Emergence of New Regional Order

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The Covid- 19 will not  leave the  world in the present shape and order. In fact,  earlier flues viz the Spanish flue, Asiatic flue, the Hong kong flue or Swine flu too brought in major changes in and between countries. In the Spanish flue alone more than 20 million people perished. The Covid 19 has  given rise to serious debate among best minds in the world on how  this virus and its aftermath  is going to shape the global order. In the light of this debate what type of regional order will emerge in the  most populous region like Southern Asia plus  China? How should we prepare to face the uncertain future are some of the  issues that need to be  thought about by policy planners and opinion  leaders.

The leading experts and thinking minds have dissected the emergence of  post-Covid 19  global order and one finds unanimity of views on some of the most pressing issues. The immediate aftermath of the virus  suggests that nation-states are responding to this challenge in typical  nationalist/inward looking  way. Even the people in  USA have lost faith in globalization and international trade . Immediately we see a trend of  strengthening the state and nationalism. A group of  experts believe that the covid 19 will force governments, societies and companies into self-isolation. Leaving aside these issues what is noticeable is  the power and capacity of the governments under focus in all parts of the world. Some of the best minds in the world argue that it is too early to predict and have a prognosis for a  new world order. True, that Covid 19 has broken the camel’s back of economic globalization but democracies may come out better from the crisis  to find new pragmatic  and “protective internationalism”. The fact of the matter is that theorists and experts shall remain glued to daily happenings and revise/revisit their theories as we continue to remain in a shell-shocked world. We peep into the strength and weaknesses of each state and system of government. I have heard many people praising the China model  and their way of handling the crisis and  still others holding Hong Kong and South Korea in great reverence as far as dealing with Covid 19 crisis is concerned . Stephen M Walt rightly states that “the aura of western brand is tarnished and power shift may happen from West to East” . Kishore Mehbobani  (formerly at Singapore National University) sees a trend “towards a more China-centric globalization”. The former national security advisor Shiv Shanker Menon hopes that this may not be the end of an inter-connected world and sees signs of hope. He appreciates the recent convening of a video conference of SAARC leaders to craft a common regional response. True there are issues being raised  by some SAARC countries like Pakistan as to how Covid 19 fund can be utilized. These issues are bound to arise for the reason that over the years SAARC as a regional organization too is on a ventilator. Be that as it may the SAARC nations plus  China as the most important and formidable power need to immediately start rethinking the whole regional response. This is the most opportune time to start rethinking the entire concept of “national interest” . It has meant more and more armaments  for the nation-state and less and less security for common people. Further guided missiles for national security and misguided leaders  for the people. This is the time  we need to think about what can be done and no  time is opportune than the ” Covid-19 times” to do some genuine self introspection on the  type  of world we need to have for us. For a healthy population least vulnerable to  pandemics  all  stakeholders viz governments, private sector, civil society and policy planners need to focus on the following:

First, the public sector must invest heavily and significantly in facilities, beginning with community-based clinics. Referral needs to be simple, seamless and secure. In any case the institution of government is back though we may continue to discuss privatization and need for private sector to step-in. Each one of us may have issues related to core competence of the government but people at the end of the day look more and more towards government to deliver. Second,  the number of medical schools  needs to increase  with focus on quality and art of training. This too needs massive investment. The faculty development progranmmes need to be crafted. The centers of excellence in the world need to be identified  so  that a doctor soon after appointment is deputed  to these centers for advanced training.

Third,  a new non-physician work force of public health workers is essential. Adequately trained, disciplined lower-level health workers shall remain the bulwark of the healthcare system True, over the years we have seen opening up of new schools of public health by the government  and very few in private sector but more needs to be done. Here also it is the state which has to find matching grants for providing employment to these workers.

Fourth, a new generation of biomedical and bioengineering expertise is needed within the academic medical institutions to develop innovative, effective, but low-cost solutions to major public  health problems of the populations. These must link to the private sector to produce these products .

In the light of above discussion it is recommended that in southern Asia plus  China  our approach to combating diseases (not  only Covid 19) must move from country-specific one to regional one. This line of thinking gains strength more as experts like Richard N Haass believe that in the aftermath of Covid 19 “state weakness and state failure may turn out to be a prevalent feature of existing  order” .