Script: Dr. SANGHAMITRA SARMA, Strategic Analyst on European Affairs
Amidst a massive surge in cases of people affected by the second wave of Covid-19 in India, the international community has come out wholeheartedly and has extended its hand to help the country in the form of medical supplies, hospital aid, medicines etc. The European Union (EU) has come in full support of India in the fight against the pandemic. Earlier this year, the EU had pledged to intensify cooperation with India on health security and issues related to the spread and control of Covid–19 and had stated that partnering with New Delhi was crucial to develop an effective response mechanism.
During the 11th India-EU Macroeconomic dialogue held virtually earlier this year, the EU had informed about the economic challenges and outlook of their economy in the aftermath of the pandemic and had also outlined their recovery plan. India, on the other hand, had shared its policy response to the COVID-19 crisis and the steps that were being taken to revive the Indian economy.
Both sides had realised that along with trade and investment, stepping up a partnership on health security has become all the more imminent considering the current circumstances.
At the 15th India-EU Summit held in July 2020, the two sides had emphasised the importance of “strengthening preparedness and response capacities, of sharing information in a free, transparent and prompt manner, and of improving international response including through relevant international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), drawing on lessons learned from the current global responses”.
Upon request for assistance by India, the EU recently activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism which provides assistance to countries affected by disasters through a coordinated response system. The European Commissioner for Crisis Management and European Emergency Response Coordinator, Janez Lenarčic recently tweeted that the EU will do its utmost to mobilize assistance to support the people of India. In this regard, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is already coordinating and is preparing a mission of support to aid India’s pandemic crisis response.
The EU has time and again reiterated its support to India in the common fight against Covid-19. In this connection, a discussion of cooperative steps is planned to be taken at the EU-India Leaders’ meeting which is scheduled to be held on 8 May 2021 between Indian Prime
Minister Narendra Modi and Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal who holds the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The discussions will be part of the bilateral preparation for the annual EU-India summit, which will be held in virtual mode on the same day.
At this critical juncture when India needs help to strengthen her capabilities, help that has arrived or which is set to arrive is much more than welcome. The European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen is already coordinating with EU countries that are up and ready to offer emergency aid to India.
Germany has expressed solidarity and has extended assistance to India in the form of emergency aid like oxygen, medicines and other relief materials. Meanwhile, France has offered to replenish much-needed oxygen supplies to India. Several other countries like the US, the UK, Iran, Russia, Australia and Bhutan have also pitched in to assist India by arranging more supplies and additional support amid the spike in COVID-19 infections.
It is needless to say that with the changed geopolitical realities, it is extremely significant to underline the fact that mutual synergies in the field of healthcare should be ramped up and harnessed to develop a global response to a non-conventional challenge that has taken over the lives of people all around the world.
Indeed, health security has become a primary sector for cooperation and collaboration between countries and organisations in an era of global health threats. If anything, Covid-19 has shown how capacity building and sharing of best experiences are needed for developing a more robust international health architecture. As the WHO rightly said, “a renewed collective commitment would be a milestone in stepping up pandemic preparedness at the highest political level”.