The second wave of Covid-19 is devastating India and it’s overwhelming the healthcare systems. This comes after several months of political self-glorification on how the country is the saviour of the world during the pandemic crisis.
Indeed, they had begun to donate vaccines to several developing countries before the second wave started. But when the crisis hit home, the country decided to restrict vaccines export and started to focus on the domestic agenda.
The move has caused consternation across the world. And now it is forcing developed nations to retaliate. The US in a rejoinder, has restricted export of essential raw materials and equipment.
This might cripple India’s upcoming pharmaceutical industry. And it is a clear indication that India may have celebrated their competence in pharmaceutical knowledge a little too early.
And India’s actions have also angered other developed nations with deep roots in pharmaceutical production.
For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was quoted as saying, “Of course, we have only allowed India to become such a large pharmaceutical producer in the first place, also from the European side, in the expectation that this should be complied with. If that is not the case now, we will have to rethink.”
Although Chancellor Merkel’s words should never have been said in public, they have revealed an important message to the developing countries.
That, it is always the prerogative of the Western world to allow any economy to succeed in industrial sectors traditionally dominated by them. And also, irrespective of market dynamics that determine the kind of force impacting prices and the behaviours of producers and consumers.
What has come out clearly is that, if the developed countries decide to “rethink”, as Chancellor Merkel said, then India could find itself in a situation where technology transfer will be curtailed and critical export of raw materials from the developed world also restricted.
In that regard India could have inadvertently undermined her ascent to global dominance in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals.
Perhaps India could have borrowed a leaf from China’s experience. They have been able to ascend in technology to a level that it has largely closed the research and innovation gap that existed between them and the developed world.
But despite the achievements, China has never bragged about their scientific advances, the way India has been doing, despite the fact that China could be ahead of the Western world in semiconductors (the key driver of technological innovation and economic transformation of nations) and Artificial Intelligence.
However, in spite of India’s braggadocio, there is still need to ensure that it succeeds for the benefit of the developing countries.
This is because, it is the only country that has proved to have the ability to assemble a critical mass of scientists either internally or with her diaspora that can help change the global narrative of development. Its success will taper down the current geopolitical tensions that unnecessarily impact the developing world.
For example, the shortage of vaccines that is being experienced globally is not because the world isn’t producing enough, but because of politicisation of the pandemic.
Several vaccines have received emergency approval from the World Health Organisation (WHO) but there is a deliberate effort to drive consumers to only preferred vaccines.
Emerging evidence shows that the pandemic may linger longer than we hope. Also, vaccines may not stop the spread of Covid-19 and the long-term effect of the vaccines is yet to be known.
Covid-19 has shown the danger of a single narrative on scientific advancement but it has also revealed the opportunity to think broadly by creating coalitions of the willing to create a new balance of scientific discoveries.