Ensuring India remains the leader in vaccines and pharmaceuticals in the face of attacks from China and “Big Pharma” is of vital importance to India’s health and economic security. This pandemic has pushed the nation’s health to the center of the geopolitical scene and health workers to the ranks of frontline warriors. Self-sufficiency in vaccines, drugs, diagnostic kits, disposable medico-surgical products and equipment is as important, if not more, than self-sufficiency in armaments to protect us from the biological weapons of our enemies, state and non-state actors who do not respect no international policy. law and do not hesitate to commit crimes against humanity. They attack us first with biological weapons and then deprive us of essential supplies, especially those necessary for the manufacture of drugs and vaccines. Then in a masquerade to help us, they sell us defective medical supplies at exorbitant prices and take advantage of our misery while using the media to laugh at us and shake our self-confidence in the hope of subjugating us. The healthcare industry has broad applications far beyond the obvious and is a source of strategic, geopolitical and soft power.
STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF PHARMACEUTICALS AND VACCINES: India is the global pharmacy and major supplier of low-cost, high-quality drugs and vaccines to the World Health Organization and to countries of the world, poor and rich alike, developed and underdeveloped. The Indian pharmaceutical industry has played a major role in facilitating the containment of HIV / AIDS worldwide by providing affordable generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. The refusal to share patents on vaccines and their components and the profits of large pharmaceutical companies has become a major problem. The Serum Institute of India had to advocate with the US government to lift the ban on essential ingredients in the Covishield vaccine. During the second wave of Covid-19 in India, the prices of essential drugs skyrocketed due to the profits made by Chinese suppliers of APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient) and pharmaceutical intermediates necessary for the production of these medications. India was self-sufficient in the production of its own APIs and intermediates until the 1990s. Over the past two decades, the importation of inexpensive Chinese APIs and intermediates has resulted in the closure of many factories in India.
STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF MEDICAL AND LABORATORY CONSUMABLES AND EQUIPMENT: The initial shortage of masks, personal protective equipment (PPE) and diagnostic kits made the government of India understand the importance of medical consumables such as gloves, syringes , needles, dressings, sutures, catheters, tubes, infusion sets, IV cannulas, etc., as well as laboratory supplies, surgical instruments and implants, ventilators, defibrillators, infant incubators, fiber optic endoscopes and electrical medical devices. India currently imports around 80% of its medical device needs, especially from China, and there is an urgent need for self-sufficiency in this area.
STRATEGIC INTERDEPENDENCE: Messaging apps, social media, telemedicine, video conferencing, and digital payment platforms used in managing this pandemic have demonstrated the importance of smartphones, reliable broadband telecommunications networks, and software. . Managing demand surges has shown the critical need for logistics, energy, food and water supplies, and waste disposal facilities. Nuclear medicine and brachytherapy depend on nuclear reactors for isotopes, radiotherapy equipment for nuclear sciences, cryotherapy for cryotechnology, and nanomedicine for nanotechnology. Various medical equipment, their sensors, electronics and materials are based on technologies and materials developed in aerospace, defense, nuclear sciences, electronics, telecommunications, artificial intelligence and other fields of research of strategic importance. Often, profits from the sale of medical equipment have funded research and development in these related sciences.
APPLICATIONS OF MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY IN OTHER STRATEGIC AREAS: Endoscopes are used to locate and extract people trapped at a disaster site and for equipment maintenance and security investigations. Ultrasonic, CT, MR scanners have found use in forensic science, security and customs control, archeology, non-destructive testing of products and structures to detect invisible defects and stress fractures. Sensors and monitors developed for the healthcare industry have had many applications elsewhere, including in aerospace cockpits.
SPACE, HIGH ALTITUDE, POLAR, DEEP SEA, DEEP MINES: Research and training in physical and mental fitness, special medical equipment, protective suits, branded foods, water, medical supplies, d oxygen and special sanitary facilities, made it possible to explore Antarctica from Bharati Antarctic Research Station; survive on the Siachen Glacier and the Himalayan heights; explore the deep seabed; perform long dives in a nuclear submarine; protect personnel and researchers in deep mines, nuclear facilities and other dangerous industries and environments and now send Indians into space. The healthcare industry helps athletes, pilots, astronauts, police and defense personnel in difficult conditions. It allows us to explore new frontiers and push the boundaries of human survival.
