The Ambassador of India to Senegal and High Commissioner Designate to The Gambia has stated that India has been a steadfast partner of The Gambia with regard to development partnership. In an OpEd dedicated to the inauguration of the Electricity Expansion Project in the Greater Banjul Area on 28 November 2020 in Kiang Kwinella, GV srinivas said the project has been completed in time despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Below is the diplomat’s take on India-Gambia bilateral relations titled ‘Inauguration of the Electricity Expansion Project in the Greater Banjul Area on 28 November 2020’.
– Ambassador GV srinivas –
India has been a steadfast partner of the Gambia in Development Partnership. The electricity expansion project in the Greater Banjul Area has been completed in time despite the challenges posed by the covid 19 pandemic. This underlines very clearly the solidarity of India with The Gambia in the fight against the pandemic, as the two fight not only for lives but also livelihoods.
Just as president Adama Barrow in the Gambia, Prime Minister Modi in India has been leading from the front during the tumultuous and pandemic times.
The year 2020 has been a defining experience for all of us. In India it has reinforced our determination to build a stronger national economy, with robust industrial capacities and deft use of technology. Technology is a cross-cutting instrument, whether in factories or farms, in software or social transformation.
We have learnt this over the past few years in India as digital banking and biometric identities have made our financial system more inclusive and accessible to underprivileged sections; as renewable energy and water conservation and recharge have sought to redress ecological and environmental imbalances; and as IT and biotech have emerged as cutting-edge tools for economic opportunity and societal transformation.
A slew of reforms introduced in India has positioned it as a favourite of MNCs given what India has to offer viz: Openness, Opportunities and Options. A series of infrastructure projects in India including in the area of optical fiber connectivity, solar power plant, river navigation have been inaugurated even during the Covid-19 times.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been the most globally disruptive event since World War II. Its devastating impact on society and on the economy is still being tabulated. Recovery, resilience and rebuilding will require both perseverance and planning.
When the pandemic struck, India found itself short of critical health supplies. We did not manufacture personal protective equipment (PPEs) or ventilators. Only two companies in India made N95 masks and we were woefully lacking testing kits. In a short span of time, with a whole-of-government and I would say whole-of-society resolve, led by the Prime Minister, our people rose to the occasion.
National capacities were built, by the state, by civil society and by the private sector. We created 15,466 dedicated Covid-19 facilities with 1.5 million isolation beds. Today there are over a hundred PPE manufacturers in India, making 150,000 PPE kits a day. At last count, there were 48 companies making ventilators. And our Prime Minister mentioned that when we started with the Covid crisis there were 16,000 ventilators in hospitals all over India. Today, we plan to have 500,000 ventilators. Testing kits production has gone up considerably and we are conducting about a million tests a day.
We are supplying masks, PPEs, diagnostic test kits and ventilators to other countries. Our pharmaceutical companies ramped up production of drugs, especially HCQ and paracetamol. We shipped these to 150 countries even in lockdown conditions. We are on the cusp of the availability of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
As the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, India is at the forefront of this effort. We have at least five promising vaccine candidates at advanced stages of trials. Dozens of sites across India are conducting vaccine trials on all ages and social groups.
To ensure that the fruits of human endeavour to defeat Covid-19 reach all, India made a joint submission to the TRIPS Council on “Temporary Waiver from Certain Provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of COVID-19” In October 2020, to ensure that the intellectual property rights do not become a barrier in the timely and affordable access to medical products, including vaccines and therapeutics, and enable nations to deal effectively with the public health emergency arising out of Covid-19 pandemic, and received ready support from many countries.
Bilaterally, we have been organizing a series of events for strengthening trade and economic relations, capacity building including in wellness and healthcare.
The capacity building flagship program of India under the banner of Indian technical and economic cooperation in place since 1964 has evolved and now even has eITEC program.
Degrees from prominent Indian academic institutions are being brought to the door step of students from the Gambia, on gratis basis, via iLearn tele-education program. The rich knowledge of India in Yoga and Ayurveda, Indian traditional medicine, found effective to boost immunity and fight Covid-19, have been showcased during a series of interactive sessions in the recent past.
The Gambian healthcare workers joined in the eTraining course on COVID-19 Prevention and Management Guidelines. 25 Senior Civil Servants including Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Permanent Secretaries from The Gambia participated in a Special Training Programme organised for them at National Centre for Good Governance, Mussoorie from June 10 to June 21, 2019 under ITEC+ programme.
A Special Training Programme (June 20 to July 20, 2018) was organized by Foreign Service Institute for 20 Gambian Diplomats. I am also happy to share that during the current academic year 32 students have been awarded scholarship under the iLearn Program and 34 students were awarded ICCR Africa Scholarship for higher studies in premier universities in India.
And I am happy to mention that this is the highest number of scholarships ever awarded to the Gambia in any academic year.
People to People relations between our two countries are very strong. As part of the celebrations of 150th Birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, President Adama Barrow was kind enough to share his thoughts on the subject “What Gandhi Means to me”. DanceSmith Bollywood troupe performed in January 2020 to packed halls presenting Bollywood numbers.