Challenges of India’s COVID Diplomacy 2.0

Synopsis: India’s Covid Diplomacy 2.0 is focused on managing many challenges. The majority of these challenges arise due to Covid mismanagement.

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  • During the first wave of the pandemic, India’s Covid-19 diplomacy was focused on coordinating exports of COVID-19 medicines. Further, it focussed on the repatriation of Indians from abroad under Vande Bharat Mission and exporting vaccines worldwide under Vaccine Maitri.
  • However, now, during the 2nd wave, the focus of India’s diplomacy or Covid Diplomacy 2.0 has changed due to Covid mismanagement.
  • Covid mismanagement has been the reason for Vaccine shortages in India. Three factors are responsible for this,
    • The failure of the Government to plan and place procurement orders in time.
    • The failure of the two India-based companies to produce vaccine doses they had committed to.
    • MEA’s focus on exporting, not importing, vaccines
  • Owing to Covid mismanagement strategies, The Ministry of External Affairs has had to deal with many challenges.
What are the challenges facing India’s Covid Diplomacy 2.0?
  • First, the most urgent task for Indian diplomats was to deal with oxygen and medicine shortages. The Ministry of External Affairs has completed the task of bringing in supplies in a timely manner, and with success.
  • Second, the challenge of dealing with vaccine shortages in India.
  • Currently, India is looking to the U.S. for help to manage the vaccine shortages in India. Multiple options have been worked out to boost vaccine supply with the help of the U.S.
    1. One, requesting the U.S. to share a substantial portion of its stockpile of AstraZeneca doses.
    2. Two, requesting the U.S. to release more vaccine ingredients that are restricted for exports.
    3. Three, to buy more stock from the three U.S. manufacturers, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johns
    4. Four, to encourage the production of these vaccines in India.
  • However, every option has its own challenges. For instance,
    • One, The U.S. government is holding up its AstraZeneca exports until it’s own United States Food and Drug Administration approves them.
    • Two, the U.S policy on releasing vaccine ingredients and components has not changed. Although it has supplied a small amount of vaccine ingredients and components.
    • Three, the Production of Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccines in India will take time.
    • Four, even buying vaccines directly has its own challenges.
      • The U.S. companies are seeking a waiver on the need for bridge-trials prior to clearance as well as Emergency Use Authorisation prior to supplying them that goes against India’s principles.
      • Further, the U.S. manufacturers want centralised orders, with payments up-front. It will go against the center’s decision to decentralize vaccine procurement.
  • Third, Indian diplomats are faced with the challenge of convincing countries for a temporary TRIPS waiver at WTO. But, since WTO works on the basis of consensus, getting a Waiver on Intellectual Property rights will be a time taking process.
  • Fourth, regaining trust for India’s vaccine and pharmacy exports among neighbouring countries after the Vaccine collapse is a big challenge ahead. For instance, Bhutan was solely dependent on India for Vaccines was asked to arrange vaccines for themselves. India’s neighbors have now sought help from China and the U.S. to complete their vaccination drives.
  • Fifth, understanding the pathways of emergence” of SARS-CoV2 is significant to tackle the future Covid waves.
    • WHO has listed four possibilities Direct zoonotic transmission, an intermediate host, cold chain or transmission through food, or a laboratory incident.
    • The fourth possibility of being a laboratory incident has gained prominence after scientists and agencies around the world are calling for more research and transparency from China.
    • India is one of the largest victims of Covid19. Thus, it should seek for a more definitive answer at the global and demand accountability.
Way forward
  • India should raise its voice for a stronger convention to regulate any research that could lead, by accident or design, to a pandemic.
  • It is necessary to revamp the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention to institute an implementation body to assess treaty compliance and build safer standards for the future.

Source: The Hindu

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