Several Latin American countries including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, and some of the Caribbean nations have reached out to India for help to fight against the global pandemic COVID-19. “For India, now is the time to solidly stand in solidarity and mount a comprehensive response to mitigate the crisis facing LATAM,” a former diplomat opines.
The Brazilian President Jair M Bolsonaro has sent a note to Prime Minister Narendra Modi making references to Ramayana and “Sanjeevani Booti’’, the other governments have been reaching out through their missions seeking either economic or medical help.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior official confirmed that “There have been requests from the LAC region help or looking for the anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine, medical devices and protective gear including gloves, masks, overall.”
The countries from the region have very strong trade and economic ties as well a large number of Diaspora are in the Caribbean countries. Countries like Brazil, Argentina are also part of MERCOSUR and the talks are going on for the expansion of the India-MERCOSUR Trade agreement. Brazil is a member of BRICS as well as IBSA and earlier this year, President Bolsonaro was the Chief Guest at the 70th Republic Day celebrations of India earlier this year.
While India and Chile are in the process of negotiating the further expansion of the India-Chile trade agreement, India and Ecuador have yet to start the talks.
What is India doing?
India has assured to help the global community after taking care of domestic needs. Given the enormity of the COVID-19, earlier in the week, a decision was taken to licence paracetamol and HCQ in enough suitable quantities to the neighbouring countries and to supply these essential drugs to some countries who have been badly affected by the pandemic.
“The Corona virus pandemic is relentlessly ravaging the world and taking a great toll in LATAM countries. The region which has been experiencing low economic growth due to several local, regional and global developments seems ill-prepared to face full blast of this avalanche of a health crisis, moving at a faster pace. The political protests of recent months have enfeebled their capability to confront the crisis. It has struck the region when many countries have been struggling to reverse the slowdown through a slew of measures albeit with limited success,” opines Ravi Bangar, former ambassador of India to Colombia & Ecuador and High Commissioner in Cyprus.
According to him, “A number of governments which registered high growth during 2005 – 2015 harnessing political stability and high commodities prices are staring at bleak economic future. This is further exacerbated by the disinterest of historic regional power i.e. the US – as it raises walls of protectionism, fights trade wars with China and the EU. Spain, Portugal, UK and France former colonial powers in the continent have their own set of challenges caused by slowing economies, migrant crisis, aging populations, BREXIT etc.”
A number of LAC countries despite several plans to eradicate coca continue to suffer debilitating effects of narco-traffic as centres of production and trade of illegal drugs destined to markets in the US and Europe. Further, stranglehold of organized crime continues as tight as a decade ago. The crisis also threatens peace moves and accords signed, could come unstuck.
It is inevitable that the region in these circumstances as it fights Coronavirus War, will look up to emerging countries such as China and India.
“China is expected to meet medico requirements to the extent possible as part of it Medical Diplomacy. Many countries in the region shedding political ideological rivalries will also tap into Cuban doctors and medics who are well trained and experienced of deployment in medical emergencies including effective responses in Ebola epidemic in West Africa and Zica outbreak in Brazil. They have already landed in Italy, one of the worst affected by this contagion,” Bangar says.
India in the recent years has embarked on proactive diplomacy and engaged with the region and it is the world’s pharmacy and has significant pharma exports to the region.
“India should assist with medicines, medical equipment, accessories, experience sharing, special modules to train medical teams in the region through telemedicine. The scope is limitless; the speedy formulation of the package and action is called for,” the former diplomat to the region urges.
Now is the time to translate into reality Vasudev Kutumbakam into action and strengthen bonds of friendship between India and LAC region.