Extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions – with this can-do mantra Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an outreach to the Indian community abroad through the first-ever virtual conference with the Heads of India’s Embassies and High Commissions worldwide on March 30.
Alluding to lockdowns and large-scale quarantine resorted to by most countries to mitigate and curb the coronavirus pandemic, PM Modi underlined the imperative of enhanced global cooperation to combat the killer disease. He exhorted Indian envoys to work closely with the host governments to mobilise their support in the country’s war against the pandemic. “This was an unavoidable step taken to fight this pandemic, but it was also hugely consequential, as the closure of the globalized system has had an extensive and far-reaching impact upon the international transport system, financial markets and the global economy,” he said.
Prime Minister Modi said that “India had taken unprecedented and early steps in response to this pandemic from mid-January this year, to reduce the risk of importing the infection, and thereafter to prevent a large outbreak. This included the world’s largest quarantine and lock-down, implemented by India,” said India’s external affairs ministry in a statement.
In his virtual interaction with Indian envoys, PM Modi underscored that the unity and alertness of all Indians would help safeguard the nation’s future. In a caring message, Mr Modi told the envoys that India’s Missions abroad may well be far from home, but they remain full participants in India’s fight against COVID-19.
Lauding Heads of Missions for their efforts to evacuate Indians stranded abroad in some of the epicentres of the crisis, PM Modi urged them to follow five-point action plan:
- To ensure their own health and safety, and that of their teams and families.
- To attend to Indians who remain in various foreign countries, given the uncertainty of continuing international travel restrictions. He called on Heads of Indian Missions to help boost the morale of such compatriots abroad, and to help them address issues arising from their unplanned stay abroad, with their host Governments, and also to address other problems Indians might face abroad, including arranging shelter, where necessary and feasible;
- To stay alert and identify in their countries of accreditation best practices, innovations, scientific breakthroughs and sources to procure medical equipment, for India’s fight against COVID-19. He also advised Heads of Mission to suitably publicize the newly-established PM-CARES Fund to mobilize donations from abroad;
- Since this crisis also impacts upon the economy, PM advised Heads of Mission to also focus on ensuring that commerce in essential supplies, logistics chains, remittances and so on are unaffected, through their coordination with foreign partners;
- To continue to pay close attention to the evolving international political and economic situation, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, ten Heads of Mission, in Beijing, Washington DC, Tehran, Rome, Berlin, Kathmandu, Abu Dhabi, Kabul, Male, and Seoul outlined their efforts to help Indians stranded abroad, specially students and workers. They also reported efforts to identify medicine, medical devices, technologies, research and other measures which might help in India’s own national effort to fight this pandemic.
Mr Modi’s virtual interaction with Indian envoys has sent a reassuring message to the Indian community abroad that their country will continue to look after their welfare and safety during the time of the pandemic crisis. Over 25 million Persons of Indian Origin, NRIs and Indian workers live in countries, cutting across hemispheres.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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