Tips for a neighbour

24 Sep 2020


A NUMBER of factors have been identified in the investigation to ascertain the reasons behind the huge outbreak of Covid-19 next door in India. It is said the lockdown was hastily and clumsily imposed and the resultant mass return home of millions of workers from the cities led to a spread of the virus to a point where India is only behind the US in terms of the countries worst hit by Covid-19. Over 5m cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed in India. Of these, no less than 90,000 people have lost their lives. As yet, there are no signs of the pandemic subsiding. The stories from across the border, highlighted in the official bulletins of the highest Pakistani government functionaries in an effort to prove the success of their own anti-coronavirus strategy, raises one basic question that has the tendency to crop up frequently in the history of Pakistan-India affairs: was there something that one neighbour could learn from the other?

There is no running away from comparisons between the two countries. Over time, knowledge gained through experiences in one country has benefited the other, especially in the area of healthcare, given the similarities in health conditions. To say that there have not been queries from across the border to find out what strategies Pakistan has employed to keep the situation from worsening would be implausible. There have been more than 307,418 recorded Covid-19 cases in Pakistan and so far less than 6,500 deaths. Matters could have been worse, considering international trends and initial local projections. Not all answers may be known as yet and we will need a full-scale socioeconomic study to understand the causes for the spread and containment of the virus. But surely there are some handy tips that India could pick up right away. Pakistani officials have repeatedly pointed out where the Narendra Modi government was going wrong in its tackling of the Covid-19 pandemic. They could also offer the neighbouring country some help in correcting the lapses.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2020