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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 42, New Delhi, October 3, 2020

Global Tensions and Emerging Strategies in a Changing World Order | Lathika Nath

Friday 2 October 2020, by Latika Nath

The present world order is experiencing changes in various areas such as foreign policy international relations and a new trade order.The present pandemic has made it necessary for govts.to question the efficacy of regional organization and the functioning of the U.N. and its specialized agencies in dealing with emergent issues. The crisis that confronts all nations because of covid-19 poses serious consequences in the near future. Due to economic slow-down, new geo-political alliances have been forged both large and small nation have been affected because all were unprepared to deal with the pandemic. This crisis has led to large scale chaos in most societies with unparalleled problems. Geographical indicators as to the origin of goods and services are the new norm and will lead to a new international trade order. This could be manifest in new border controls, and strict focus on health and hygiene. Consequentially leading to a paradigm shift in the very functioning of the state to meet present day demands.

The deadly pandemic covid-19 shattered the world economies and wellbeing. It posed a challenge to be best healthcare systems of developed nations, but also impacted humanity the world over. The right to livelihood, healthcare, employment movement etc., received a serious setback. Presently we are re-defining the extent of these human rights and freedoms. The right to life took a toll of society. India rose to the occasion with help and medicine. India sent large doses of CLQ to many countries in the world.China has been at the center stage of international dislike and distrust. Her expansionist policies are evident of her sinister designs in the South China Sea and with her neighbors. India is still dealing with the situation at Galwan. By making large donations to various international originations and by supporting projects in some countries.China is trying to fend off calls for a thorough investigation into Wuhan. This has led to shift international attention to Taiwan which has been deliberately kept out of international affairs all these decades. Recognition of Taiwan, a move which will definitely be opposed by China, will significantly change international relations all world over. A move is being made to grant Observer Status to Taiwan at the W.H.O.

The State is vested with the task of maintaining public health. Every state according to its capacity and needs, takes care of its citizens Medical, health and such issues to create a well-structured society. Monitoring and maintaining health care facilities and checking the spread of infectious diseases is within the purview of the welfare states Polio, TB etc.,

The recent pandemic rendered most of the healthcare systems of developed countries useless to deal with the magnitude and the numbers of those infected. Unable to cope with the demand for doctors, medical staff medicines and equipment the state was unable to deal with it a hitherto unknown strain of corona virus. The WHO also failed in its duty to inform nations at an early date, while China played down the seriousness of the situation. Economic slowdown, shaken economics and international trade were seriously affected. Most nations took to emergency provisions and lockdowns for temporary respite.

Covid-19 is said to have originated fromWuhan. Wuhan is an important political and economic centre of China. The Wet markets of this city are said to cater to exotic animals, which are slaughtered and sold openly with little control by the China authorities. The entire market area has since been thoroughly sanitized nothing remains that could make us understand the events that took place months ago.

Wuhan is important to many western countries as well. France, U.S. Republic of Korea and UK have Consulates there. Many manufacturing companies have set up units in Wuhan. Its importance lies in the investments by many developed countries of the west which contributed to its phenomenal growth. Presently it is a center for trade technology and education in China including biological engineering. The bio medical laboratory The Wuhan Institute of Virology is said to be a level IV biomedical lab set up there. The research undertaken there is now of academic interest.

The Chinese govt. functions in a very different way from most govts. in the world. By late last year, the outbreak of covid-19 could not be contained any longer and had spread to some countries. The news and details were released very late by the Chinese govt. and the WHO. What measures that were undertaken by the Chinese authorities, the various tests, data collected from patients etc., are not known to the world at large.
Foreign policy and international relations are important functions of the state. The present situation has forced govts. to review their foreign policy. The interest of state and welfare of its citizens assumes importance. Disease and death has had a disastrous effect on economics, all over. As states grapple with it there is a lack of consensus among nations including the U.N. Strategic interests of trading partners with China is an important aspect and some nations do not wish to go against China.

The situation is amply reflected in the UNGA. The lack of consensus in the veto power of the five permanent members of the UNSC including China. Any discussion would be blocked and has defied all attempts at expansion for all these decades. Therefore international issues can be stalled irrespective of the global economic slowdown China has recovered faster and will cater to global markets easily. Consequentially the effects are devastating for all.States have used most of their resources to deal with the pandemic, with little resources for development, trade and industry. China has stepped in with aid, development projects and support. This has lead to a re-alignment of foreign policy, significantly affecting international relations. According to the ILO thousands of jobs would be lost from the labour market UNCTAD estimates a decrease about 30% on direct investment. A significant set back to the tourism industry and according to UNESCO billions of children out of school just to mention a few areas.Yet the UN has been a spectator. Sanctions enforce international law.It is also effective in reigning in recalcitrant states. Yet with no action from the world body in this issue, is surprising.

The WHO is a specialized agency of the U.N. its goal being the highest standard of health for all, the world over. This is fundamental for the attainment of peace and security States are under a duty to promote and protect the health of all its citizens. There is a duty and responsibility to promote adequate health and social measures for its citizens, especially the prevention of communicable diseases. The primary duty of the WHO is to make recommendations regarding national health matters. The failure of it to look into the Covid-19 situation in China and lack of interest in reporting posed a serious threat to the world resulting in the pandemic of unprecedented proportions. Perhaps the serious consequences were unnoticed by the Director-General who is said to have received Chinese support in the elections for the post. Had travel restrictions and other information been made public, perhaps the spread to international borders could have been checked. Some countries have been able to calculate their economic losses and will perhaps take it up with the Chinese govt. it is necessary for the U.N. to thoroughly evaluate the working of the WHO in present day conditions. China backed by Russia and South Africa were able to cancel a meeting earlier this year. States must manifest the will and international opinion must be mobilized to make China accountable.

