The Gulf region is at the epicentre of a perfect storm
Oil price meltdown
India has a vital relations with the 8 Gulf countries.
The situation’s impact on bilateral economic ties needs to be anticipated and managed.
Lockdown is curbing the consumption of hydrocarbons.
A Goldman Sachs report published on March 30 estimated that COVID-19 had lowered the world crude consumption by 28 million bpd.
OPEC+ failed to reach a production-curtailing strategy
As a result, OPEC+ unravelled with each producer chasing a higher share in a collapsing market.
In a rare joint statement on March 16, the heads of OPEC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that developing countries’ oil and gas revenues will decline by 50% to 85% in 2020 with potentially far-reaching economic and social consequences.
Saudi Arabia’s fiscal deficit expected to cross 8% in 2020
Bilateral economic ties are strong: the India-Gulf trade stood around $162 billion in 2018-19, being nearly a fifth of India’s global trade.
It was dominated by import of crude oil and natural gas worth nearly $75 billion, meeting nearly 65% of India’s total requirements.
Some of these countries have large Indian investments and some have planned large investments in India.
The number of Indian expatriates in the Gulf states is about nine million, and they remitted nearly $40 billion back home.
The fresh recruitment stops, salaries are either lowered or stalled, taxes raised and localisation drives launched.
India needs to make some contingency plans in consultation with the individual countries.
It should do whatever it takes to enhance their capacity to handle COVID-19 cases among the Indian expatriates.
India’s missions there also need to monitor the situation and try to avoid panic among its nationals.
In the longer run, it is quite clear that we need to find new drivers for the India-Gulf synergy.
Pharmaceutical research & production
Building infrastructure in India and third countries
Education and Skilling
India Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Area
In time of need
The panel led by drug pricing regulatorShubhra Singh had been tasked with assessing the capability and the manufacturing capacity of domestic pharmaceutical companies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message to Mr. Trump that “India shall do everything possible to help humanity’s fight against COVID-19” should, therefore, be seen in that light.
India is lauded as the pharmacy of the global south. Almost 30% of India’s pharmaceutical exports are to North America, 16% to Europe and 17% to Africa.
The drug became much sought-after in India after the Indian Council of Medical Research approved its use as prophylaxis for novel coronavirus by certain categories of people on March 23.
India has a production capacity of 200 million hydroxychloroquine tablets of 200 mg strength each month and three well-established pharmaceutical companies make the drug.
While the capacity is sufficient to meet the current demand, the companies are confident of ramping up production if the need arises.
Finding a scapegoat in WHO
U.S. President Donald Trump has found a new scapegoat — the World Health Organization (WHO).
Mr. Trump tweeted on April 7: “The WHO really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet veryChina-centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?.”
And, during a briefing, he threatened to withhold funding to the WHO, accusing it of not being aggressive enough in containing the spread.
There is no doubt that concerted efforts by China in downplaying the magnitude and severity of the outbreak in Wuhan city for over a month, starting mid-December 2019, led to the spread of the virus within and outside China.
The cover-upcontinued even after it alerted the WHO on December 31.
Contrary to claims made by China, human-tohuman transmission had been occurring since mid-December 2019; Beijing confirmed it only on January 20.
By the time Wuhan and other cities were shut down on January 23, locking in over 50 million people, about five million had already fanned out from Wuhan to the rest of China and outside, thus carrying the virus thousands of km away from the epicentre.
Thailand andJapan reported their first cases in mid-January, and the U.S. on January 20.
However, two days later, President Trump brushed aside any concerns about the spread saying, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control.”
One may fault the WHO for not calling it a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) during its first meeting on January 22-23, and for the delay in calling the outbreak a pandemic.
But since the last week of January, the global body has been urging all member states to contain the spread through aggressive testing, contact tracing and quarantining.
To be frank, the WHO had failed to persuade China to be more transparent, especially till January 20, when it maintained radio silence on critical information such as the number of cases, deaths, spread of the virus and human-to-human transmission.
