The recent proposal by the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to jointly tackle COVID-19 and other challenges is to be welcomed as a step in the right direction.
In fact, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh all face the same problems of grinding poverty, record (and rising) unemployment, appalling levels of child malnourishment, an almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, sinking economies, skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs, fuel and medicine as well as acute shortages of water, electricity and housing.
India and Pakistan waste precious and scant resources fighting with each other; spending billions of dollars in buying foreign arms for this purpose, when they should join hands and jointly, with Bangladesh, tackle the aforementioned massive socio-economic evils.
PM Khan had telephoned PM Hasina on July 22, suggesting joint efforts to face COVID-19 and the other problems before both countries. This step should be appreciated and emulated by India too.
We recommend that the prime ministers of all three countries contact each other and set up joint teams of scientists, doctors, economists, and other technical and administrative experts for facing and resolving the huge problems in our subcontinent. In this initiative, we feel the first step should be taken by the Indian Prime Minister since India is by far the biggest of the three countries. The Indian prime minister should immediately contact the prime ministers of the other two countries and make the above proposal.
To begin with, we recommend that the three governments immediately set up a joint team of scientists, doctors and other experts for facing the corona problem which has become a menace worldwide. Private entrepreneurs like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (chairperson and MD of Biocon Ltd) may also be included in this team. This joint team should be provided all funds and facilities by the three governments for doing scientific research into the problem.
We have many bright experts in all three countries whose joint focus can be channelled on a war-footing for researching a vaccine and/or medicines for COVID-19, as well as recommending other steps in this connection. The three governments can also pool their resources for manufacturing ventilators for COVID-19 patients.
We believe that in such a situation like this, political leaders of all three countries should set aside ideological and other differences and rise to the occasion to jointly meet the common danger. The initiative taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan needs to be welcomed and followed up on a wider scale by leaders of all three countries, and also other countries.
Justice Katju is a former Judge in the Indian Supreme Court; Amile Gulzar is an advocate in Lahore, Pakistan and Dr Salfiyah is a doctor in Srinagar, Kashmir.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.