Vaccine & Oxygen Diplomacy

Vaccine & Oxygen Diplomacy

Next week Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar is on a mission to garner support from the US with the supply of vaccines and oxygen for India. Many leading philanthropists around the world and mainly from US have already pitched in more than $ 35 million towards the GiveIndia campaign for acquiring oxygen supplies for Delhi and Maharashtra, which were the worst hit.

The main problem is the virus is spreading fast to rural India. 65% of India’s population lives in rural India, which lacks healthcare services, hospitals and doctors. Even in capital Delhi, it was a nightmare to find a hospital bed during the Covid emergency. Just last week 20 people died in a village close to Delhi due to lack of oxygen cylinders, forget about hospitals.

What Minister Jaishankar can do, while India addresses this emergency on war footing with whatever resources available, and request the Indian-American Associations here, to donate liberally towards rural India as a priority. Rural India is India’s core workforce and breadwinner, and if the virus spreads the way it is, only God can save India. The infections could increase to unimaginable and catastrophic proportions.

Even though Prime Minister Modi is trying his best, India simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to address this nationwide. Each state has its own prerogatives and priorities, and this is where the other problem lies. People are running pillar to post to seek help and information, and in the process duped by unscrupulous middlemen hovering everywhere to make a fast buck. For the oxygen concentrator bought for my own Covid emergency in Delhi, my family paid about double the amount in Nehru Place where it was bought. And later when they went to buy another for a friend’s father the cost went up four times. Indian government must arrest such people and make them pay for damages done.

It was a yeomen service that India donated and provided vaccines to several countries especially its neighbouring countries. It was an excellent diplomatic initiative by the Prime Minister but the government did not realize the second wave would hit so badly and India would be starved for its own life-saving drugs and vaccines.

Now, since Minister Jaishankaris going to be here in Washington, he must not only request for supply of emergency vaccines but also pitch for opening up restrictions on patents and monopolies on life-saving drugs for a necessary period and to sign agreements for any future disasters. India has excellent relations with the US now and the willingness to fight together against any aggression from China in the Indo-Pacific.

Jaishankar must also stress that containment of China will not be a cakewalk, and US-India and the QUAD, have to develop unconventional strategies to contain any misadventure by China. One way is to stop it from entering smaller countries like Myanmar, where the people are already protesting against the junta and China, and others as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Laos. Vietnam will be fine as it already fully supports QUAD because of China’s claims on its own islands in the South China Sea. China must be checked immediately before things go out of hand.

Most importantlyChina must be charged in the International Court for criminal negligence with handling and misinforming other nations on the spread of the virus from the Wuhan lab. The world at large must make China pay for the loss of lives globally. If not done others could attempt the same in the future and get away scot-free.