Remarks by Amb Sibi George at the event captioned ‘Combating Covid 19: India Kuwait Partnership’
Hon’ble President of Kuwait Medical Association Dr. Ahmad Al Enizi, President of Indian Doctors’ Forum Dr. Amir Ahmed, Senior Doctors who are in our panel today, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening to you all. Welcome to Embassy of India.
I begin by conveying my hearty greetings to our friends in Kuwait on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of their national day and 30th anniversary of their liberation day. We Indians in India and Indian community in Kuwait join them in celebrating this important anniversary. For Indians in Kuwait, it is a special occasion as this year we also celebrate the 60th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. It is also the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. Altogether a great year of anniversaries to celebrate. Unfortunately we cannot celebrate it with a lot of festivities, but we propose to celebrate these anniversaries within the parameters of the Covid 19 guidelines and protocol set by the Ministry of Health.
I thank His Highness Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait and His Highness Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Crown Prince of the State of Kuwait for hosting the large Indian community in Kuwait and for the care and support the Government and the people of Kuwait extend to the Indian community during the Covid 19 pandemic.
I acknowledge the presence of Hon’ble President of Kuwait Medical Association Dr. Ahmad Al Enizi who has joined us and agreed to address us today. I recall my meeting him at the Kuwaiti Medical Association where we discussed the ways and means to strengthen our partnership in healthcare. In fact, cooperation in medical sector is a key element in our multifaceted bilateral relationship. I thank him for accepting my invitation and look forward to his address on this important topic; ‘Combating Covid 19: India –Kuwait Partnership’.
I also thank Indian Doctors’ Forum, its President Dr. Amir Ahmed and senior doctors who have joined us today as panelists and experts. The IDF team is our partners is always in the forefront of the efforts of the Embassy in ensuring the welfare of the Indian community in Kuwait. I thank IDF for its humanitarian efforts and its many endeavors in supporting the Indian community in its efforts to fight the pandemic.
These are difficult times for all. The Covid 19 crisis has become a global challenge of a magnitude that humanity has not experienced in recent memory. It is throwing up new challenges to every country, every society and every family including in India and here in Kuwait. I thank our doctors, nurses and other medical personnel all over the world who work day in and day out to save lives, in our fight against this pandemic.
Coming to our topic today, Combating Covid 19 pandemic, let me quote from the remarks by UN Secretary General António Guterres on January 28. He said and I quote: “I would like to say how much we count on India. I mean, India has one of the most advanced pharmaceutical industries. India played a very important role in the production of generics for use that was outside... a very important element of democratisation of access to medicines all over the world. ….And we strongly hope that India will have all the instruments that are necessary to play a major role in making sure that a global vaccination campaign becomes possible…..I think that the production capacity of India is one of the best assets the world has today, and I hope the world understands that it must be fully used. Unquote.
Let me quote from a recent address this week by the Foreign Secretary of India which aptly summarize India’s efforts in combating the pandemic and its engagement with the world in this crucial hour of crisis for the humanity. He said, “The COVID pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on the geo-political and geo-economic landscape. It is the greatest shock to the international system since the Second World War. We were also confronted with the most severe economic slowdown in living history. The human cost of the pandemic has been substantial. Lives and livelihoods both have been lost. Every facet of our national life has been affected by complexities and difficulties. Indian diplomacy and our external policies are no exception.” Unquote
As an Indian diplomat one is happy to note that India has acted with resolve during this unprecedented crisis. In India, the rate of spread of infections, the number of fatalities and the number of cases requiring hospitalisation and critical care have all shown a consistent decline in recent weeks. It being a large population, 1.3 billion people, 1/6th of the total population, the number of cases always appears big. India’s recovery rate is over 97%, compared to much lower recovery rate across the world. Active cases is only 2.7%. India’s fatality rate is 1.4 % which is much below the world average.
