Covid-19: Significance of Inter-State Cooperation
By Dr. Rajkumar Singh
Especially, in this era of globalisation and liberalisation, the concept of inter-State cooperation has become an inevitable aspect of world politics and international relations among nations. It is the regular and natural feature of the State system which every nation desires in its national life. In the normal case it requires many things, such as, desire of the State, positive changes in the international system, changes in the domestic framework, promotion of national interest, prevention of conflicts and cultural diplomacy.
After the Second World War both bilateralism and multilateralism remained in practice frequently with several dimensions. The current ongoing phase of Covid-19 pandemic proved a test case for the whole world which affected all aspects of human life in a big way. Starting from Wuhan, China at the close of the year 2019, it soon spread all over the world and not only touched but affected every corner of the globe, having devastating effects and without any discrimination of caste, race, religion, geography, colour, advancement and status of health support system.
By all countries of the world, it was considered a global health emergency, which was declared a Pandemic by the United Nations Organisation (UNO) on 11 March 2020. Global casualties due to spread and continuation of this pandemic has surpassed all the figures and data collected in last decades and centuries. Although, a number of world-famed drug companies have succeeded in making vaccines against its deadly virus, still both, the disease and works on perfect vaccines and medicines are on and likely to continue some more time to come. It has posed a serious problem and challenge for the system of bilateralism and multilateralism and ultimately the aspects of inter-State cooperation.
Origin and spread
Beginning at the end of 2019, in early 2020, it spread like a forest-fire and before the countries knew more about it the disease took thousands of lives in many parts of the globe. After the People’s Republic of China which became its first victim and also recovered early than any other nation of the world, is called the motherland of this virus and it is likely to be found in bats or pangolins; China, the place of its birth, in her first attempt tried to conceal the virus which proved disastrous for other countries because it spread mostly through person-to-person contact and they cancelled international flights and national transport very late.
It is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered strain of coronavirus which is responsible for the respiratory infections in humans. Commonly, coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause disease in both animals and humans. The same kind of virus first erupted in 2002-2003, called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Although around 80% of the affected people recover without specialist treatment as they experience mild, flu-like symptoms, 1 in 6 people may fall victim of severe symptoms and require serious treatment.
It spreads largely through the air, primarily via small particles such as aerosols, produced after an infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes, talks or sings. In addition, it also may be transmitted via contaminated surfaces and people remain infectious for 7-12 days in moderate cases, and up to two weeks in severe cases.
In the context, the best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed and be alert to follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and various international agencies including the World Health Organisation (WHO). The common precautionary steps are: 1. washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers which contains at least 60% alcohol; 2. avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; 3. avoid close contact with people who are sick; 4. physical distancing of at least 1 metre (3 feet) between yourself and other people; and 5.properly wearing a cloth face mask covering the face, in public places.
If we talk about theoretical propositions, it is of three types: 1. Realism that focuses on competition; 2. Liberalism, that lays stress on cooperation; and 3. Ideational construction, that can move either way: cooperation and conflict. However, all apart, the current phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the first place, requires maximum level of cooperation among countries to prevent its spread and side effects as well. It has been proven without doubt that this pandemic, whose second and third waves have arrived in most of the countries, is the greatest global challenge for this generation.
As it is not confined by national boundaries of a particular country, in a globalised world, it’s a test of the inter-connected globe known for its integrated supply-chains, constant trans-border services, flows of goods and money and people-to-people connectivity. At this juncture, collective international action is both necessary and possible because it is in the interest of every nation to tackle the pandemic effectively. Cooperation among nations can help solve the common problems, share knowledge and best practices. On many counts, they are similar to each other and their positive efforts can solve: 1. common challenges that extend beyond national borders; 2. political, cultural, religious and economic commonalities that foster integration; and 3. inter-country engagement at regional/ global levels. In this period of global health emergency many countries face similar challenges and concerns and cooperation among nations can be an effective measure to make strong, share and accelerate health development issues within the country and beyond the boundaries Their fruitful effort includes many useful things, such as, creating, adapting, transferring and sharing knowledge and experience to improve several health problems.
Several international organisation/agencies are working successfully to help counties recover from the bad effects of the pandemic. In the context the role played by WHO deserves special mention from day one of the eruption of this pandemic. Throughout the period, it has facilitated among countries their shares challenges and concerns to achieve public health solutions. Presently, it’s a growing need of the hour to harness the capacity of the nations and to understand exchanges among countries to pursue common health objectives to face the common global challenges and health-related problems of the time to come.
Status of regional cooperation
It is clear from the narratives mentioned in context of global responses that a shared world partnership in times of health emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic will provide the Governments the cover they need to take and sustain painful public health decisions. In addition to this collective action is also needed to clear barriers to further the development, manufacture and equitable distribution of vaccines/pandemic medicines at global level. In this respect any such effort and cooperation among nations can support and reinforce countries’ attempt for health development and also enrich practices relating to the best practices and lessons learnt in other countries.
This cooperative attitude and exchanges contain the potentials to impact sub-regional and regional integration processes and help engage in global health policy debates. Such cooperation at the world level has been seen, for example, South-South and triangular cooperation, cooperation among BRICS countries and health cooperation in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). In South Asia, the coming of the pandemic has provided an opportunity for the countries to forget past conflict /prejudices and start afresh to prevent the spread of this deadly pandemic.
It has brought together the leaders of South Asian countries in a way rarely seen in recent past. SAARC, its regional organisation, set up in December 1985 is also playing an active role and a meeting of the member-country leaders was convened by video conferencing on 20 March 2020 in which several positive decisions were taken to help curb the spread of the pandemic.
Dr. Rajkumar Singh is the Head Department of Political Science, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, B.N. Mandal University, Madhepura-852113, Bihar, India.