Need for joint venture against Corona

Markandey Katju, Amile Gulzar and Dr Salfiyah Shamim

The Coronavirus has recently witnessed a spike in cases in a densely populated South Asian region, especially India and Pakistan. It has emerged as a non-traditional security threat, which is common to the nuclear archrivals. It provides an opportunity for both the countries to tackle this threat by having a joint and co-operative approach. This would help save more number of lives than the number of lives lost in this region due to conflicts since 1947. The question is whether it is possible? We submit that yes, it is possible and present our point of view.

The world has applauded the efforts of the Prime Minister Imran Khan in tackling this threat in an effective way. Pakistan’s smart lockdown strategy instead of following a full lockdown or curfew, as enforced in India, has proved to be effective. It has not only helped in reducing the number of Corona cases, but also helped the economy to stand. One must appreciate the Government of Pakistan for offering help to India to overcome the Covid-19 epidemic by sharing its successful cash transfer programme. Unfortunately, the Indian government declined the offer. Had there been a better co-operation and understanding, India would have also benefited from Pakistan’s successful efforts in tackling this pandemic.

Here, it is to mention that India and Pakistan both have very good scientists and medical experts, whereas many of them even working in the USA and Europe. For instance, India has several scientists specialized in this field, and Pakistan has experts like Dr Zafar Mirza, who has a long-standing experience of working on national, regional and international levels in health sector.

In our opinion, the governments of both the countries should set up a joint team of such experts and scientists having expertise in pandemics to do research on a war footing to find out a vaccine/medicine for Corona. This team should be given adequate funds and other facilities for their work by both the governments.

It must be emphasized that the problem is scientific, and can therefore only be resolved by scientists, not politicians, judges or administrators. Science is an international subject, not national. Therefore, a joint team of scientists of India, Pakistan, and also some other countries should immediately be formed for this purpose. Private entrepreneurs should also be included in this team.

In this regard, one important point should be noted there has been shortage of ventilators in both the countries. As per the available figures, there are only 48,000 ventilators for 1.3 billion Indian population and only 1650 ventilators for 200 million Pakistan’s population. It is an alarming situation for which both the countries can work together to overcome this hurdle, while it has been a great success for Pakistan’s Ministry of Science and Technology in announcing the production of local ventilators, whereas India has also given licenses to 3 firms to manufacture ventilators.

Therefore, the relevant ministries of both the countries should assist and facilitate each other in overcoming such shortages at this hour of need as this non-traditional security threat is not confined to any specific nation, religion, caste or creed. So, the leadership of both the countries should let go their egos and traditional rivalries and try to overcome this crisis through a united front on the basis of humanity. This would not only help better the relations between India and Pakistan, but would also bring peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Markandey Katju is the former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Amile Gulzar is an advocate at the Lahore High Court, Lahore and Dr Salfiyah Shamim is a young doctor in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.

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