Synopsis: Covid-19 Pandemic provided India with an opportunity to mainstream science and technology (S&T) in its foreign Policies. It became possible due to the past achievements by the country in the domain of S&T.
- The roots of India’s scientific programs can be traced to the 1959 speech delivered at the Indian Science Congress by Jawaharlal Nehru.
- He called for a focus on robust scientific research and seeking international scientific advancements.
- Strong countries like the US tried to curb the country’s advancements in important spheres like nuclear and space programs. However, despite this, the country managed to augment its S&T potential.
‘Science and Technology’ in International Relations:
- The country gave significant support to Asian and African nations especially in the field of health. This strengthened its relation with Global South.
- In the 1990s, after liberalization, India asserted its scientific interest in a better way. It established the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India in 1999.
- An improvement in Nuclear and Space programs was also seen in the 21st century. It was facilitated by growing ties with the US and their joint vision to curb China’s assertiveness.
- It also signed strategic partnerships with countries like the UK, Canada, etc. that had substantial S&T components.
- The country’s Science and Technology Policy 2003 and Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013 clearly relate international S&T cooperation with the national interest.
- To boost international S&T collaboration, A Cyber Diplomacy Division, an E-Governance & Information Technology Division, and a New Emerging & Strategic Technologies Division under the Ministry of External Affairs were also set up.
- Very recently, India’s pharma firms such as the Serum Institute of India partnered with the U.K.’s Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine project. Similarly, Bharat Biotech produced an indigenous vaccine called Covaxin.
India’s efforts for international cooperation during COVID Pandemic:
- Initially, India gave medicines such as hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to over 150 countries.
- The Vaccine Maitri program was also launched to give vaccines to other countries.
- India delivered vaccines to many needy countries in South Asia and South America very recently.
- India’s response was a mark of its advancement in S&T. Moreover, responses were aligned with its Neighbourhood First, Act East, Indo-Pacific and LookWest policies.
What more should be done?
- India should now convert the crisis into an opportunity by launching more programs like ‘Vaccine Maitri’. This program attracted appreciation from multiple countries including Brazil, Canada, and Barbados.
- There is a need for giving greater financial devolution towards S&T for achieving self-reliance under Aatmanirbhar Abhiyan. This can be duly leveraged in international relations.
- Further, the participation of states, universities, and the private sector in research and development efforts should also be enhanced.
- Scientists must be made more aware of foreign policy objectives and diplomats about the latest scientific advancement in order to strengthen the integration.