“In the times of Covid-19 pandemic, medical service is the most important service,” said the Polish Ambassador to India, Adam Burakowski. He further added, “On behalf of myself and my country, I offer many, many thanks to India and Indian doctors for their work.” This message from the ambassador, in a way, sums up our country’s ‘medical diplomacy’ that has been working overtime and at an unprecedented scale since the pandemic started.
The MEA’s role
During the pandemic, the Ministry of External Affairs has worked overtime to help other countries. Steps were taken to issue speedy clearances for the export of drugs, medical equipment, testing kits and, importantly, healthcare professionals – an effort that has now reached more than 60 countries around the world. The government worked round the clock to live up to its international commitments which have eventually solidified our country’s reputation as the pharmacy of the world.
Our diplomats and bureaucrats made sure that the supplies were being sent – both as humanitarian aid as well as on a commercial basis. India’s export of Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) tablets is proof. India has dispatched more than 3.5 million HCQ tablets as assistance to over 25 countries, apart from the huge quantities of HCQ and paracetamol tablets that were commercially sent to around 87 countries.
In the meantime, China tried to offer a helping hand to the affected countries by sending protective gear and testing kits – equipment that was later found out to be faulty and was ultimately rejected by the beneficiary nations. India was facing an acute shortage of medical supplies, but still ensured that we kept our promise to the world by sending high quality emergency drugs and equipment.
India to the rescue
Another factor that reinforced India’s role as the “global pharmacist” during the Coronavirus outbreak was the despatch of medical teams to countries like Maldives, Nepal and Kuwait. Indian military doctors along with a team of civilian medical staff helped the local administration to draw up plans to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
India also made arrangements for training healthcare professionals in South Asia and other neighbouring countries through various online programmes. Indian healthcare officials also imparted ideas to formulate strategies and treatment procedures for patients infected with the coronavirus.
Setting an example
There were several high-level discussions at regional and international levels that were headed by India. These virtual summits included the countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the leaders of the G20 countries. During these discussions, India extended full cooperation for any medical emergency that might occur due to the ongoing pandemic. Lastly, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it a point to personally reach out and establish a direct line of contact with world leaders over the last few months. All of these actions resulted in better cooperation between nations which helped governments around the world to form a united front and tackle this deadly virus more effectively.
Eye on the ball
Harsh Pant, a senior professor of International Relations at the King’s College, London, recently said, “From the very beginning of this crisis, the Indian government has been outward focused as much as inward-looking, as compared to other countries around the world that have been only inward-looking. India’s outreach has been extensive when compared to the world.” He also added that this was unlike the olden days when India only had resources to focus on itself and its internal issues.
India went beyond its call of duty to help other nations during this pandemic, and it didn’t go unnoticed by the United Nations. Describing India as an “integral ally”, the UN chief Antonio Guterres praised India for helping others in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and championing greater prosperity for lesser developed nations.
Through its medical diplomacy, our country acted both as the pharmacy of the world and a global health provider – an all-weather ally that the world can count on. It is safe to say that the government’s strategy is part of a larger matrix to project India as a global stakeholder.