One thing which fills my heart with pride is the rich civilization and the history attached to our matrubhumi. For ages, India is the prime advocate of world peace and happiness. To support this claim, a reference can be made to the Shloka which owes its origin to Garuḍa Purāṇa (35.51), Aśīrvacanam 2 of itihāsa samuccaya and Mantrabhāṣya of Uvaṭa. The Shloka goes as – सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः। सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद्दुःखभाग् भवेत्।। It means may all be happy, may all be free from infirmities, may all see good and may none partake suffering. The best part is that even though this shloka was recited by our ancestors hundreds of years ago, even before the word India was coined to our matrubhumi, it still finds relevance in how we conduct ourselves as a nation. I say this in context with the vaccination approach of India in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
India is one of the few countries in the world which has its vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin. It is the first developing country to have its vaccine and is the largest producer of vaccines. It is indeed a very proud achievement and every credit should be given to the scientists and the health workers who gave in their everything to achieve this. While the government is ensuring a smooth vaccination process of our countrymen in a phased manner, at the same time it is even recognizing and considering the vaccine requirements of other nations, especially the poor and the developing nations. Vaccines were even supplied for free to countries like Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, and Seychelles. Considering how our foreign policy was majorly hit in 2019 due to anti CAA protests and the advent of ‘Modern Chinese Imperialism’ in 2020 which made our civilization friends like Nepal and Bangladesh turn into foes, these very ideals of वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् and सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः have now become India’s new-found soft powers.
REVIVAL OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD FIRST POLICY – The NDA government has no doubt built very strong international relations with the EU and with the great superpowers of Russia and the United States. Since assuming power, Modi’s primary agenda was of having strong relations with the neighboring nations and for the same ‘A neighborhood first policy’ was even chalked out. But considering the recent acts of Nepal changing its map, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh giving more leverage to China, it was very evident that the government was unsuccessful in gaining the support and confidence of the neighboring nations. This was a major setback considering India’s current aim of countering China at an international level. However, keeping all the strained relations aside, vaccine diplomacy can do wonders in strengthening India’s relations with its neighboring nations. India is providing a certain number of vaccines for free to Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. This action of the government can be traced back to the Gujral doctrine which was a milestone in framing India’s foreign policy with its neighbors. The doctrine listed out five principles out of which one was of not seeking favors from the neighboring nations of Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan if India, as a big brother, has helped them in any way. The main aim of this principle was to establish a relation of trust which is solid as a rock and lasts till eternity. Yes this won’t reap us immediate benefits but it is very important in a longer run. An Indian Vaccine will cure people which are suffering from a virus that originated in China. These very nations will now rethink as to whom to side with and mostly they would tilt towards India because India was their helping friend in their times of need. China is already feeling this threat and this is very evident from the behavior of the state-backed Chinese media and President Xi Jinping’s statement at Davos where he warned the world about a new cold war. This major win for India is a major setback for China.
SIGNS OF ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY – There is an old and famous English proverb which goes as ‘Health is Wealth’. Humans needed a pandemic to realize how important and meaningful this proverb is! India desperately requires a major economic push since 2018. The pandemic exacerbated our ailing economy. Lives were lost, jobs were lost. People lost their source of income which was indeed very sad. But this vaccine rollout and diplomacy gives us a golden opportunity to get our economy back on track. India is vaccinating a large number of people daily in a phased manner and this is very evident from the fact that we were the fastest nation to vaccinate 1 million people. Good health of the civilians and workers would enable them to work with full determination which would, in turn, attract large multinational pandemic hit companies who look to start their production activities in full force. Large scale investments will create large scale job opportunities. Not to forget, it would be a boon for a sector which has suffered the most – Tourism. The post-pandemic economic dream of the government seems a reality. All we can hope that the Atmanirbhar strategy which has been chalked out achieves what it intends to achieve.
DOMINANCE AT AN INTERNATIONAL LEVEL – With his speeches, Modi has taught us some interesting Hindi and Sanskrit words. Two of them being – विश्वगुरु (world leader) and जगतगुरु (Guru of the world). This vaccine distribution to the world can help India reclaim the dominance, it once enjoyed at an international level. Currently, all world leaders are going pretty gaga over Modi to obtain or after obtaining the vaccine, be it small nations like the Dominica Republic or large and strong democracies like the United Kingdom and Brazil. Although there are other vaccines of Russia, the United States, and China available, the reason why the Indian vaccine is being preferred is because a) It’s cheap b) It is very reliable with almost no side effects c) India has the ability and the capability to mass-produce vaccines. For poor African nations, India is their sole supplier for vaccines until and unless the US or any other nation becomes so generous that it provides the Pfizer or any other safe vaccine for free or at a cheaper rate. This can help India counter China’s attempt to make Africa its puppet. I say this keeping in mind the attitude of the Chinese government to help the poor nations economically and then putting them in such a situation that they no longer enjoy complete sovereignty. Even for economically prosperous nations like Canada, with whom our relations have not been that great due to the constant support and shelter provided by Trudeau to Khalistani activists, India is the best option available. The government can garner support from all fronts through vaccine diplomacy. This helping nature of India, which is very well ingrained in our ethos, will bring the golden days of विश्वगुरु and जगतगुरु back.
The decade of 2020 is extremely important for India. As per experts and studies, in this decade, India will become the world’s most populated nation and the world’s third-largest economy. India has massive potential and be it any government, of the NDA or the UPA, has to ensure that this untapped potential is exploited to its fullest. We have to march on to be one of the important nations with our ethics and ethos by our side.
Manav Asrani – Writer Bharat Bhagya Vidhata