As the world’s most populous country India possesses a challenge beyond many nations to fight COVID-19.
As of the 9th of February India has recorded 10.8 million cases of COVID-19 and 155,000 deaths. As every country on earth has found, limiting deaths born from the disease is unfortunately the only strategy. India is a vital country in the fight against the virus, notably as the country sits on the borders of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and China. An uncontrollable outbreak in India could lead to devastating impacts across the border.
Like all nations India’s battle with the virus has been in flow for over a year:
“India reported its first case of the virus on 30 January—the same day that the WHO declared COVID a public health emergency, but not a pandemic. Prior to that, India had begun screening international arrivals from China and Hong Kong as early as January 18 in the three major airports of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, four more airports from January 21 and 13 and more airports from January 28. Testing was rapidly expanded to include passengers from more countries and all airports.”India’s Response to COVID-19 Crisis
Abhay Kumar Jha, Raghbendra Jha
India has a tricky local political environment to overcome. Split into 29 states and 7 union territories Union (Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, National Capital Territory of Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Ladakh and Puducherry) Modi has like all governments had to work closely to ensure India’s death rate is low – and a 1% death rate is in fact one of the lowest in the world as it stands.
To achieve this, Modi was one of the leaders who pulled together SAARC to act as one, a multilateral strategy. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is the regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of states in South Asia. Its member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Considering the internal politics of India’s neighbours, it is almost remarkable how the virus has brought together these nations.
Some of the actions moved forth with were to remove fees for the coronavirus tests and treatment, especially for migrants and refugees and creating a voluntary mechanism to share and distribute extra medical supplies, including ventilators and testing kits.
With all that is happening in the world, for multilateralism to take centre stage in one of the most politically strained areas in the world, may be one of the silver linings to come out of the pandemic.