India has immense goodwill due to our foreign policy says Dr. Jaishankar at India Inc event
New Delhi, May 05: The second wave of COVID-19 has taken the nation by storm and the government has been putting in all its efforts to ramp up medical infrastructure and expand the vaccine drive.
India Inc as part of its global dialogue series today hosted India's External Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar at an event, " Does India Have A Plan-From Survival to Revival." At the event moderated by Manoj Ladwa, Chairman and CEO India Inc, Dr. Jaishankar said that the current COVID-19 crisis is very serious and all efforts are being made to address the concerns.
Accusations of complacency:
The External Affairs Minister said that it s not fair to accuse the Indian government of being complacent. At the end of February, we were looking at less than 10,000 cases and now it is at 3.80 lakh. At the end of March if you took the parameters of the districts that reported 100 or more cases, it was at 75. In a month's time the number went up to 456 such districts. We have to understand the intensity of the situation, he also said.
After mid-September last year, we saw a decline. Even during the first wave, we scrambled as a society to get testing kits, PPEs, masks etc. The lockdown last year was a very painful decision, but a very effective one. We did what we could to deal with that particular wave.
Till the second wave, there were repeated advises that were going out to the states. There were public health teams that were sent out. Due to the concerns generated by the first wave, there were efforts to ramp up oxygen supply and the government had authorised more than 1,200 oxygen plants, Jaishankar also added.
It is easy to say that we should have kept an eye. The mood of the country was to get the economy back on track and I really cannot think that this is genuinely not a blame game, he further added.
Did elections cause the spread:
"First of all when it comes to elections, you cannot not have elections in a democracy. Had the government said let us not have an election, one can imagine what the reaction would have been.
We had a lockdown last year as we were not prepared for the pandemic. But then we were accused that it was being done because of the anti-CAA protests. Damned if we do, damned if we dont, the minister also said.
It cannot be the case that religious crowds are not okay, but protest crowds are, Jaishankar said. We are a deeply political society and while that is a good thing, we must stop the blame game.
Covishield was made in India as it was found that the country was capable of manufacturing in large numbers. The fact that this vaccine is an international collaboration. If someone gave you the vaccine to make in India, then there are international obligations, Jaishankar said. We have an obligation to give the vaccines at a low cost to many nations, he added.
"We have a process within the government about the obligations and consumption. In addition to this we also had our immediate neighbours in mind and an effort was made to strike that balance. We kept the balance as far as we could. As our own demands mounted, the other countries did understand this concern."
We had a certain sense from the industry that there were be a certain scaling up that would happen.
The raw material inflow to expand production was not coming as there were various factors. Vaccine is a complex product. There are 300 countries from where we source to put the vaccination together. We. Have been pressing countries to keep the raw material flow open, Dr. Jaishankar pointed out.
Dr. Jaishankar said that it is clear that for 75 years, we have underinvested in the health sector. In fact it is that realisation why Prime Minister, Narendra Modi pushed for Ayushman Bharat. He genuinely believed that we cannot leave our people to the vagaries of the private practitioners. Having said that we have underinvested in our health sector over many decades. Even though there are limitations, we have to make an extra effort to respond to the crisis.
The new variant of COVID-19 hits the respiratory system sooner. There is a 7X increase in demand for oxygen. We are running oxygen expresses and have asked manufacturers to ramp up production, We also had oxygen tanker shortages and have been purchasing tankers from abroad. It is a difficult crisis and we are going it all we can, Dr. Jaishankar said.
Jaishankar thanked the Indian community across the world for all that they are doing at this time of a crisis. They have been supporting us and also networking. He urged the international Indian community to be in touch with the embassy to find out what needs be done.
He also thanked to all the nations who are coming to India's help. The UK government is sending us oxygen, he said. US President Joe Biden said that he is changing the policy as India stood by them in the early days. There has been a lot of oxygen supplies coming from the Gulf. Their leaders tell us that India kept the supply lines open when the pandemic broke out. Almost all G7 nations have gone through what we are going through, he said.
The pandemic is not a game changer, it is a thought changer. It has shown darker sides of people. However, I am optimist and I am more interested in the warmer side of people. I see there is a warmth in diplomacy, the foreign minister said.
Relations with China:
The relations with China are going through a very difficult phase because of violations of understandings between the two countries. The Chinese have deployed a large number of their soldiers close to the Line of Actual Control without any explanation. Their actions have disturbed peace. We have been clear that peace and tranquility is absolutely necessary.
I cannot have blood being shed on the border and on the other hand have good ties in other domains. Jaishankar said that India continues to discuss with China and some progress has been made. The de-escalation will happen only after disengagement, he added.
He said that the last discussion he had with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi was significant, Many of our companies are ordering from China and we were facing logistic difficulties. After the conversation with the Chinese foreign minister, things did move and the logistic chain is working, he added.
On being asked whether COVID-19 would stretch the timeline of India 5 trillion USD target for the economy, Jaishankar said that a lot of new capabilities have come up. Thee have been financial reforms, educational reforms etc.
Until the second wave, we were very optimistic. Now we have to absorb it and find solutions. The policies will be bolder, he said while adding that the businesses have confidence. The government is looking at many ideas, which were ducked by our predecessors he said while adding that PM Modi has a very bold vision.
Dr. Jaishankar said that the new energy and thinking was very visible at the meet between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UK PM Bori Johnson. We have a detailed road map and on the economic front we have agreed on enhanced cooperation. There will be early decisions on trade and we will be the early country with which UK has made such decisions. He also said that we will also closely look at vaccines and the scientists from both countries would collaborate closely. Both Prime Ministers are very determined to take relations to a very high level, Jaishankar said.
Comments by British MPs on Indian policies.
" We believe that the parliament of one democratic country should be very responsible about commenting on decisions of another parliament. Today you comment on my policies, tomorrow the tables could turn. It does not help either party to go down that path."
In India we have processes like discussions, debates, protests etc. But the kind of language that is being used, then this is about the issue. This is a deeper propaganda which has a different agenda that aims to sour the relationship. I would hope this does not end up in squabbles, Jaishankar said.
Survival to revival:
Yes we have a plan. We are responding to the immediacy of the second wave. It is around medicines, oxygen and expanding the vaccination drive. Vaccination is not a silver bullet, but it helps. We have an economic plan. The immense goodwill we have today is because of our foreign policy. This goodwill is helping the people of India, Dr. Jaishankar said.