a different world in the post-pandemic era. We are in the midst of trying to cope with the new reality of going virtual in our day to day life. At the international level, it has uncovered the vulnerabilities of nations and showed us the real manifestation of the practice of international relations.”
He said that while there was a strong intent to cooperate, the need to retain ‘strategic autonomy’ was greater, and the last few months had been an attempt to deal with the domestic situation and look for ways to cooperate.
The Foreign Secretary further mentioned that the global economic fallout of the pandemic was going to be a challenge in times to come.
“As we saw during the 2008 global recession, economic setbacks of this magnitude require a carefully deliberated approach. The breakdown of the global supply chains has, perhaps for the first time, led us to think and explore alternative possibilities. India’s view has been to look at this challenge not as a constraint but as an opportunity for our economy as well as for rebalancing in the international system,” he added.
Shringla also highlighted India’s ‘proactive domestic response’ in dealing with the pandemic, giving details about the expansion of capacity in the healthcare sector, also channelling of India’s public resources to the critical sector for the development of hospitals, emergency rooms, provision of equipment and supplies and training of healthcare professionals, and the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan and its stimulus packages introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“India has played a leading role in initiating and encouraging global conversations on evolving a coordinated response to the pandemic. Further, living up to the teaching of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the whole world is one family), India played an instrumental role in enhancing global health security by ensuring the supply of essential medicines even while meeting its own domestic requirements,” he said.
“We provided medical supplies, in the form of essential drugs, test kits, protection gear, etc. to over 150 countries, and are extending medical assistance under grants-in-aid to over 80 countries; we sent rapid response medical teams to help Maldives, Kuwait, Mauritius, and Comoros deal with the pandemic; and we dispatched naval assets to deliver COVID related assistance to Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles. We have also successfully brought back over 1.8 million Indian nationals stranded abroad due to COVID-19 pandemic under the Vande Bharat Mission,” added the Foreign Secretary.
In his address, Shringla talked about various topics, including India’s global engagements, its membership of the UN Security Council next year, its position as a ‘net security provider’ in the extended neighbourhood among others.