This article is written by Mr. Ayush Sarna, who is  Assistant Advocate General, Punjab at Punjab and Haryana High Court.

‘In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity’- Albert Einstein

This phrase is apposite amidst this Covid-19 pandemic, which has effected entire humanity, having far reaching effects not seen by anyone living today. The economies are in lock down and in free fall, upon which even  International Monetary Fund (IMF) has observed that this Corona-virus induced global downturn is even ‘way worse’ than financial crisis.

    There is no evidence that, at the global level, the pandemic has abated yet and would be brought under control soon. Meanwhile, International Council of Jurists (ICJ) and All India Bar Association (AIBA) have moved a complaint in United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC), headquartered at Geneva, to inquire and direct China to adequately compensate international community and member states, including India ,for developing a ‘Biological Weapon’ of mass destruction in a clandestine manner, making it a crime against humanity.

    The complaint mentions that China clearly violated the provisions of Article 6 and 7 of International Health Regulations (IHR), under which public authorities are mandated to notify the WHO, about the existence of a disease of public and international concern , within 24 hours of assessment of public health information. But Chinese authorities provided partial information about the novel Corona virus only on 14th February,2020 after the virus had affected more than 2,000 people and killed many. They didn’t curb the travel of infected persons for 2 months and allowed more than 5 million people including from Wuhan , to travel abroad as asymptomatic oblivious carriers and thus, contributing to the exacerbation of the spread of virus across the globe.

Though the complaint allowed the grave violation to be highlighted at the international fora, but it might turn out to be a futile exercise and won’t catalyze global action. UNHRC, formed in 2006, is often dubbed as ‘ Toothless debating society’ with no impact, as its resolutions and decisions are not legally binding. Moreover, despite everything, in this month of April, China is appointed to a panel on UNHRC , who would select officials to shape international human rights standards and report on violations worldwide. It’s like making a pyromaniac into a chief fire officer.

    There is infinitesimal chance of any concrete action taken by any international forum, but in the thick of all gloom and doom, there is a silver lining. Our Mother Earth is taking a deep breath of fresh air and seems to have rejuvenated itself. Smog has given way to blue skies, as the pollution levels have dropped drastically and ozone layer is healing. Satellite imagery of the rivers like Yamuna ,have shown that the pollution load in the river has reduced, as the stoppage of industrial discharge had a positive effect on the river’s water quality.

  So, instead of worrying about what you cannot control, we must shift our energies to what we can create. Where nations like USA and China are engaged in verbal spat and blame game, India has filled the deep void in collective leadership by rendering assistance to China, Iran, Nepal etc. India spear-headed the formation of SAARC COVID-19 emergency fund, where India pledged a donation of $1 million. India agreed to export Hydroxychloroquine ,an anti-malaria drug believed to be effective in the treatment of novel corona-virus, to USA.

   History has shown us that whenever there is a situation like a pandemic, world witnesses large scale and long-lasting disruptions in supply chain. There is a torrent of suspicion and resentment against China in Europe and America, which is so palpable that China cannot easily rebound. This Covid-19 is turning out to be public relations disaster for China, which has the potential for sapping demand for Chinese goods. One such example is U.K. getting rid of Huawei in their 5G program . Chinese Auto manufacturers and Chemical plants have reported closures. Electronics and Pharmaceutical supply chains have been severely disrupted.

    The world now, may look for alternatives and the companies might be looking to diversify their vendors and supply chains. So, in an increasingly competitive world, India must link itself to the part of value chain best suited to it and must capitalize on China’s loss. Even India’s Prime Minister recently said India should promote ‘Make In India’ by utilizing this crisis as an opportunity to make India less dependent.

People must focus on Electronics manufacturing such as T.V, refrigerators etc, Auto components, Medical Equipments like ventilators etc, Electric vehicles, Organic clothes, Natural dyes, Hosiery cloth, Carpets, Leather goods and Engineering exports etc. We can speed up the transition to digital economy, as online platforms have become the only way to teach students these days.

    Even government must approach this issue with the clear strategy. Regulatory changes must be made for enabling Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) to grow, as informal sector doesn’t have adequate growth opportunities and priority sector lending system incentives SME’s to stay small. We need to change this mindset of ‘small is beautiful’. Small needs to grow because they are the biggest providers of employment. India must tap it’s demographic dividend to its advantage by reducing the red-tapism. We can leverage our economy, as India is highly under leveraged, by increasing it’s debt-to-GDP ratio.

  India has influencing power to bring consensus among all nations to fight against common enemy ,COVID-19. India has always followed the principle of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, a sanskrit phrase found in Maha Upanishad, which means ‘The world is one family’ and in this situation , we must carry the same legacy, so as to fully exploit our soft-power status.

  World is at crossroads. We must see opportunities like these as sunrises. If we wait too long, we miss them. It could be the moment to recapture space and not cede anything to China or any other country. We can’t go back and change the beginning but we can start where we are and change the ending.