Coronavirus: Covid-19


COVID-19 seems to have become all encompassing. A ‘Global lock down was unimaginable, even in the wildest of science fictions, till just a few weeks back. While there are historical records of a couple of severe calamities which struck the world, there certainly was none, even marginally comparable to this.

Magnitude of the Corona calamity was multiplied by the fact that it happened almost overnight. Despite the benefits of instant global communication, the virus gave us no warning at all. We still have no idea how to fight it and so all that we are doing now is to avoid a contact with this enemy and avoid giving it a battle. We are in the midst of a planned withdrawal.  Only time will tell whether we succeed in avoiding a battle for long enough to help prepare our defenses. Under the circumstances, India has been coping satisfactorily, so far.

Manifestation of the calamity has left us operating in a totally unchartered territory. Every challenge, down the road will, therefore, be a new challenge, requiring solutions which were never conceived or contemplated by us before. But, as always, new challenges will naturally throw up new opportunities. This is the one bright ray of hope, especially for a country like India.

The virus will go away sooner or later. But it will leave huge human and economic devastation in its wake. Time alone can assuage the tragedy of loss of human lives. As far as the economic devastation is concerned, it will disrupt the entire structure of global economic activity, pushing us towards total restructuring. Globalization will undergo a makeover and will, hereafter, be viewed through prisms other than the prism of manufacturing cost and profits alone. Greater degree of self sufficiency, alternate supply chains, multiple sources for ingredients, transparency, higher levels of stock etc will engage more attention. It is also worth dwelling upon one significant issue that will concern us and that is, in the post COVID 19 era, will the world trust China to remain its manufacturing hub? if not China, then who? India? Theres a distinct opportunity lurking on the horizon. The stage seems to be set for us, in this regard. But we need to do some urgent housekeeping, if we want to successfully reach out to the world and avail the stream of fleeting opportunities that will appear on the horizon as we go forward. We have to make ourselves the ‘best option’ for anyone in search of a suitable alternative to China. There will be many takers. We have everything going our way to be a competitive and viable alternative. But some of the recent undesirable domestic upheavals make it essential for us to convey to the world that India is a stable democracy. For this, the Indian politicians across the board and our incorrigible army of pseudo intellectuals will have straightaway to take a break from playing community and religious political games. The Government must remain agile and make requisite policy provisions. The Indian media also has a lot to do to ward off the biased and false projection of events in our country by the western media.

As and when the COVID-19  calamity starts receding, the world will witness unfolding of a great deal of power play, countries scurrying to hedge their national interests, the end of economic interests alone dictating regional and global grouping / affiliations and restructuring of world bodies like UN, IMF, WHO etc. With a bit of political goodwill on the part of our political leaders, India can place itself in the most advantageous position to take full advantage of the opportunities that the post COVID-19 world will throw up.

This calamity has also opened our eyes to the need for a drastic change in the entire sequencing of priority with regard to national security dimensions. The ease with which even riff-raff entities can pose real and viable threats to even the most powerful nations in the world is unimaginable. The ease of deniability of such strikes makes it ‘better than the best option for rogue elements. Ruthless savages lurking around the world have had more than a firsthand glimpse of the devastation that can be caused with ease. They have just been shown how to get past the metal detectors and all known surveillance equipment around the world with total impunity. India and the world have no choice but to adopt immediate, effective surveillance and other measures to protect our population.

As far as ecology and environment are concerned, there is a silver lining in the clouds. The global lock down has achieved far more than even the best unanimous global treaty could ever have achieved. The world has witnessed visible and positive ecological impact. It has also set us thinking if consumption based development is a viable model at all for the world. For India, the calamity also signals efforts needed to stabilize our population growth.

Voices are being raised around the world to fix responsibility for the COVID-19 outbreak and investigations are on to trace the source of the virus. Results of such investigations will remain suspect, considering the lack of credibility of even entities like the WHO. Under the circumstances, it is tricky to take a call as a country, in this regard. The facts and the truth are likely to remain hazy for a very long time. We should not be in a hurry to take a position. As and when the time arises, based on what suits our national interest the most and the truth (if the truth ever emerges at all), we can take a call on this.

Author: Lt. Gen CA Krishnan (Retd.)
The Author was former Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Planning and Systems), Indian Army

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