COVID diplomacy 2.0, a different order of tasks

GS 2: International Relations

Context:In the article the author talks about  Indian the fallout of the vaccine collapse and bio-research regulations, thus focussing on COVID-2.0 diplomacy


  • During the first wave of the pandemic,focus was on coordinating exports of COVID-19 medicines, flights to repatriate Indians abroad (the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’) after the lockdown, and then exporting vaccines worldwide (‘Vaccine Maitri’)
  • After the second wave, Covid Diplomacy 2.0 has a different order of tasks, both in the immediate and the long term.

The health crisis

  • The immediate imperative was to deal with oxygen and medicine shortages.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs has had to deal with internal health concerns while galvanising help from abroad for others.
  • Remdesivir and favipiravir were brought from the United States and Russia, and later requesting black fungus medication, and the previous ones have been dropped from the medical protocol.
  • Ministry of External Affairs has completed the task of bringing in supplies in a timely manner, and with success.

Handling vaccine shortages

  • The shortage of vaccines in the country has arisen from three factors:
  • The failure of the Government to plan and place procurement orders in time;
  • The failure of the two India-based companies to produce vaccine doses they had committed to
  • MEA’s focus on exporting, not importing, vaccines between January and April this year.
  • With the companies manufacturing AstraZeneca and Sputnik-V stretched as far as future production is concerned, and Chinese vaccines a non-starter given bilateral tensions, it is clear that the government is looking to the U.S. to make up the shortfall.

There are various ways to do it they are:

  • requesting the U.S. to share a substantial portion of its stockpile of AstraZeneca doses and to release more vaccine ingredients which are restricted for exports to buy more stock outright from the three U.S. manufacturers, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, and to encourage production in India of these vaccines.
  • To negotiate is a  difficult route. The U.S. government is holding up its AstraZeneca exports until its own United States Food and Drug Administration approves them;  it has released a small amount (20 million doses) of vaccine ingredients and components.
  • Buying vaccines directly will need  negotiations as the U.S. companies seem set on getting both an indemnity waiver from India as well as Emergency Use Authorisation prior to supplying them.
  • The Government may also need to make shift from its publicly announced policy that States in India will need to negotiate purchases directly, as the U.S. manufacturers want centralised orders, with payments up-front.

Patents, diplomatic fallout

  • The promise of patent waivers, from India’s joint proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) won’t reap early benefits, despite support from world leaders such as the U.S., Russia and China.
  • As many countries are still holding out on the idea of freeing up intellectual property rights on vaccines for three years.
  • The third big challenge for Indian diplomacy is to manage the fallout of the vaccine collapse.
  • All vaccine exports were stopped as soon as cases in India began to soar, global agencies depending on India for vaccines have been left in the lurch by the Government’s failure to balance its vaccine budget.
  • Worst sufferer is as Bhutan and its vaccine drive which depended entirely on India’s promise of vaccines for its whole population.
  • India’s neighbours has now sought help from China and the U.S. to complete their vaccination drives.
  • Making amends and regaining trust for India’s vaccine and pharmacy exports in the future is going to be a challenge left to the MEA and its missions in several capitals.

Tracing virus pathways

  • To gain understanding of what caused COVID-19,India, as one of the worst pandemic-hit countries, must be at the forefront of demanding accountability.
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) studied “pathways of emergence” of SARS-CoV2 in Wuhan, listed four possibilities: direct zoonotic transmission, an intermediate host, cold chain or transmission through food, or a laboratory incident.
  • World are now calling for more research and transparency from China, particularly over the activities at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

On regulations

  • India,  must call for a more definitive answer and also raise its voice for a stronger convention to regulate any research that could lead, by accident or design, to something as diabolical as the current pandemic.
  • It is necessary to revamp the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, to institute an implementation body to assess treaty compliance, and build safer standards for the future.


With its seat at the UN Security Council as non-permanent member and its position on WHO’s Executive Board, India could seek to regain the footing it has lost over the past few months of COVID-19 mismanagement, by taking a lead role in ensuring the world is protected from the next such pandemic.

2) Breaking the cycle of child labour is in India’s hands

GS 2 : Vulnerable Section

Background: The author talks about the rise of child labour cases in India due to the job losses by onspread of COVID-19.

What the data show:

  • 152 million children around the world are still in child labour, 73 million of them in hazardous work.
  • Government of India survey (NSS Report) suggests that 95% of the children in the age group of 6-13 years are attending educational institutions (formal and informal) while the corresponding figures for those in the age group of 14-17 years is 79.6%.
  • Large number of children in India remain vulnerable, facing physical and psychological risks to a healthy development.
  • The Census of India 2011 reports 10.1 million working children in the age group of 5-14 years, out of whom 8.1 million are in rural areas mainly engaged as cultivators (26%) and agricultural labourers (32.9%).
  • UNESCO estimates based on the 2011 Census record 38.1 million children as “out of school” .
  • This may produce long-term and devastating consequences for their education,  skills acquisition, and hence  future possibilities to overcome the vicious circle of poverty, incomplete education and poor quality jobs.
  • Rapid Survey on Children (2013-14), jointly undertaken by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and UNICEF, found that less than half of children in the age group of 10-14 years have completed primary education.

A decrease in India

  • Child labour in India decreased in the decade 2001 to 2011, and this demonstrates that the right combination of policy and programmatic interventions can make a difference.
  • Policy interventions such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) 2005, the Right to Education Act 2009 and the Mid Day Meal Scheme have paved the way for children to be in schools along with guaranteed wage employment (unskilled) for rural families.
  • Convergence of government schemes is also the focus of the implementation of the National Child Labour Project.
  • Ratifying International Labour Organization Conventions Nos. 138 and 182 in 2017, the Indian government further demonstrated its commitment to the elimination of child labour .
  • While child labour has declined during the past decade globally, estimates indicate that the rate of reduction has slowed by two-thirds in the most recent four-year period.
  • The economic contraction and lockdowns ensuing from the pandemic have affected all countries in Asia, leading to income reductions.
  • The worsened  situation, poses a real risk of backtracking the gains made in eliminating child labour.
  • With increased economic insecurity, lack of social protection and reduced household income, children from poor households are being pushed to do child labour.

Challenges in education

  • With closure of schools and challenges of distance learning, children may drop out leaving little scope for return.
  • As many schools and educational institutions are moving to online platforms for continuation of learning, the ‘digital divide’ is a challenge .
  • NSS Report ‘Household Social Consumption on Education in India’ suggests that in 2017-18, only 24% of Indian households had access to an Internet facility, proportions were 15% among rural households and 42% among urban households.
  • Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2020 survey highlights that a third of the total enrolled children received some kind of learning materials from their teachers during the reference period (October 2020) as digital mode of education was opted for.

Way Forward:

  • Right level of commitment among all the relevant stakeholders and the right mix of policy and programmatic interventions will help overcome the challenges.
  • Strategic partnerships and collaborations involving government, employers, trade unions, community-based organisations and child labour families that we could make a difference.
  • Our focus to mitigate the aftermath of the pandemic also remains. We need a strong alliance paving our way towards ending child labour in all its forms by 2025 as countries around the world have agreed to in Sustainable Development Goal 8.7.
  • Governments, employers, unions, civil society organisations and even individuals — must rise and pledge to ‘Take Action against Child Labour’ as a part of the UN’s declaration of 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *