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The Express Tribune Editorial 29 May 2020

Expansionist pursuits

India has always held aspirations of becoming a global powerhouse, returning to the country’s rich yet distant history as a historical superpower. But much has changed since the last time an Indian ‘state’ held the status of a real global power. Indeed, as part of our shared history, the people of India and Pakistan are only a few decades removed from subservience to foreign masters, and centuries from the greatness of the past.
But post-independence, India quickly became obsessed with the dream of sitting at the same table as the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Never mind that these two states had strong economies, health and education systems, and the greatest militaries ever assembled. India had people. Hundreds of millions of them. The fact that they were in abject poverty did not matter. In fact, some treated it as a plus.
Over the next few decades, India kept trying to establish itself among the world’s major players — diplomatically and militarily. Despite some successes, the failures were far too significant to ignore.
Still, India was able to assert itself as a regional power and could have used this for the benefit of its people. But dreams of greatness remained, and despite having been humiliated by China in 1962, India kept trying to challenge the world’s biggest country.
China — an equally poor country then — was able to focus on rapid socioeconomic development which led military development, culminating in it replacing the now-defunct Soviet Union as the ‘other’ superpower in the 21st century. India, on the other hand, kept obsessing over bullying its smaller neighbours, besides picking up fights with the Chinese.
Fortunately, some Indian leaders saw the flaws in this strategy and went back to the diplomatic table, trying to work with regional countries, including Pakistan and China, for the betterment of all parties.
These regimes and their policies were not perfect, but they did provide a platform to build on.
But then came the fascists.
Since taking office as prime minister, Narendra Modi has led India down a self-destructive path both internally and externally. His first mistake came when he forgot the lessons of successful BJP regimes of the past — run from the right but govern from the centre. Instead, Modi has run from the extreme right and governed from the very same place, proving to be a true disciple of Savarkar — a Hindutva icon who aspired to become Hitler.
But even Hitler knew he needed allies. Modi apparently wants to do it all on his own. Maybe that is why India now appears to have no friends in the region. Apart from Pakistan and China — with which India has always had frosty relations, at best — Modi’s regional diplomatic accomplishments include antagonising almost every country in the region.
Since Modi took office, Indian agents have been accused of trying to assassinate the president of Sri Lanka, and the Indian Army has been continually picking fights with China. Of late, India appears to be triggering another standoff with China — this time in the Ladakh region — in its quest for hegemony in the region. Indian media has reported a scuffle between troops from both sides that resulted in multiple Indian security personnel being detained by Chinese forces. Meanwhile, India illegally annexed territories that were part of separate disputes with Pakistan and Nepal. Even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Modi has been busy picking fights with his neighbours.
Unless sane voices talk him down, a Chinese smackdown may be incoming, and the results will not be pretty for anyone.


Improving healthcare

The Sindh government is laying more emphasis on the prevention side in the fight against the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. But, at the same time, it is leaving nothing to chance to face situations arising from both natural causes and our people’s disregard for regulations put in place to prevent the spread of the contagion. It is in line with this two-pronged strategy that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has announced the release of Rs2.7 billion for improvement of the province’s health infrastructure in view of the pandemic. The funds will be used for upgrading the capacity and facilities at 21 government hospitals in the province. Two new hospitals under construction in Karachi — a 50-bed hospital in Gulistan-e-Jauhar and a 200-bed infectious diseases hospital at NIPA — are to be completed by June.
The capacity of intensive care units (ICUs), high dependency units (HDUs), and isolation wards will be expanded at 21 hospitals across the province. More ventilators, medical and surgical equipment and machines will be provided at all the hospitals and where oxygen supply will also be enhanced. So far ICUs with 131 additional beds and HDUs with 174 additional beds have been established at 10 hospitals in Karachi. Fortunately, of these, 61 ICU beds and nine HDU beds are lying vacant. To be well prepared should the coronavirus situation deteriorate is a good strategy.
The Sindh government has been taking sensible measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It was the first to impose a lockdown in the province. It relaxed the curbs on physical movement to enable people to do Eid shopping. The government cannot be held responsible for people violating the standard operating procedures and exposing themselves to dangers.
We welcome the Sindh government’s decision to earmark a considerable amount to expand and improve healthcare facilities in the province. Over the years, the provincial government has claimed to have spent billions on the health sector, but it is difficult to say whether all this money has been utilised properly. There are doubts about the government’s claim of food ration distribution during the holy month of Ramazan. Governments cannot get away simply by saying they helped people without disclosing their identity. Proper audit of funds should be ensured.


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