In a new report The European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) has given India full credit for managing the Covid-19 situation in the region and for showing stellar leadership, initiative and humanitarianism.
The report says that doomsday predictions of the Indian sub-continent being badly hit have proved wrong so far, by “an effective combination of early imposition of travel restrictions; screening of all incoming flyers followed by quarantine of those showing symptoms or arriving from heavily affected countries; and putting in place strict lockdowns despite their implementation on the ground posing serious challenges on account of the sheer numbers involved…”
Commending the regional leadership assumed by India very early, including in the setting up of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) COVID-19 Fund, the report says, this “notably manifested itself in the evacuation of nationals of other SAARC countries along with Indians stuck in COVID-19 hotspots in China, Europe and other parts, and provision of testing facilities, critical medicines and medical and protective equipment to neighbouring SAARC countries, among other things. Each with its own unique set of circumstances to deal with, most SAARC countries nevertheless looked closely at India, and the steps it was taking to deal with the crisis, prior to formulating their own strategies.”
A few months earlier, CSP interviewed policy advisor Simon Holt, Honorary Professor of Political Science and the author of five books about countries, cultures and globalisation. He is the founder and Editor Emeritus of a leading academic journal focused on public diplomacy and perceptions of places. Popular for his TED talk - Which country does the most good for the world, he asks the question: Why do we prefer some countries over others?
The most significant driver of a powerful and positive national image was the perception that a country contributes to humanity and the planet, outside its own borders and beyond its own population - Simon Holt, policy advisor
Based on years of study, he says, “the kinds of countries we prefer are good countries. We don't admire countries primarily because they're rich, because they're powerful, because they're successful, because they're modern, because they're technologically advanced. We primarily admire countries that are good. What do we mean by good? We mean countries that seem to contribute something to the world in which we live, countries that actually make the world safer or better or richer or fairer. Those are the countries we like. This is a discovery of significant importance because it squares the circle. I can now say, and often do, to any government, in order to do well, you need to do good. If you want to sell more products, if you want to get more investment, if you want to become more competitive, then you need to start behaving, because that's why people will respect you and do business with you, and therefore, the more you collaborate, the more competitive you become.”
In 2014, Anholt founded the Good Country, a project aimed at helping countries work together to tackle global challenges like climate change, poverty, migration and terrorism.
Measurement of Good Country progress is done through Anholt's Good Country Index, the only survey to rank countries according to their contribution to humanity and the planet rather than their domestic performance. Since 2005, his research into global perceptions of nations and cities has collected and analyzed over 300 billion data points.
Asked how important is a country’s Good Country Index ranking to its Soft Power rankings, Holt says he created the Good Country Index because his research showed "that the most significant driver of a powerful and positive national image was the perception that a country contributes to humanity and the planet, outside its own borders and beyond its own population. If we define soft power as a country’s ability to influence by attraction, then there appears to be a strong and direct correlation between the two phenomena.”
The Good Country Index has a rating for Health and Wellbeing, in which incidentally India scores her highest rank. In this area, Holt says they are attempting to measure “each country’s contribution to international health and wellbeing, not the state’s provision of health and wellbeing to its own citizens (this is not, of course, because I consider domestic behaviour to be unimportant – far from it – but simply because such factors are already measured so thoroughly in so much other research and there’s no point in my repeating all of that excellent work). So the indicators we use in this category are: Food aid funding (according to WFP) relative to the size of the economy; exports of pharmaceuticals (according to ITC) relative to the size of the economy; voluntary excess contributions to World Health Organisation relative to the size of the economy; humanitarian aid contributions (according to UNOCHA) relative to the size of the economy; and International Health Regulations Compliance (according to WHO).”
In the case of Covid-19, India has come out right on top in extending medical help to over 108 countries in the world. Despite an initial ban on medicines, India lifted it to help countries struggling with the crisis.
The EFSAS report says: “India has taken a rather empathetic view of the crisis and has begun providing a whopping 85 million hydroxychloroquine tablets and 500 million paracetamol tablets to a total of 108 countries. It had initially banned the export of these drugs, but reversed that decision as soon as it became apparent that the ban was out of place given the larger humanitarian challenge at hand. Little wonder then that world leaders including those of the US, Brazil and Israel, to name a few, spoke highly of India’s selflessness in this time of acute crisis.”