There is no sugar-coating or downplaying the fact that India’s image in the international arena has taken a severe hit owing to the Centre’s evident mismanagement of the second wave of Covid-19. Just when we had begun to take on bigger roles in global leadership, we got compelled to step back and accept foreign aid. One tragedy has undone years’ worth of efforts put into building India’s international image.
But where did we go wrong? Was it the government’s oversight, arrogance in the face of small achievements or dereliction of duty to ramp up healthcare infrastructure after the first wave?
We were quick to offer aid to our smaller neighbours the moment we became a significant player in vaccine production against the deadly virus. However, given the current healthcare crisis and shortage of vaccines in the country, the fact stands highlighted that we were eager to rescue others before securing our own fort. Our engagement with domestic recovery has now left China free to fill the void and connect economically with our neighbours.
Following the 2020 border standoff in Ladakh, India had begun to take bolder postures against China — be it in calling it out internationally for its duplicity or slamming bans and sanctions. However, in light of the current circumstances, India is compelled to soften its stance and probably roll back some of its policies.
India’s importance as a strategic player in the Indo-Pacific region and as an emerging economic power cannot be denied. However, this does not stop advanced countries from once again looking at India’s population as a bane rather than a boon.
The learning remains clear — we must build actual structural strength on ground before projecting a magnified image to the world. India’s healthcare system should assume priority not only in the event of the predicted third wave, but for times to come. The only successful way out of this tragedy now is mass vaccination and ample preparedness to fight a possible third wave.