A self-reliant India
The world is bound to withstand the ravages of the pandemic. It is the resilience to overcome challenges that makes humankind unique. Across the globe, countries have more or less followed a similar strategy of lockdown and yet there have been internal differences that marked their situation. While the developed nations of the West viz. Italy, Spain, France, the UK and the US saw a steep rise in cases and fatalities, countries such as South Korea, Germany, Singapore, Canada, Japan, etc., have managed the crisis in a much better way. While there may be several other factors at play here, it is also the executive strategy that shaped the reality that all countries are in today. While Donald Trump downplayed the novel virus, Moon Jae-in appeared rather vigilant and the outcome is for the world to see with the US reaching a million cases and more than 50,000 deaths while South Korea flattened the transmission curve with around 10,000 cases and around 240 fatalities. The difference lied in the attitude of the respective leaders. While the former treated COVID-19 as mere flu, the latter resorted to an extreme strategy of trace, test and treat. And, when it comes to India, the decision to impose a national lockdown much ahead of other countries has yielded in a higher recovery rate and low mortality rate. India may have witnessed a surge in cases since the lockdown came in effect but it is hard to fathom the scenario without a lockdown. For a country as populous as India, the situation could have been grim had stringent measures not been put in place. It came at the cost of economic downfall but India is not alone in that fall. In fact, if it pursues a focussed recovery, IMF predictions already cite a 'V' shaped recovery by the next fiscal year. In hindsight, it has really come down to each country and its response to the pandemic that has accounted for the situation they are in today. And, because it has, there has been an underlying feeling of self-reliance that India ought to pursue. While today, it is a need, tomorrow it could be a feature of the Indian economy.
The pandemic has underlined how the developed, capitalist countries are not the striking image of excellence as the third world countries may think. In fact, the virus has left the void for the world equation to be re-balanced. While it has already been a fact that much of the world depends on China for its mighty manufacturing capacity, the need for an alternative market has made countries eye India as a viable option. India, on its end, has made efforts to meet the astonishing requirements of its national commitments in a multi-pronged manner. Besides importing testing kits and PPEs from China and South Korea, India has thrown the requirement mandate to the domestic market as well and the outcome of the same has takeaways for India. Firstly, the domestic response has been welcoming. IIT Delhi came up with cheap testing kits, DRDO came up with cost-effective masks and hazmat suits while industries like Maruti Suzuki have been tasked with manufacturing ventilators. It is as if the time of need has revitalised the NDA government's famed 'Make in India' initiative. What it points to is how India, if given the opportunity, can develop much of the items that it otherwise chooses to import. Cost-effectiveness ever since the advent of globalisation post-1991 has indeed made India rely less on being self-reliant and more on how to produce a net advantage. But a post-COVID world can change the equation. A new manufacturing policy, a redesigned export regime and revitalised 'Make in India' can well-define the contours of a protectionist trade world that the global order is likely headed towards. ISRO is a startling example of India's capacity to excel in a field by its own strength. And, post-2020, the stage might be set to pursue a self-reliant strategy in a variety of sectors.