GEOPOLITICAL IMPORTANCE OF DISASTER AND MEDICAL RELIEF: India has a long history of providing medical relief in areas of war and disaster such as the evacuation of Kuwait during the Gulf War of 1990-91, Civil War Libyan in 2011, after the bombing in Brussels on March 22, 2016 On January 31 and February 1, 2020, Air India evacuated 637 Indians and 7 Maldivians from Wuhan and on February 27, 2020, 119 Indians and 5 foreign nationals from the ship Diamond Princess cruise ship, moored off Yokohama, Japan. On February 26, 2020, an Indian Air Force C-17 plane transported 15 tons of medical assistance, including masks, gloves and other medical equipment, to Wuhan and brought back 76 Indians and 36 Foreign nationals. India responded within 15 minutes of the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal as part of Operation Maitri, and the Indian armed forces evacuated 5,188 people, including nearly 785 foreign tourists. During the crisis in Yemen in 2015, 4,640 Indian citizens and 960 foreign nationals from 41 countries were evacuated as part of Operation Raahat; and 1,764 Indians, 112 Sri Lankans, 64 Nepalese and 7 Lebanese nationals were evacuated during the Lebanon War in 2006 as part of Operation Sukoon by the Indian Navy. Tajikistan’s air bases have recently been used to evacuate Afghanistan and provide relief. As part of the Vaccine-Maitri program, India is providing Covid-19 vaccines to many countries. The ability to deliver medical and disaster relief to any part of the world is expanding and strengthening Indian logistics and geopolitical power.
THE INDIAN HEALTH INDUSTRY AND THE DIASPORA AS SOFT POWER: President Trump’s appeal to Prime Minister Modi to release emergency stocks of hydroxychloroquine; The demand for vaccines and essential drugs from WHO and many countries in India is clear evidence of Indian soft power through the health industry. Dr Michael Ryan, WHO’s Executive Director for Health Emergencies, said a year ago that India was the world leader in eradicating two silent killers, smallpox and polio, and that the India would show the world how to control Covid-19, as India plays a leading role in the development of a potential vaccine candidate and also in the production of potential anti-Covid drugs. On April 21 of this year, at a meeting of the European Commission (EC) in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel lamented that they “allowed” India to become a major pharmaceutical producer in the world. These statements by world leaders are sufficient proof of India’s pharmaceutical soft power. Indian doctors, nurses, technicians and health workers form the backbone of the national health service in many countries of the world. This highly respected diaspora is another source of Indian soft power.
BENEFITS OF MEDICAL TOURISM: Large health facilities and scalable health personnel in emergencies, development of hospitality and leisure tourism facilities, foreign currency earnings, export of Indian medicines, multiple sources of financial returns, gratitude many nationals, experience and research to manage various races and nationals are some of the many benefits of medical tourism. It also extends our soft power.
THE HEALTH INDUSTRY’S ROAD TOWARDS AN ECONOMY OF TILLIONS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS: This pandemic has demonstrated the growth and the financial, strategic and geopolitical prospects of the health industry, in particular pharmaceuticals; medical, laboratory, household maintenance and sanitary consumables; software relating to health, data storage and management; medical equipment such as ventilators, intensive care facilities, oxygen supply equipment and logistics. Since most of them are imported; To achieve an economy of $ 5,000 billion or more, there is nothing better than stimulating healthcare and its allied industries, including medical electronics and biomedical sciences.
THE HEALTH NEEDED TO BECOME A SUPERPOWER: The Green Revolution has brought us food security. To ensure the security of our nation, a major effort is underway to achieve self-sufficiency in defense production. Measures are underway to secure strategic supplies such as the manufacture of semiconductors, electronics, telecommunications equipment and solar cells. Likewise, to protect our health and our economy, we must be self-sufficient in health supplies. In a health emergency like a pandemic or biological warfare, we should not be held hostage by the denial of technology or supplies. We need to produce health products globally and export them so that we can fund research and development of advanced technologies.
Dr PS Venkatesh Rao is a consultant in endocrine, breast and laparoscopic surgery.