“When a pandemic hits hard there are arguments, questions. People have spoken of elections, we are a democratic country, you don’t stop elections in a place like India,” S Jaishankar told news agency ANI in an interview.
Amid global criticism over political campaigns when Covid cases were exploding in the country, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has offered this justification – “You don’t stop elections in a place like India”. He also describes Covid as a shared problem and a global crisis.
“When a pandemic hits hard there are arguments, questions. People have spoken of elections, we are a democratic country, you don’t stop elections in a place like India,” Mr Jaishankar told news agency ANI in an interview.
“The only time we stopped elections was an era … some decades ago … when I was very much younger where none of us really wants to be associated with that kind of memory,” he said, apparently referring to the Emergency of 1975 enforced by the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government.
Mr Jaishankar dismissed criticism over elections held amid Covid as “point scoring” that needed pause.
“We are a very argumentative society. There will be this kind of point scoring – somebody will say this crowd contributed to it, someone will say that crowd contributed to it. Somebody will say an individual or leader A didn’t wear a mask here. Somebody will say Leader B didn’t wear a mask there. In my view, we need to put a pause to it,” said the Foreign Minister.
Political leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressed hugely-attended rallies as elections were held in five states in March and April, when a deadly second surge hit India.
The campaigns continued even when over 3 lakh cases were reported daily and several states reported a shortage of vaccines, oxygen, medicines and hospital beds, which led to more questions about the government’s priorities.
Mr Jaishankar was also asked about critics’ observation that India was exporting vaccines at a time cases were rising, and is now depending on foreign aid.
“As I said COVID is a shared problem. Now look at last year when it came or even this year when it came to medicines, we gave hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol, we gave to the US, we gave to Singapore, we gave to European countries, we sent medical team to Kuwait, we gave vaccines to some countries. Now what you describe as aid we describe as friendship as support,” he said.
According to Mr Jaishankar, it was “not accurate” to project the situation as India accepting aid.
“I think this is to my mind not accurate way of projecting the situation,” he added.
He said the world has never seen global crisis of this proportion and it requires people to come together. He said there should not be point-scoring.
(With inputs from ANI)