Between the Headlines

Between the Headlines
To assume that this does not affect Indian business relations abroad would be nave to say the least.Fore sight in international relations does affect a country's international business.

The columns are bursting with news on Covid. The United Nations General Assembly President Elect Abdulla Shahid has made his debut in the new role by talking of the concerns leading to the origin of Corona Virus. It has been nearly a year and a half where the answer to the origin of a pandemic which has shaken the world as nothing before, still remain to be framed with precision. The UNGA President Elect evaded a question on will China cooperate. He felt, ‘this question is to be answered by the membership of the General Assembly.’ The plea is obviously of ‘impartiality’. Like many much badly or wrongly used words,’impartiality’ is a word much misunderstood. Impartiality, does not mean being without conviction. Impartiality does not and cannot mean sitting on the fence because the options are inconvenient. If one holds a position of responsibility one has to carry it with conviction & responsibility.

Irrespective of the merits of the case, it is obvious that China has managed to remain silent on many aspects of the origin of the virus and got away with it. It is not an easy question nor can it be evaded because unless one knows how this unprecedented experience originated, it is likely to get repeated in some other format. It is obvious that the need of hospitalisation of three persons of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in late 2019 is still to be fully explained. The merits and demerits of the proposition cannot and need not be debated here. But one thing that is clear, is, that unless a global protocol is in position to answer questions of this order, it will be difficult to carry forward international business within the framework of acknowledged norms.

The issue is not just of origin of a pandemic, the issue is of sustaining protocols, of working collectively. In a world which has,over a period, shrunk,there is a clear scramble to gain control of resources, routes and one might add, control of key international connect points. To say the least, China’s track record of dealing with its neighbours in the last 20 years does not evoke sufficient confidence. A civil order is needed which could be relied upon to usher equity and fair play keeping as the bottom line the dignity of the human being.

The issue is not just of origin of a pandemic, the issue is of sustaining protocols, of working collectively.

The President Elect UNGA has talked of his priority of vaccine equity; surely a worthwhile perspective. The truth of the matter is, vaccines have been hoarded by the nations who could, in an unprecedented manner, without any compare, with anything distantly similar in human history. It is difficult to overlook the fact that Mr Abdulla Shahid is from Maldives which has its own logistic compulsions. It has been yet another case of India supporting, an international position which later on, as times passed, had less than the due capacity to return India’s support when India needed it. This way of conducting international affairs can only evoke a law diminishing returns. There is something fundamental,requiring a re-look about our ability, as a nation, to appreciate the extrapolations of the position we take in international affairs. Going to the Security Council on Jammu & Kashmir, supporting China’s incumbency of five permanent positions in the United Nations Security Council, taking a position on Tibet in early 50’s (which echoed China’s position) and indeed sending a peace-keeping force in Sri Lanka are only a few of the many well-known examples of our faux pas in international relations.

To assume that this does not affect Indian business relations abroad would be nave to say the least.Fore sight in international relations does affect a country’s international business. There is a need to relook at the way one measures up to insights required for international diplomacy. Could this be because of a misplaced sense of urgency to appear more prominent in the international arena than is warranted by our armorial and economic strength?

After all the debate is over there is no doubting the fact that Indian since 1947 has had a stable and steady trajectory of growth both at the level of the states and the nation at large. This is a great achievement. It cuts across regions, sects, political parties and economic tug-of-war. The Nation has paid for its share of judgemental errors just as any entity must pay for such errors. Yet on the whole as we near 75 years of Independence, it is a great achievement. Our R&D efforts need huge emphasis, our materials management should draw upon indigenous resources. Above all we need a decision making culture where Indian talent finds itself welcomed. These are not easy objectives to achieve but they cannot be evaded either.

Confidence in oneself, legitimate pride on one’s worthy heritage and equity in resource utilisation holds the key. Till then, the temptation to appear larger than king size in the international arena needs to be contained, if not totally curbed. Such an approach will facilitate the routes of a sensible progression of business of Indian origin, not only in India but beyond the borders.

Dr. Vinayshil Gautam

Internationally acclaimed management expert. Chairman, DKIF

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