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From India, With Love…

Dr Navniit Gandhi Thursday, August 11, 2022
From India, With Love…

THREE WARS---all uncalled for, and with consequences uncontrolled and suffering untold, ---the world has had to bear in the past two years and half now. The onslaught by the corona virus shook us all as much severely as the Russia-Ukraine war threatens to... Before we could comprehend our losses and soothe our bruises, water scarcity in some parts of Europe and food shortages in large parts of the world, particularly in Sri Lanka, have left us all panting and wondering: what next…?

The reaction of most of the countries in the world was one reflecting a knee-jerk, with bewilderment and confusion at the outset and followed by haphazard comments, veiled threats, foolish claims and yes, of course----arm-twisting by a few powers, as it happens always.

What did India do when all of these crises shook the world? Did it just sit on the fence, and merely abstain from voting in the UN?

Well, NO!

We simply went about just doing our best.

2019

When the Pandemic struck, the first reaction of most of the developed nations particularly, was one of just selfishly safeguarding the interests of its own people. Well, we too took care of our people but went one step ahead and helped others too.

India exported, from April 2020 onwards, critical drugs like hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol as well as azithromycin to 120 countries so as to aid their fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. While it donated these drugs to some countries in SAARC, Africa and Latin America, it sold them to countries like the US and a few European countries. When the world was banning the export of essentials, India sent medicines to 40 countries, free of cost. It lived up to the title of being ‘the pharmacy of the world’. India played a crucial role during the pandemic and reiterated its position as a ‘dependable’ nation when it comes to crisis situations. For those who are unversed, it is important to know that:

India ranks third worldwide for pharmaceutical production by volume and exports pharmaceuticals to more than 200 countries and territories.

2021

In 2021, when the race for vaccines made nearly all the Western nations hoard the vaccines for their own people, India did not think of hoarding but helping. While Canada bought and hoarded 9 shots per person, in their country, and UK—5 doses per person, even the European Union ordered 1.6 billion doses for its adult population of 375 million. Even USA which otherwise leaves no stone unturned to assert its supremacy, power and leadership on the world—hoarded vaccines three times its own requirements. Who was then going to supply these life-saving doses to the poor and developing nations?

The Indian government announced and executed the Vaccine Maitri ---a humanitarian initiative to provide COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world. As of April 2022, India has exported over 17 crore doses of vaccines to 96 countries.

‘I have the Indian jab (Covid-19 vaccine) in my arm, and it did me good. Many thanks to India’, said former British PM Boris Johnson, while on a visit to India in April 2022.

India gifted 2,00,000 doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines for the UN peacekeepers across all UN missions. Incidentally, India is also one of the largest troop-contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions!

A few countries, after taking care of its requirements, sent vaccine doses---nearing expiry dates, to the poor nations. And China, did send 165 million Chinese-made vaccines but there were political pre-conditions unabashedly firmly put forth. For instance, it supplied vaccines to Honduras, but allegedly only in exchange of Honduras cutting off ties with Taiwan. To a few other nations, it sent vaccines along with letters asking for favors or it extensively promoted its soft-power ---using the vaccines as part of its larger PR drive.

India sent 175 million vaccines, but the strings were of love and care…

2022
In the midst of the war between Russia and Ukraine, a large number of countries were busy either threatening the other side or sending deadly weapons and ammunition or even bombarding the UN with resolutions, votes, and ousters. Strongly-worded advices were shot to nations that chose to stay neutral or abstain from taking sides, as India did.

In the globalized world of ours, the ripples of any conflict anywhere will impact the whole world sooner or later. Both—Russia and Ukraine together export nearly 28% of the total wheat exported. They are no longer able to do so now, and hence the shortages are surfacing and inflation is sky-rocketing. As it is, the supply chains were badly hit all through the preceding two years of the pandemic. The history of food shortages leading to insurrections and political upheavals is all too well-known to all of us.

Countries such as Sri Lanka seem to be reeling the worst under the impact of this food crisis now.

India’s Contribution towards meeting Food Shortages:

China too is unable to address the food deficit this time, which the world was hoping it would do, because of the perennial floods that wreaked havoc in their planting season all throughout last year.

Even as Sri Lanka is facing intense backlash over its economy being in a free-fall and is reeling under the boulders of the worst kind of a debt-trap---the protests have spilled on to the streets. The protests are turning violent, as people are unable to cough up enough food, and fuel so as to sustain their families and are being forced to live without power for hours and days now. Where are China and USA when the going is so very tough in Sri Lanka?

India has provided food, health and energy security package as well as foreign reserves support amounting to more than US$ 3.5 billion including a concessional loan of US$ 1 billion to the Government of Sri Lanka on 17 March 2022 which will be available up to 16 March 2023, a Line of Credit (LOC) of US$ 500 million for financing purchase of petroleum product such as diesel, petrol and aviation fuel in February 2022, and a consignment of 40,000 MT of fuel supplied by Indian Oil Corporation outside the LOC facility.

A large consignment of drugs and medical supplies was gifted to various hospitals in Sri Lanka responding to the urgent requirement for drugs. Kerosene has also been supplied for the use of fishermen in Sri Lanka. India is also directly reaching out to needy sections of Sri Lanka. In April 2022 Indian High Commissions officials distributed dry ration packs to widows and other needy families of Kalmunai in Ampara District ahead of Eid ul Fitr.

Threats to Food Security ultimately endanger National Security. Hence, it is not just about food on the plate, but more importantly ---about not letting a nation fall apart to pieces. India has extended support worth $3.8 bn to Sri Lanka over the last few months to enable them to overcome their economic crisis.

India is regularly supplying medical assistance, including life-saving medicines to Afghanistan. Earlier this year, it supplied humanitarian assistance consisting of 500,000 doses of Covid vaccine (Covaxin) to Afghanistan. It keeps supplying food-grains and other essential items to it, either through the UN or directly through its own channels.

While India is sending humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, Egypt has decided to buy wheat from India. India plans to export 7 million tons of wheat from its stock to the world. ‘Putting food on the world’s plate,’ is India’s way of showing that ‘we care’. It has sent and will be sending wheat to many including Nigeria, Vietnam, Turkey and others. For India, it is not about politics. There is no leverage we seek or strings that we wish to tie. This is our way of coming in the forefront when needed… and offering practical solutions!

We did not add fuel to the fire, and take advantage of those hit hard by shortages but rather supplied the fuel so that hearths could be lit in millions of homes. As always, the West is threatening or accusing or supplying weapons and China is looking to further squeeze life out of the debt-ridden nations.

India too has seized all of these crises as opportunities, albeit with a difference…

A month ago, it was reported that Canada is to throw out 13.6mn doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. If only, it had not hoarded in excess and reached out to those needing it at the opportune time…

Meanwhile, India stands by its commitment to supply 5 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the world by the end of 2022.

Someone very aptly said:

“It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity.”
Dr.
Navniit Gandhi is an academic since 25+ years; a feature writer (300+ articles), and has authored 10 books. Her 10th and most recently authored, published and launched book is titled: NOT MUCH IS AS IT SEEMS Her write-ups can be read at navniitspeaks.wordpress.com
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Prasida
Monday, August 15, 2022
Proud to be an indian happy indpendance day

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