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Partnership in Crisis: Medical Diplomacy Amidst COVID-19

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), first discovered in Wuhan in December 2019, as a pandemic after its spread across the globe. The pandemic continues to disrupt life around the world. It would not be an exaggeration to say that more attention is required in Africa to minimize the effects of this pandemic due to the inherent economic, political, and social instability on the continent. As the virus spreads in an uncontrolled manner, panic looms in Africa. To date, the rate of infections is lower in the continent than in other continents such as Asia, Europe, and parts of the Americas. Few countries on the African continent portray a curious site of the COVID-19 crises, and Mauritius is one among them. India and Mauritius share a hot and cordial relationship. Mauritius is a small island country located far from China. Soon after the Coronavirus outbreak, the Mauritian government quickly and efficiently put several safety measures in place. The measures included travel ban and suspension of all direct flights to China. There were restrictions on import products from China, and people who arrived from China were quarantined to mitigate the issue. Rigorous medical controls have been set up at the country’s international ports and airports. In short, the authorities are doing what they can to keep the island nation coronavirus-free.  This article attempts to discuss the spread of COVID-19 in Mauritius and the measures taken by India in extending support to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

As the healthcare system in Africa is fragile, and the continent faces numerous challenges, it also allows India to cooperate with many countries on the continent.India’s partnership with Mauritius is based on a model of cooperation that is responsive to the country’s needs. Hence, the Indian government has given a sharp focus on health systems by cooperating in telemedicine, pharmaceuticals, capacity building, and healthcare services. These efforts have augmented India’s image as a capable international partner in this time of global crises – India’s proactive approach to reach out to Mauritius has been appreciated by its government too. The challenges posed by the pandemic have made the India-Mauritius relationship even more durable. The Indian government has shifted its focus to Africa by sending essential drugs not only to Mauritius but many other countries in Africa to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. As a humanitarian gesture, the first consignment of necessary medications includes Paracetamol, Hydroxychloroquine, and Ibuprofen. Antibiotics, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-asthmatic and cardiovascular drugs were also sent to Mauritius to help them deal with the pandemic. The list also included other medical devices like injections and thermometers and essential food items.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for sending INS ‘Kesari’ to Mauritius with the second consignment of medicines and a 14-member medical team to help the Mauritian health authorities fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The first consignment was sent in April, while the second in May. Recently, Prime Minister Modi, while inaugurating the new Supreme Court building of Mauritius with his Mauritian counterpart Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, mentioned in his virtual address – “First of all, I congratulate the Government and people of Mauritius for effective management of the COVID-19 global pandemic. I am happy that India was able to support this effort through timely supplies of medicines and sharing of experiences”. This shows how Mauritius was prosperous in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic spread in the country.  Moreover, both the leaders discussed enhancing and deepening cooperation in several other areas, including measures that aim to support Mauritius’ financial sector and enable Mauritian youth to study Ayurvedic medicine. The foundation of medical diplomacy is based upon historical goodwill shared between India and Mauritius. Besides, India has reached out to the Indian Diaspora in Mauritius by maintaining close contact with the community. India has assured of all possible help within the limitations posed by the pandemic.

Even though India too is adversely affected by the pandemic and is going through a tough time, India has acted as a responsible stakeholder towards Mauritius, conveying our ability and support to deepen our relationship with the country we move ahead. India’s relationship with Mauritius thus goes beyond strategic reach and economic interest; it also extends to an emotional connection and solidarity both countries feel for each other.