Unfortunately, a catastrophic novel coronavirus has rung alarm bells around the world. Neither the developed nor developing countries are immune to this pandemic. Its repercussions are long-lasting, disastrous and overwhelming. It is exponentially spreading, wreaking havoc and destroying even the developed, modernised and technologically advanced healthcare systems of the world. Additionally, it may unravel the existing world order. I am neither a medical expert nor entitled to discuss the technicalities of the virus. However, given its cataclysmic and omnipresent consequences for the world order, one needs to deliberate upon its devastating implications for generations to come.
It is worth noting that the Chinese courageously and resiliently fought against the pandemic and have won the war. The world has acclaimed Chinese success. Now, with all its experience, China is in a better position to help other countries in their drive against the pandemic. Chinese are providing paramedics, ventilators, masks, testing kits and other preventive equipment to others. This has, undoubtedly, multiplied Chinese influence, whether you call it soft power or anything else. However, the US is still fighting the pandemic and is in no position at this stage to help others. Even the US is importing the necessary equipment from China. This makes China an important and influential country and, probably, a global leader for fighting nascent pandemic.
The world order is severely threatened by the virus. The earlier order was based on liberalisation; free movement of goods, people and everything across the world; free borders and trade. In other words, globalisation. However, due to the virus, the borders are now closed. Free movement is at stake. People are self-isolating. Freedom is challenged worldwide. Quarantines are the best options. States are looking inward. Globalisation is kept in check. At this point in history, no one is proposing social integration. Instead, isolations and lockdowns are preferred. Though the flow of goods is not restricted at this time, God forbid, if it further spreads or any such cataclysmic calamity arises in future, it would deal a severe blow to the existing order. It will take us to the medieval orders or at least, to pre-globalisation era. Nationalistic isolation may be the new phenomenon. Nationalism will resurge on the global scene.
The pandemic is badly affecting the global economy. Lockdowns across the globe have isolated people keeping them away from their jobs. Public and private offices are closed. Some employees are working from home through internet applications while the others are left jobless. Daily-wagers are facing constant threats to survival. This makes many penniless. Though developed countries with healthy economies are supporting the destitute, the under-flourished economies are in no position to facilitate the unemployed. If the crisis prolongs, even the developed nations will fail to keep the poor secure through welfare funds. This will reduce the purchasing power of the people at large. As a result, national economies will not survive the burden on the national exchequer. Ultimately, the global economy may collapse.
Furthermore, the virus may unravel a globally interconnected economic system. If the crisis persists, the national economies may emerge against the global one. The phenomenon of interdependence may not exist as the global supply chains are and will be further disrupted by the fatal disease. The global shutdown of manufacturing factories will decrease the supply of goods, unbalancing the supply-demand equation. Also, the demand may decrease as fears of virus increase and people remain housebound. Consumers/countries will not demand goods from foreign manufacturers fearing the transmission of the virus through supplies. All this will lead to self-sufficiency and national economy or at the least an era of less interconnectedness.
Another dimension of the crisis can be a bio-warfare age. If it is so, it may relegate the existing order. As a result, new power-centres will emerge. In such a scenario, only the countries with the best healthcare systems and advanced technologies will be able to cater to dynamic bio-warfare challenges.
In view of the aforementioned arguments, the whole world should stand united to put the genie back in the bottle. The decision-makers should come up with actionable strategies to get out of this conundrum. Every effort should be taken to make the existing order survive and to prevent the emergence of nationalism. The future threats will be global in nature, and every global crisis needs a global response. Therefore, globalisation may better fight such ubiquitous challenges.
Now, where does Pakistan fit in the equation? The answer is simple: nowhere. The country is striving to fight dynamic domestic and foreign challenges with inadequate resources. The greatest of all is the deteriorating economy. With a dwindling economy, this country cannot provide advanced or even reasonable healthcare facilities to its citizenry. The first step is to mitigate the crisis through short-term strategies. For this, the Chinese experience is worth replication in Pakistan. As a Chinese scholar put it, “China imposed the largest and most draconian quarantine in history. Factories shut, public transport stopped and people stayed indoors. By doing that, it flattened the curve, on one hand, China avoided millions of cases and tens of thousands of deaths. On the other, it stretched out the time and made the hospitals restaffed and less strained. The citizens fully cooperated with the government and showed resilience by staying indoors for weeks and months.” This is exactly what Pakistan should know and strictly follow. It should not wait like Italy, but act as China did. The citizens must self-isolate themselves to mitigate the speedy transmission of the virus. Quarantine must be viewed and observed as a civic duty. Secondly, this is perhaps a bio-warfare age. A strong and unsurmountable healthcare system is the best weapon to fight with. Therefore, as a long-term strategy, Pakistan should reinvigorate its healthcare system as per modern techniques. The technological advancement in this sphere is the need of the hour. The people at the helm must perceive this necessity and act accordingly.
Kashif Ahmad Mohaar
The writer holds MSc. in International Relations from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad. He can be reached at Kashif.firstname.lastname@example.org