At a time when countries are fighting individual battles against Covid-19, India’s global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) is being seen as an international forum that can unitedly combat the pandemic which has already claimed more than 17,000 lives worldwide. The United Nations (UN) has already partnered the initiative launched last year with about 40 countries supporting it.
- Prime minister Narendra Modi’s convening meeting of the heads of states of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations, an intergovernmental organisation of eight countries, last week has drawn special attention of the UN.
- The PM pledged $10 million in emergency funds to tackle the Coronovirus epidemic in the region where any member country can use the funds for immediate action.
- Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives and Bhutan pitched in with another $3.5 million.
- Mami Mizutori, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), told that the CDRI, launched by PM Modi at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019 and supported by UNDRR, emphasizes the importance of public health infrastructure.
- India does not see the COVID-19 outbreak as simply a health issue but has taken an all-of-government, all-of-society approach which is very much in the spirit of the Sendai Framework,” she said and appreciated India’s donation of $10 million towards creation of Emergency Covid-19 fund for SAARC nations.
- India’s donations to a regional response fund and willingness to help other nations with their response is “international solidarity of the highest order and I can only commend India for its approach.
- India has promised its SAARC nations it will soon put together a Rapid Response Team of doctors and health specialists armed with testing kits and other equipment that can be a model for other countries in the neighbourhood.
- The PM also promised development of online training capsules for training emergency response teams in the region towards their capacity building.
- An Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal is in the process of being set up which can trace possible virus carriers and the entire chain of infected people. India has offered to share software for this virus surveillance portal along with training of staff.
- CDRI is meant to support countries to build capacities for climate resilient infrastructure, the purpose of the international forum is to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs). A robust health infrastructure is a key to the SDG objectives, particularly in pandemic outbreaks like the Covid-19.
- UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the launch of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) and invited all countries to join it.
- CDRI has sometimes been seen as India’s response to the Belt Road Initiative, China’s ongoing multi-billion-dollar programme to recreate the ancient Silk Route trading links.
- China is building massive new land and maritime infrastructure in several countries.
- India and some other nations view this as an attempt by China to use its economic and military heft to usurp strategic assets in other countries.
- Though the comparisons are not surprising given the competing strategic interests of the two neighbours, the magnitude and purpose of the two initiatives are starkly different.
- Unlike BRI, CDRI is not an attempt by India to create or fund infrastructure projects in other countries, having said that, international initiatives like these are not without any strategic or diplomatic objective.