Adaptability and resilience, the two most cherishing characteristics of human beings, are the least interesting things to talk about in the current panic seeker corona phase. Coronavirus pandemic has put the leaders of the democracies on a double-edged sword; if they loosen the grip they will be called careless murderers (mostly by left-aligned media) and will certainly be called dictator if they attempt to tighten it. Social distancing and lockdown are helping in the containment of corona spread but at the same time an overdose of misinformation, which the people are forced to consume, can be equally or more devastating in the longer run. In a scenario when everyone is blaming the other side’s propaganda machine working ‘overtime’, finding which machine is working more efficiently is difficult.
We can have an endless debate on how World Health Organization (WHO) acted like an ignorant puppet of the Chinese regime or how badly U.S. intelligence failed, and why Russian President is looking so careless when the world is in panic? We can also continue to enjoy an interesting competition between some tech tycoons and philosophers on who ‘warned’ the world first. And in democracies, like India and Israel may be certain opinions can make some of us think that every single event these days is linked around the Right-wing election politics (as it happens throughout the year) but in the end, none of these will help us in tackling another ‘X’ outbreak, which may be already on its way.
If the COVID-19 outbreak exposed anything than it is the absence of a global response framework for pandemic and post-pandemic crisis, which if existed would have minimized the human and economic damages. There is a need for responsible countries like India and Israel to give a break to these endless and irrelevant discussions and to divert this chaotic and uncertain environment in the right direction.
Nature of globally recommended Coronavirus containment strategies such as social distancing and lockdowns have the elements of uncertainty and an uncertain mind tends to doubt the intentions behind every administrative move, this is a natural social response and it should be seen like that. But unfortunately, for certain interest groups (which exist in every democracy) this is a perfect season to harvest their narrations. Some old flag bearers of ‘Another World is Possible’ kind of campaigns, who see a crisis of any sort (whether economic recession, riots, or pandemic) as an opportunity to hang out with their comrades, for whom remaining relevant in an innovation-centric and information powered world is itself a big challenge from the last few years, it seems that the sudden outbreak of the corona crisis has reenergized their aspirations. Now armed with BIG tech support (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube) they are excited to leverage every possible opportunity of living their fantasies all over again and they are trying hard to project this temporary state as a permanent shape of the world. There is no doubt that the Post-Corona world would be different but this does not imply that ideas of the past, some of which (in their extreme form) have killed more humans than many epidemics and wars, would be given a ‘portal’ to arrange the world according to their imagination of ‘just’ order.
There is a need to remember that in parallel to the cycle of human evolution and progress there is a cycle of evolution of epidemics and pandemics too. If we don’t look too far then we still have 100 years of history of pandemics before us. From the Spanish Flu of 1918 to major epidemics outbreaks in present century e.g. Ebola virus disease, Lassa fever, H1N1 influenza, ZIKA, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), etc., all of them had the potential to turn into a global pandemic. In February 2018, WHO included ‘Disease X’ in its updated blueprint list of priority diseases, where ‘X’ indicates all those serious international epidemic diseases which are likely to emerge in the future, so the ongoing propaganda around the restructuring of human life due to corona crisis is not only meaningless but it has a very small life span too.
If theories around COVID-19 being a potent bioweapon are true then this current outbreak is very much similar in its impact to ’26/11′ Mumbai terror attacks (2008), which shook the world and forced all global powers to re-consider their counter-terror strategies seriously. And if Coronavirus outbreak is part of a natural cycle, then the urgency for building an international response framework to cope with such future challenges is already here. But certainly, the present international forums within their rigid bureaucratic structures and non-transparent approach are not capable to deal with the pandemics of this scale and we cannot afford to handle the emerging tide of future pandemics with the similar frame of mind in which we handled other serious global challenges- Terrorism and Climate Change.
One positive trend which emerged out of the Corona crisis is the birth of an informal structure of cooperation and response between those countries which were not allowed to lead the previous multilateral efforts. We have seen how these non-traditional players have co-operated with each other, from evacuations, to fund arrangements to the sharing of emergency medical supplies, and kept the order of the global cooperation in shape.
Future pandemics will need more efficiently crafted coordinated efforts and quick response frameworks, such a framework should have the elements of transparency, accountability, collaborative spirit and above all a commitment to the global good. Neither a hegemonic mind nor profits seeking temper have the potential to launch an initiative of such nature. Back in 2015, when a similar kind of vacuum was created in environmental leadership and Paris climate summit (COP 21) become a mere diplomatic exercise then Prime Minister Narendra Modi together with the then French President François Hollande laid the foundation of the International Solar Alliance (ISA). With 121 member countries, ISA is one of the most successful largest groupings of states worldwide.
India’s human-centric approach coupled with its ancient and continuing philosophy of environmental consciousness and global cooperation and Israel’s rich experience of crisis management and unique intelligence capabilities makes a perfect combination of a balanced and open global cooperation framework. At the same time, both countries are blessed with the unique scientific assets and thriving biotech industry. The young scientists on both sides (who are working day-night in the vaccine R&D) are determined to contribute their part for the larger vision of the global good.
Today, Modi and Netanyahu have an opportunity to divert the current highly chaotic and uncertain global environment into a positive direction, and initiative of Global Response Framework for future Pandemics can be a timely move in that direction.