Amidst all our concerns, the right to health has become more clearly defined The socio-economic impact cannot be clearly evaluated. The effect of geo-political concerns will need to be clarified. The consequences of this pandemic is unemployment, poverty, illness, collapse of some state machinery and a rise in the crime rate everywhere. Economic instability will bring down fragile and overburdened political systems. Sustainable development will take on a new meaning in the present context. Health care systems and allied services will have to be evaluated as other diseases may occur in future. Bio-terrorism is now a reality and not theory any longer. Urgent need exists to make stringent rules for such lab experiments. Many feel that the WHO has lost its credibility.The functioning of this agency was in the forefront when it endorsed Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The WHO approved of TCM in its global compendium, 11th version of the ICD. This medicine is said to use body parts of about 36 wildlife species and is seen as a boost to trading in wildlife. Wildlife conservationists and animal rights activist are of the view that endangered species such as tiger pangolin, rhino and bear will be used in manufacturing. China has been pushing ahead with such Medicare related products. In China alone the market share is about $ 130 billion for TCM.

In the field of public health it is the duty of the state to maintain the highest standards for its citizens. Developed countries have enacted laws/rules to govern this area of state activity, Facilities, Medical help, prevention and cure, sanitation are regulated and monitored by the states. This includes check on the spread of infectious diseases. As the WHO failed in its primary duty states could not deal with the pandemic. Well functioning health care systems fell short,as they were over burdened by the large number of people who were affected. China did offer some help in a clearly planned strategy to capture markets and earn goodwill.

India does not have a public health law and had to work under the parameters of the Disaster Management Act. The National Health Bill 2009 is perhaps gathering dust and forgotten. India offered help to many neighbors including the SAARC Nations. The Epidemic Act of the colonial era offered some guidelines. The police stepped in rendering service to the public. India known for her vaccination programme, strained her resources to help other countries (The BCG vaccine is well known the world over). India exported CLQ tablets to treat the pandemic to some extent to many countries.

Due to disruption of goods and services Chena has seized the opportunity to push ahead with the agenda of world market domination. Chinese investments in various business enterprises worldwide has forced some countries to take steps like Japan to regulate their economic interests with a shift in international commerce and trade, the WTO will surely have to step in and regulate the same.Some countries are offering incentives to pull out of China.

For decades China has sought to expand her interest. For this she adopted many strategies. Taiwan was ousted from the U.N. and the PRC took over. India supported China, however China is against India with reference to India claim to a permanent in the UNSC. Her strategic advances, whether it was Tibet or the South China Sea is a manifestation of her expansionist policies.Of late they include many countries of SE Asia and Australia. Her interests are land and water bodies as seen recently in Ladakh. Consequently because of business interest, investments and contributions to various agencies are made. As these countries take a stand there will be a paradigm shift. It is time that the members of the U.N. take action to stop the expansionist policies of China.

The PRC and Taiwan have had an uneasy relationship. Taiwan dealt very efficiently with the Covid-19 situation. It also questioned the WHO. It would be in the interest of many countries if Taiwan were to be granted Observer Status before the WHA. Perhaps it could pave the way for future recognition by other countries.

The loss of lives, livelihood and slowdown of the world economy has had a serious impact.It would be difficult to hold China accountable before the ICJ or tribunal. The information and the Wuhan market both have been cleaned up and the facts will remain unknown. China wields power and influence internationally.The volume of international trade and goods remains the same. Even the companies that are pulling out, need to set up elsewhere and start production. International ramifications will manifest itself in trade commerce, industry and development. Human rights have been violated eg-right to life, livelihood, movement, personal liberties have been pushed aside. The state took charge in an emergency situation. In many countries there is no judicial review.Life is slowly coming back to what is perhaps a new change to the existing system.

The race for power, position, territory and resources has made a significant impact in the 21stcentury. India has emerged as an important regional power, changing the equation with neighbors. Some with Chinese support are changing their stand in the race for power and position. India can play an important role at this juncture with the manpower and materials, we can forge ahead. China wishes to control global markets and has built roads and ports. It is necessary to stop Chinese expansionist policies. This is clearly evident to the world at large. China shares borders with fourteen countries and coast line with six others. The dependence of many nations on Chinese goods contributes to her economic status and power. India has taken a firm stand in the recent standoff at Galwan. Other measures are being considered as well. Many countries have appreciated our efforts and position eg.U.S. There is an urgent need for policy change and a reduction in trade with China.Global acceptance and action by various trading partners will no doubt go a long way is making China, less aggressive internationally and regionally.

Before aggressive designs are put into action it is important for the nations of the world to put into place geo-political strategies. At the outset it is necessary to discuss the present crisis at the United Nations. Also it is necessary to enlarge the UNSC to represent all nations of the world—the new world order. India should be given a permanent seat. Further it is necessary to review the working of the WHO in the present context. It is now incumbent on to the world body to play an important role in world affairs in the interest of international peace and security.

(* Dr. Lathika Nath is M.A, LL.M, Ph.D Assoc. Prof of Law (Retd),, Bangalore University,, Bangalore.)

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