Editorials: India First Policy, Is it working?

Manal S. Khaleedh

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Maldives.

Since the announcement of the global pandemic status by the WHO, every state has been buckling up for COVID19 by purchasing bulk orders of personal protective equipment’s for medical professionals. Some countries in desperation called out for their retired but experienced medical officers and health workers to cater for the growing number of patients. Though the Maldivian government reassured to the public on its preparedness for a worst-case scenario, the situation is seemingly no different from other countries.

 Reports of both government and private hospitals running out of PPE are coming in and in a recent press briefing Dr Sheena Moosa from the National Emergency operations Center (NEOC) stated that when the pandemic reaches peak in the Maldives, they do not have the resourced nor the numbers to treat everyone and that they’d be left with the moral and ethical dilemma of choosing which patient to treat.

Moreover the lack of ventilators also poses a serious problem for medical professionals. As of right now only 97 ventilators are in use in the Maldives. For a population of less than half a million, the estimated 2000 deaths will be a devastating blow to both its community and its economy. This brings up the question, why isn’t the authorities asking for aid from the country with most experience in managing epidemics such as this? Why aren’t we asking for help from China?

Though the central government of China has promised both aid and technical help, we have only received a few tons of aid from the Yunan Provincial Government. This too came after concerned members of the public questioned the Chinese ambassador to Maldives HE Zhang Lizhong about the matter on twitter. While China has been exceptionally generous in helping both the Asian and European states fight the global pandemic, their help to Maldives in this time on need is yet to be seen.

When we look at our neighboring Sri Lanka, they received 40,064 PCR-Fluorescence testing kits, 10,000 N95 masks, 100,000 surgical masks, 10,000 protective clothing suits, 1,000 goggles and 50,000 gloves along with a $500 million credit facility. Then there’s the aid by the Chinese business magnate Jack ma, who promised a wide array of medical equipment’s to 10 developing Asian countries which included the Maldives. The question on many peoples mind right now is, where is the promised aid? Has China abandoned us in the time of need? Or is this the result of China prioritizing its other allied nations over us due to the “India First” foreign policy of the current government of Maldives?. Ex-Foreign Minister and daughter of one of the current government coalition members Dunya Maumoon has also questioned on this dependency on India and whether it’s a healthy habbit.

It’s been speculated that the authorities are not seeking aid from China as they believe that doing so will not please New Delhi. But, is this really the time for the authorities to ponder over the Indo-Sino relations?. If our big brother won’t help, why not ask for help from China?. Even with the India-centric policies we are yet to receive any aid from India besides the occasional well-wishing tweets by their Prime Minister. Every day that goes by we are coming closer to the peak of the infection and we simply cannot afford to indulge in this game of policies. We need help. We need aid.

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