Trigs on Track-Diplomacy Unwound…The Vaccine Apartheid

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By Ambassador Anil Trigunayat, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, USA, TIO: Recently speaking after the Paris Summit on Africa , President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa lamented the increasing intentional divide between the North and South as the Corona Vaccine availability and vaccine equity decreased in supply . He termed it as the Vaccine Apartheid. It has been the stark reality of an unequal global systemic malaise. Ironically when the world needed to fight the pandemic together the only thing missing has been the global empathy and solidarity. Of course there has been no dearth of high sounding statements and unfulfilled commitments . Wait and aspirations of those at the receiving end continues unabated.

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Hoarding the vaccines even when those were not approved for use in their own countries is simply unjustifiable. Moreover, having the stocks way beyond their own requirements by certain countries only attests to the war time mentality where geo-politics takes precedence over the global good and welfare of the larger humanity. No sensible person will accuse the leaders for looking after their own people first .But then what ..once you are done !. Be generous is the call of these desperate times to the unfortunate and disadvantaged countries and people who comprise more than 3/4th of humanity. Large number of them can’t even afford to buy the vaccines and their healthcare systems and infrastructure are  just not geared to cope up with the unprecedented intensity of the pandemic as economies have already been decimated.

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Early on COVAX  and GAVI and other mechanisms were created to address such countries and continents through generosity of the rich and capable countries. Pandemic can’t be contained within geographic borders . The fight must be taken to the virus wherever it exists  . We are not even talking about its origins out of Wuhan or whether countries and scientists skippered it to be more malicious as a bio-weapon. Although President Biden has entrusted his intelligence and scientific community to try and get to the truth but that’s a déjà vu. Very likely a  powerful country, who in all likelihood is the source and origin of this family of viruses , has been irresponsible and may have erased the corona tracks like the drones that attacked the air force base in J&K. Its IP address is not so easy to decipher. Moreover, Its wolf warrior diplomacy was worth a watch like a bad Netflix movie .Any ways first thing first. So, we have heard that US will dispense with 60-80 mn of its Astra Zeneca vaccines to the needy countries and the G7 countries have committed to provide a billion doses -hopefully in time!

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Then you have certain countries like India which are simply incorrigible. Their civilisational and cultural heritage has injected “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam” world is one family – in their DNA. Hence early on India took upon itself to supply medicines, equipment and even rapid response teams where ever needed despite her own billion plus people. Supplied these essentials to over 150 countries starting with her neighbours as it provided digital capacity building training programmes for the healthcare workers from varying continents. Well, it is said to be the pharmacy of the world despite limitations of API supplies from its nemesis -China.

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A trump was ingratiated and A Bolsonaro gratefully called the assistance as “Sanjeevani’ -the legendary lifesaving drug of the Ramayana times. Not only that- as India emerged the leader and a hub in vaccine manufacturing – for several vaccines including the Covaxin it created indigenously. Oxford AstraZeneca i.e. Covishield and Russia’s Sputnik V are being manufactured in India for herself and the world USA’s J&J will be the next.. Zydus Cadilla an Indian pharma giant has patented yet another domestic vaccine. During her second wave a large number of countries reciprocated India’s gesture which should silence the critics and politicians of India’s generosity that has indeed earned her tremendous goodwill. But again,let’s not talk about people in Government and outside- it is an unending debate across the aisle.

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What really amazed one was an interesting mechanism of the European Union’s digital environmentally cleared “Green health pass” that will allow hassle free travel across the continent. It has identified some vaccines and has been kind to their BREXIT partner UK by authorising Oxford Astra Zeneca jabbed guys to travel but excluded the Indian Covishield from its purview. Poor Shakespeare will be turning into his grave – What is in a name? Happily Indian government this time was not amused and invoked reciprocity while urging them to approve India made vaccines- or else we do believe in  ‘AtithiDevobhav’ and will be happy to provide quarantine hospitality to our European guests  in  grand five star hotels -that are so eagerly waiting for the wonderful guests especially during these Corona times  . Many of our European friends have decided to retract and not go along with the Brahmanical distinction of some others. A big thank you to them.

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Well, this also calls for a review of the essence of the so called strategic partnership model with the likes of EU and where it is heading .. but that perhaps some other time. Meanwhile, I just hope sanity will prevail across the North-South divide and more so towards our northern ally which originated C of Corona and enabled D of Delta in India.

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Anil Trigunayat

Anil Trigunayat is the former Ambassador of India to Jordan. Libya and Malta

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