There are apparent signs of rejoicing – some kind of sadistic pleasures, one of those baser human instincts, visible palpably these days in the actions, words and faces of Narendra Modi’s detractors.
This block or ‘gang’ presume that the Modi regime has been cornered by the second wave of the Covid crisis. The human tragedy, a huge number of deaths and fresh challenges to the national economy do not bother them.
They are more inclined to see the Prime Minister red-faced. Hence, there is an attempt to discredit the entire ‘Vaccine Maitri’ (or Vaccine Diplomacy).
The power of ‘anti-Modi’ rhetoric as the garb of objectivity is so intense that it is difficult to express an opinion and that would still be considered an objective one. If one writes with a few laudatory words and phrases for the Modi government and shares an element of understanding, he or she is in the danger of being called a communal or bought over by Narendra Modi’s charm.
The critics of Vaccine Maitri have called it ‘hollow’ – being without worth. They also say the operation was ‘something that was not planned. Arguments have been built up by ‘experts’ – who thrive in Modi bashing – that includes the political class and also others – that while Bangladesh is today paying a price as India has stopped export of vaccines for a while due to higher demands domestically.
The fact of the matter is international, India’s prestige has gone up. The Vaccine Maitri was a golden chapter in ‘global leadership’ for the Modi regime when countries such as Canada, the US and Britain got busy in buying vaccines.
The big picture message is – the international game can be no longer about pushing a single-agenda item or being aggressive. The ‘Soft power’ game means persuasive diplomacy. It may be out of the box, but not something out of the blue.
But critics of Modi say that even a small country like Taiwan has ‘managed’ the crisis certainly with more ‘efficiency’. After the centre gave clearance to put on fast-track the process of emergency approvals of Covid-19 vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorisation (EUA) in foreign countries, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi claimed ‘credit’.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you; then they fight you, then you win,” he tweeted on April 14. Only a few days back, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar had criticised him saying, “Rahul Gandhi must know that shortage in Congress ruled states is not of vaccines but of basic commitment towards health care”.
Around the same time, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said: “As a foreign minister, I am pushing other countries, particularly some big countries, saying – look, please keep the raw materials flowing for vaccines to be made in India”.
In reference to those questioning the government decision to ‘export’ vaccines, he has said rather acidly: “……somebody will ask – why am I exporting to India. That is so short-sighted. Only non-serious, irresponsible people can make that argument”.n fact, even prior to vaccine diplomacy, the Modi government has been pursuing a policy that sought to make India “the pharmacy of the world during the Covid-19 pandemic”. In July 2020, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Secretary-General Vladimir Norov lauded India’s move to share deep knowledge in medicine and take the initiatives to provide medicines to 133 countries in the fight against the pandemic.
The WHO and other stakeholders also recorded their appreciation. There were also some benefits coming in. India’s pharmaceutical sector has ensured that some foreign countries come forward to intensify their bilateral cooperation with New Delhi.
Moreover, Modi and his colleagues including Dr Jaishankar were not doing something out of tune. The ‘Vaccine Maitri’ was also based on the philosophical guiding spirit of much cherished “Seva paramo dharma (service is the ultimate virtue)”. Sweden acknowledged India’s emerging role and decided to expand bilateral cooperation in the areas of health and life sciences.
Contrary to efforts being made by certain quarters that perhaps all is lost, the Union Health Ministry has said the state governments are free to procure Covid vaccine doses from the vaccine manufacturers as per the Liberalised Pricing and accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy. The new policy to come into effect from May 1 would expand and liberalise the ‘countrywide vaccination drive’.
Of course, a right balance has to be struck between domestic consumption and exports and gifting of vaccines to some countries. Building up a hyped vase of ‘vaccine nationalism’ is not the panacea.
Here comes the relevance of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s comment: “Fighting a pandemic is not a one trick game. Apart from vaccination, there needs to be adequate focus on testing, tracing & treating. Rahul Gandhi’s problem is that he doesn’t understand all this and his ignorance is compounded by his arrogance.”
Going by the past experience, Modi’s detractors and that includes opposition leaders and also Lutyen’s (or Khan Market gang) experts; they actually excel in finding fault with the Prime Minister and the ruling dispensation on everything and anything.
Sources say, so far 65 million doses of Covaxin and Covishield were dispatched to various countries including some needy and friendly neighbours like Nepal and Bangladesh.
Recently, Foreign Minister of Maldives, Abdulla Shahid (FMAS) was in New Delhi and in his meeting with Indian counterpart, Dr Jaishankar, “the Covid-19 pandemic and avenues of Indian assistance in this field were also discussed”.
In other words, India is aware of its commitment and also the vital fact that its friends genuinely bank on New Delhi’s friendship and assistance.