Dr. VK Paul, Member, Niti Aaayog,
Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary
Shri Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary (Health & Family Welfare)
Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (ER), Ministry of External Affairs
A very warm welcome to the launch of the ICWA and Ministry External Affairs, joint publication- ‘Indian Diplomacy and Covid Response’.
The Covid pandemic engulfed the world in 2020 impacting individuals, societies and nations in a devastating manner and caused disruptions on an unprecedented scale. Lock-downs were imposed, masks became mandatory, lives and livelihoods were lost, travel and supply chains disrupted. Yet, in this period, we saw “Covid warriors”, whether it was health care workers, community workers, security forces and others who worked tirelessly. Scientists and biologists, raced against time to get out treatments and vaccines.
In the midst of these extraordinary challenges and uncertainties, governments and leaders were called upon to manage the pandemic and its consequences.
India faced the Covid challenges through a “whole of government approach” under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; and each challenge was met resolutely. Dr. V.K. Paul, Member, Niti Aayog, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, and Secretary Economic Relations Dammu Ravi were involved in the management of many issues related to the pandemic, and we look forward to hearing their views.
Today, India has successfully administered more than 1.87 billion vaccines, it has reopened its economy, educational institutions, international flights and is reconnecting to the world ‘in person’. However, Government continues to constantly monitor the Covid situation.
In the last two years, even as India was attending to its huge domestic requirements, it was mindful of the fact that the pandemic was a global crisis that required India to work with other countries and with international organizations. Indian diplomacy adapted itself quickly to meet the unprecedented situation and the challenging circumstances.
As a country with a large diaspora, Indian nationals were assisted to return home from countries across the globe under the ‘Vande Bharat’ Mission which included organizing chartered flights, setting up air bubble arrangements with other countries. In addition, they were also evacuated by land and by sea. At the same time, India worked with foreign missions for evacuation of their nationals from India. For all this, 24X7 MEA Control Rooms functioned.
During the pandemic, India’s image as the pharmacy of the world was cemented when essential medicines and medical equipment were dispatched in sizeable quantities to more than 150 countries. Later, India through its Vaccine Maitri programme, provided vaccines to a large number of countries. And -when India reached out to seek assistance during the pandemic, the response of partner countries was forthcoming. The goodwill for India was evident.
ICWA is privileged to be associated with MEA on this project which records India’s response to the pandemic and the administrative and diplomatic work of the Ministry of External Affairs. I am also happy to welcome, amidst us, Heads of Missions and members of diplomatic corps with whom the Ministry cooperated and who helped us in the fight against the global virus pandemic.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Foreign Secretary, on behalf of ICWA, for all the valuable support he has given to this institution during his tenure and wish him the very best in the new phase that he begins at the end of this month. Thank you.