When we started the COVID crisis, India was a net importer of many items including masks, PPE test kits. Today it has not only become self-sufficient, but is exporting across the globe. It is a success story of Aatmanirbhar Bharat. The period of lockdown was effectively used for capacity building. What we followed was an ‘all India effort’ involving Central Government, State Governments and District and Village authorities with people’s participation. Prime Minister regularly addressed the State Governments and the people directly launching various programs aimed at taking this ‘all India effort’ forward. In October Prime Minister launched a Jan Andolan (people’s movement) to ensure cooperative responsibility. I am happy to note that India is doing well in dealing with the pandemic today.
At the same time, India also focused on our diaspora and also on our immediate neighbors, extended neighbors including in the Gulf, friends and partners across the globe. The Vande Bharat Mission that India launched returned several million Indians back to their home country. This involved cooperation with many countries including State of Kuwait. Look at the scale, the largest operation in the world, which is still continuing.
Vasudaiva Kutumbakam, meaning the world is one, is central to India’s civilisational ethos. Vaccine Maitri, the global health diplomacy operation in which we have supplied vaccines - made in India - to nations across the world is a practical demonstration of our belief and our behavior in international relations. We have so far supplied about 230 lakh (23 million) doses of vaccines to friends and partners across the world. Indian vaccine capacities will generate another 1.1 billion doses for the WHO-led COVAX scheme that distributes them to developing countries across the world. In his address to the UN General Assembly in September last year Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi had assured the global community that India will use its production and delivery capacity to help all humanity in fighting the virus. This is exactly what we have done.
India has extended medical and other assistance to more than 150 countries in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic when the global crisis has severely tested the resilience of all nations. India has sent essential drugs, testing kits and other medical assistance. India has established its credentials as the pharmacy to the world during the crisis. Medications made in India were shipped to destinations across the world in daunting logistical circumstances imposed by lockdowns. Indian rapid response teams were deployed in 8 countries. Indian naval vessels and air force airplanes delivered supplies along a wide arc to friends and partners.
It is a matter of great pride to each one of us to see how India has not only developed its own indigenous vaccines but also supplied made in India vaccines to several countries including most countries in our neighborhood, extended neighborhood and in countries as far as Brazil. This is also reflective of the economic and scientific transformation that India witnessed in recent years. It is pertinent to mention that India has announced a gift of 200 thousand doses of Covid 19 vaccines to the United Nations peace keepers across the world.
I have seen reports that in addition to made in India Covishield vaccine, the made in India Covaxin by Bharat Biotech already covered over 9 million health workers and aims to cover 300 million people by August. India is also in the process of exporting this to various countries. Bharat biotech has been approached by several countries across the world for the procurement of Covaxin and supplies are expected to take place shortly to these countries.
As Ambassador of India to Kuwait, I am particularly happy to see the excellent cooperation between our two countries in the fight against Covid 19. Our doctors, nurses and other medical professionals through their hard work and sacrifice brings respect and admiration to our country. In April 2020, Government of India sent to Kuwait a 15-member rapid response team to combat the coronavirus pandemic. 200 thousand doses of Made in India vaccine Covishield reached Kuwait on February 1. We are exploring ways and means to further strengthen our cooperation and engagement in combating the pandemic.
Over the years, India has become an important destination for medical travel from all across the world including from Kuwait. There are several factors contributing to that: world class hospitals, finest doctors, medical infrastructure, personalised service and least expensive. Let me reiterate, India has become a pharmacy of the world. Indian pharma sector supplies over 60% of global demand for various vaccines, over 50% of generic demand in the US and 25% of all medicine in the UK. India largest producer of generic medicine in the world. I look forward to a day in coming months we will have the Indian generic medicine available in Kuwait as it is currently available in other parts of the world.
I once again thank you all for joining us. I urge all present here to share the link to others who could not join us today. We need to reach the valuable discussions of our panelists and experts on Combating Covid 19 pandemic to every Indian and friends of India in Kuwait.
I look forward to a very fruitful discussions today.
Thank you and Good Evening.