The inspirational deaf-blind American Author Helen Keller once exclaimed, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Her wise thoughts stand true and very relevant, especially in today’s testing times when a raging pandemic engulfs the entire world in its darkness. It is essential that in this time of gloom and doom, the world, and especially the South Asian region, comes together and engages in collaborative efforts to fight the virus and heal the wounds inflicted by it.
The South Asian region is a unique one. It consists of a bundle of political divisions, coupled with a lack of medical infrastructure and massive socio-economic disparities among the inhabitants. Consequently, there are many ongoing conflicts in the region like those between India and Pakistan, or those ongoing in Afghanistan, etc.
However, in my opinion, this is the time when South Asian nations must rise above their differences and collaborate through tools like the SAARC for the common good. Although there have been developments in this collaborative sphere, which can be seen by the development of the SAARC Emergency Covid-19 Fund with the constant support of the Indian PM Mr Modi, there is a long way to go.
The experience of Covid-19 has made us realize the need for more research in the field of diseases and pandemic potentialities, so as to come up with an effective response system—unlike the experience of the past few months when most countries of the region were ill-prepared, which led to the governments resorting to short-term solutions such as draconian lockdowns. Further, research is also required for Covid-19 itself as there are many aspects of the virus that we may still not be aware of. Even the WHO Chief Mr Tedros accepted this in a Press Conference saying, “Nine months into the pandemic, many questions remain”.
Hence, one thing is clear that more research is needed in any case to deal with this pandemic and to prevent or fight future potential ones. However, poor medical infrastructure, lack of funds, corruption, poverty, and other problems that plague most of the South Asian nations may act as major roadblocks to research in these countries.
Thus, it is essential that South Asian nations join hands and pledge their technology, funds, and trust to launch a collaborative research effort that will not only help them win the fight against Covid-19 but also reap benefits of the same in future.
In fact, collaborations must’ve been conducted much before between the SAARC nations. The World Bank and Elsevier also had released a report in this regard, titled “South Asia: Challenges and benefits of research collaboration in a diverse region”. In this, it is very rightly mentioned that exploiting the benefits of new technologies requires “an enabling environment for innovation and adaptation to be created, which in turn would demand for Research and Development (R&D) capacities, which may exceed the domestic resources of developing countries.”
Thus, in this context, international collaboration can greatly benefit these countries as resources will be pooled by all, and the benefits would be divided amongst all.
Another critical factor to take into consideration is that the South Asian region is one of the most diverse regions in the world. With vast mountains, seas, rivers, altering terrain, etc., the region has a massive heterogeneous populace spread all over. This can be a major advantage in the field of research. For starters, diversity reinvigorates problem-solving as a diverse community is better able to generate new research methods, explanations, and ideas, which can help science over challenging hurdles and shed new light on problems.
Further, diversity also provides loads of information regarding how different people may react to a potential medicine in today’s situation a vaccine. Apart from this, collaborations will also greatly benefit the future of the region as the region will have better medical technology, innovations, and strategies to tackle issues. Thus, it is high time we embrace what Helen Keller said years ago and unite with cooperative engagements.