India headed for coronavirus crisis

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By Ravi Agrawal

welcome to Foreign policeFrom South Asia. This week: India now has fourth case of coronavirus around the world, conflicting reports on the Clash between India and China, Nepal votes on new mapand a note on racism and skin color in South Asia.

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Delhi sounds the alarm

As expected last week, India has continued to climb in the ranking of countries with the most cases of coronavirus. Last week was the seventh; this week it is fourth, with just under 300,000 confirmed cases.

But now, an increasing number of government officials admit that things will get worse, especially in New Delhi, which is quickly becoming one of the main hotspots for coronaviruses in South Asia. The total number of cases in Delhi doubles every 12 days, much faster than current The national average is 22%. On Tuesday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia told reporters that the city-state could have up to 550,000 cases of coronavirus by the end of July. He added that the capital would need 80,000 hospital beds at this point – there are only 9,000 left today. Sisodia’s comments come as reports continue to emerge from refouled patients in Delhi and Mumbai hospitals.

Test, test, test. But how? From the start of the pandemic, health experts have stressed the immense importance of testing. Without data and information, after all, officials are flying blind. Colm Quinn of FP looked at the data from the global tests and found an unsurprising but still shocking correlation. While countries with average low income – $ 1,025 and less – tested on average 0.13% of their population, countries with high middle income – $ 12,376 and more – tested 5.2% of their citizens. In other words, being in a rich country is 40 times more likely to be able to get a coronavirus test than if you were in a poor country. Most countries in South Asia fall into the World Bank’s “lower middle income” category – countries in which 0.34% of citizens have been tested.

The reopening debate. Most of the South Asian countries have reopened their economies, as we have noted. As a result, the coronavirus crisis in the region is very likely to accelerate. Recent work by economist Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak has focused on the complicated choices between locking and relaxing restrictions. In his latest article for FP this week, Mobarak points out that it is important to consider that the majority of South Asians live in rural areas where work options fluctuate alongside the agrarian cycle. Legislators should take a close look at the so-called lean season – the pre-harvest period when grain stocks are depleted – and make sure it does not coincide with a lockout period. But uniform policies will not help. As Mobarak says, “Governments should pursue smart containment strategies that pay attention to regional variation in disease risk, specific activities that are essential to maintain food security, and the specific sectors on which the poor depend to maintain their livelihoods, rather than expanding large-scale blockages that impose significant human costs on the poor. ”

Increase in regional cases. We have discussed India at length, but keep an eye on Bangladesh and Pakistan, which together have a larger population than the United States. The two countries now have a combined total of 200,000 cases, doubling every two weeks, as shown in our weekly chart. Both countries have largely lifted their lock restrictions.


The India-China impasse. Citing unnamed officials, Reuters reports that Indian and Chinese military commanders have accepted confidence-building measures such as the withdrawal of certain troops from either side of their disputed border. The question is to what extent these statements are credible: are they real measures or simply to save face? It’s hard to say. Journalist Ajai Shukla, former army colonel, tweeted Thursday, citing satellite imagery and other sources, said that China had not withdrawn any troops from areas of Indian territory that its military recently occupied. And writing in FP this week, Anik Joshi argues that one must examine the growing friendship between Pakistan and China to properly assess the India-China relationship today. “India’s increasingly comfortable relationship with the West heralds a clear choice in any global conflict,” he wrote, predicting more tensions between New Delhi and Beijing.

Cartographic warfare. Keep an eye on this one. The Nepalese Parliament will vote on a new map of its border with India this weekend, claiming a tiny portion of land at its northwestern tip as Nepalese territory. Some Indian media have said that China was behind Nepal’s decision to assert itself. But India also released a new map of the region last November, showing some of the disputed land with Nepal under Indian territory. Landlocked Nepal depends on imports from India, which effectively blocked the country in 2015 for ethnic minority issues, arousing strong resentment against New Delhi, but it is also increasingly indebted to China, which began to invest heavily in Nepal’s infrastructure.

Election of Sri Lanka. Colombo decided to hold general elections on August 5, which is four months behind the date originally scheduled for April. Sri Lanka has so far recorded one of the slowest viral spread rates in South Asia, possibly due to its relatively strong health system, small manageable population and the fact that it is from an island country.


Global protests against the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis have sparked important discussions across South Asia about race and caste in society. For example, many writers have drawn attention to the skin whitening industry, which employs popular movie stars to promote the idea that whiter skin is somehow better than dark skin. And that brings me to my question this week: what is the estimated size of the global skin lightening cream industry?

A) $ 4 million
B) $ 40 million
C) $ 400 million
D) $ 4 billion

Scroll down for the answer – and a few other thoughts and readings on racism in South Asia.


Budget of Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan presents his second annual budget on Friday. This will not make a pretty visualization. GDP for the year ending May is expected to contract by 0.4%, well below pre-pandemic forecasts for 3.3% growth, as reported by Reuters. While Islamabad has canceled its foreclosure measures, the World Health Organization says the country should adopt a more “agile two-week and two-week” strategy to stop the spread of the virus. Such a decision would not only be unpopular but would also go against a recent Supreme Court decision to reopen the economy.

A different banking crisis. “Employees are in panic mode,” according to an umbrella organization of banking unions in India. As the country eases its lockdowns and loan requests rise sharply, bankers are forced to spend more time at the office – and they are worried about security. To date, at least 11 bank workers have died from COVID-19 across the country.


D) $ 4 billion. I could not find any authoritative data, but several sources point to a 2017 study that estimated the global market for skin lightening products at $ 4.075 billion and estimated that it should double in size by 2026.

A few more thoughts: Former West Indian cricket captain Darren Sammy went on Instagram this week to point out how his colleagues in the T20 cricket league in India used a derogatory word for his nickname. But why did they do it? I enjoyed reading the challenging Sambit Bal essay in Cricinfo on the regional obsession with fair skin and also on “the subcontinental abomination … of addressing people by their physical attributes”. Some of the words and phrases that people use, writes Bal, “may not feel racist in the way the world understands them.” But even without the scars of slavery and subjugation, colorism has some of the worst characteristics of racism; it is discriminatory, derogatory and dehumanizing. Well said, and I hope that Bal’s opinions are widely read and thought through. You can read the full essay here.


It’s all for this week.

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