Jaishankar spoke extensively about India's handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, highlighting the way the government dealt with the crisis

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said the need for ramping up health infrastructure and building an all-round manufacturing with an indigenous supply chains are the two key learnings of the country from the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Well, you know, there are immediate learnings, there are long term learnings, I would even argue there are pre learnings,” said Jaishankar while replying to a question at CII’s Annual Meeting on Thursday. The External Affairs Minister delivered the Special Address at the meeting.

“Think of the COVID as the biggest stress test that our society has undergone in 100 years, the last time the world saw anything like this was the Spanish flu, you know, that none of us are old enough to obviously remember that, because it was 100 years ago,” he said.

He said, “Initially, the world looked at us and wondered how any country could deal with this kind of caseload and severity of pandemic... Where we are today, I think the world understands and appreciates that we have pulled up our socks, shown national resolve. We've come through test of fire.”

“Even before COVID hit us, you know, the Prime Minister and the government had already started focusing on the health, the need for adequate health infrastructure and health coverage, which is why you, had the Ayushman Bharat initiative,” he mentioned.

“In some ways, the two waves of COVID have probably hastened a lot of things on the ground, which would have happened perhaps more organically and slowly. Had to COVID not hit us,” the EAM argued.

“The second I would say which is directly relevant to CII, the COVID really exposed the lack of basic manufacturing, and capacities and capabilities in the country,” he pointed out.

Recalling the ventilator crisis that the country faced in the second wave, EAM Jaishankar added, the shortage of oxygen cylinders, oxygen tanks, oxygenators, trucks to move oxygen were dearly felt.

“Now, a country of India's size and seriousness, we should not have those kind of shortages. And that, in many ways, reflects the uneven nature of our manufacturing,” he highlighted.

“This in fact, raises some questions how balanced our growth has been in the last 25 years. And to my mind makes a very strong case, why we should actually give all round manufacturing with our own supply chain, because the COVID period really exposed us to the uncertainties of supply chains,” the EAM said.

“So you know, the fact that we were so dependent in many areas from for components and systems and even products from outside, I think a country of our size, size, and, you know, future should not have those vulnerabilities,” he argued.

“But having said that, I don't want you to think, you know, to the negative picture. On the plus point, I would say, remember, through all of this, through this two enormous tests we've had, one thing did not happen,” he reminded.

“Unlike 100 years ago, people didn't stop people didn't, you know, sort of the casualties were not multiplied, because of lack of support from societies the fact that we are today giving rations to 800 million people,” Jaishankar informed.

“And we are reaching out to 400 million people through their bank accounts. I think, to me, that's a huge achievement. I know when you asked me, what do people think of you when I throw those numbers at people? I mean, frankly, the rest of the world is staggered,” he said.

Meanwhile, calling a lot of the travel impediments for recipients of Indian-made vaccines as speculations and not fact based, Jaishankar pointed out that the general practice still is testing based rather than vaccination based but that problem.

He said that India has taken up the issue bilaterally with many European countries and made sure that they excluded Covishield from those requiring quarantine.

“Covaxin is still a problem, I completely understand it as I said I am a vaccine recipient myself. I am hopeful that once WHO gives its approval to Covaxin, the issue will be sorted out. Typically WHO requires two months, 60 days + for its approval,” Jaishankar stated.

“Covaxin filed its application on July 9 and I am hopeful that sometime in September we should get some kind of indication,” he mentioned.