The Covid pandemic may have slowed the promotion of economic recovery, it has obviously not stopped it, said Jaishankar

Even as the world deals with a global pandemic, the collaboration among the governments, businesses, medical and scientist professionals of the Indo-Pacific region will lead to a post-pandemic economic recovery, said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the 1st edition of the Indo-Pacific Business Summit, Jaishankar said, “Indo-Pacific reflects the reality of globalization, the emergence of multi-polarity and the benefits of rebalancing. It means the overcoming of the Cold War and a rejection of bipolarity and dominance. Most of all, it is an expression of our collective interest in promoting global prosperity and securing the global commons. The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative advanced by India clearly validates this assertion.”

Noting that the Covid-19 had brought out many inadequacies in the global health system and the resulting debates are taking place elsewhere, the EAM said, “Whether it is the next wave, the next pandemic or indeed something quite different, part of the answer lies in greater international collaboration. By that I mean the working together not just of Governments, but of businesses and the medical and scientific professions.”

Further the minister noted that the compulsions of the Covid era have all made us much more digital. “This may be literal in terms of contact tracing and vaccination registration; facilitative in terms of home delivery and virtual calls; or just a lifestyle, in case of Work From Home. New opportunities and efficiencies have been discovered in that process. And accordingly, the risks too have magnified,” he said.

Pointing out that high-speed internet, cyber security, enhanced digital literacy, deeper technical cooperation, regional e-commerce, and efficient e-governance will have a more salient place in the conversations in the coming days, he said, “The strengthening of digital connectivity both within and between the countries of the Indo-Pacific is an essential condition for our economic prosperity and development. Like minded countries must work together for data driven digital development partnerships. The templates of that could draw on the framework that governs existing development partnerships.”

Besides, Jaishankar said that the Covid pandemic may have slowed the building of the global economy and the promotion of economic recovery; it has obviously not stopped it. This is, therefore, an occasion to reflect, perhaps introspect on how to build greener. Many of us have national programmes to that end and collaborating more closely is obviously to our mutual benefit, he said.

“Our collective efforts can certainly re-define the quality of infrastructure and indeed the nature of urbanization. They can make agriculture more sustainable and harness the Blue Economy more seriously. Physical and digital connectivity remain important for supporting shorter, efficient and diversified supply-chains, risk mitigation, enhanced trade facilitation, and reduction in the costs of intra-regional trade,” Jaishankar added.

In this context, the EAM shared how India is responding to the challenges of recovery and re-building. “We have reformed even as we have rebuilt. On health, our programme of wider health coverage has been accelerated by the rapid expansion last year of the health infrastructure. Currently, mass vaccination and addressing the ongoing wave are the focus. But the goal is to transform the sector entirely by augmenting human resources, equipment and capacities,” he said.

On the digital side, the EAM said that the expansion of connectivity, a skills initiative and a start-up culture are helping to change the game. On infrastructure, a range of initiatives and reforms that are unfolding even as we speak will surely spur greater investment.

Besides, on agriculture, empowering farmers and enabling freer trade has been matched by a stronger commitment to post-harvest infrastructure. And across 13 key sectors, performance-linked initiatives promise to upscale manufacturing. Bold measures have just recently been taken to promote tourism, he said.

“And all of this is encapsulated by a framework that envisages an India of deeper strengths, greater capacities and more responsibility. And not least, in making it much easier to do business,” the minister added.

In his concluding remarks, the minister said, “International cooperation, especially among businesses, will be very much a key to the better world that we all seek. The Indo-Pacific – a region in which we are so deeply invested historically – will be an arena of particular activity and energy.”