But the WHO is only an advisory and not a regulatory body and it would be naïve to fault it for China or any other country not being transparent.
No significant rate of increase in COVID-19 positive cases: ICMR
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Thursday said the country has maintained a steady rate of COVID-19 positive cases — 3% to 5% over the past month and half — and has registered no significant increase in this trend so far.
The country currently has 5,865 confirmed cases and 169 deaths.
This includes 591 new cases and 20 deaths in the last 24 hours, Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Lav Agrawal said at the daily press briefing.
He added that 473 people had recovered and been discharged so far.
The ICMR noted that 1,44,910 samples from 1,30,792 individuals had been tested as on April 9.
Ahmedabad adopts South Korean model
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has adopted the South Korean model of aggressive testing to ascertain the scale of the pandemic. “On April 4, the number of samples tested from the city were 57 while on April 8, we tested 840 samples,” Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nehra said.
So far, 141 cases have been reported from Ahmedabad.
Odisha becomes first State to extend lockdown till April 30
Odisha on Thursday extended the lockdown till April 30. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik made the announcement after a Cabinet meeting held through videoconferencing.
He said one had to decide between protecting the lives of the people and economic activity at this crucial juncture, and the Cabinet decided that saving lives was the topmost priority now.
₹15,000 crore sanctioned to States
The Centre on Thursday announced that ₹15,000 crore has been sanctioned to States under the India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package.
The 100% Centrally-funded scheme will be utilised for immediate COVID-19 Emergency Response (₹7,774 crore) and rest for medium-term support (1-4 years). This is to be provided under a mission mode approach.
Kejriwal launches ‘Operation SHIELD’ against COVID-19
The Delhi government will carry out ‘Operation SHIELD’ at 21 locations identified as containment zones in the Capital, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced here on Thursday.
‘Operation SHIELD’, which includes sealing, identifying and quarantining people in containment zones, doorstep delivery of essential items and door-to-door chec-king of people in those areas, will be undertaken by the Delhi government, he said.
Mr. Kejriwal also spoke about the need to wear masks before stepping out of homes.
Bhopal police thrash two AIIMS doctors returning from duty
“We are doctors, don’t beat us,” cried two junior resident doctors of AIIMS, Bhopal, as the police thrashed them with batons while they returned home after performing emergency duties.
Doctors like you are spreading the coronavirus. Do doctors roam around like this in the first place? You are a disgrace to the country! - two policemen, patrolling the Bag Sevania area, hurled the remarks at them.
Kerala gets nod for trial of plasma therapy
With Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan making it clear that the State would explore all available treatment options for COVID-19, the State has gone a step ahead and won the Indian Council of Medical Research’s approval to explore the feasibility of administering convalescent plasma transfusion on critically ill patients.
Convalescent plasma therapy is not new and has been used by doctors to treat critically ill patients during earlier epidemics like H1N1, SARS and Ebola.
It may be noted that plasma from the blood of previously infected yet healthy individuals had been transferred to five critically ill patients in China and their condition had steadily improved and were subsequently discharged from hospitals.
Pak. Army shoots down Indian quadcopter
The Pakistan Army on Thursday claimed to have shot down an Indian quadcopter for violating the country’s airspace.
According to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in Pakistan, “The Indian quadcopter intruded 600m inside Pakistan’s territory for conducting surveillance.”
The release said this “blatant act was aggressively responded to by Pakistan Army troops” that shot down the quadcopter.
“Such unwarranted acts by the Indian Army are a clear violation of the established norms and the existing air agreement between the two countries and reflect the Indian Army’s consistent disregard for the Ceasefire Understanding of 2003,” the ISPR press release added.
Rejecting the Pakistan Army’s claims, Army sources denied any quadcopter having flown from the Indian side.
The veracity of the picture of the quadcopter and its impact on snow when it was shot down had to be verified, a source in the Army said.
Nord Stream Gas Pipeline is between which two countries?
In India, infectious diseases are part of which of the below given list?