COVID-19 and international relations

Reading time: 6-8 minutes.

One must take note of the remarkable date of 22nd March, 2020 when each individual in India was expected to show up in support of all those professionals who have been constantly striving towards battling the deadly Corona virus that has caused thousands of deaths across the globe. As known to all, this virus originated in Wuhan, China during the month of December, 2019.

In order to understand the reasons behind increasing mortality due to this virus, one must attempt to acquire sufficient understanding of the anatomy of Corona virus. As per a report by the World Health Organization, these viruses belong to the Coronaviridae family and they attack both humans and animals. It is important to know that the recent corona virus found in humans in Wuhan was not previously recognized and is posing threats to human race including syndromes like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

The virus that primarily originated in China recognizes bats as a dominant carrier but the WHO experts assert that there are a couple of other animals that act as medium of transfer of virus from animal species to humans. In order to ascertain other sources of this virus, environmental sampling was conducted from the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market and other surrounding markets in China. It is important to note that this virus does not exist in air but rests on a surface.

In order to avoid the transmission of this virus, it is important that people refrain from establishing any physical contact with each other. As per a report by the WHO, two of the drastically affected cities of China are Wuhan, Guangdong and Sichuan. The researches and statistics presented by the WHO are predominantly accelerated through reports by these provinces in China. One must know that this virus did not develop within other countries but spread merely due to people coming in contact with the infected from across the globe.

Viewing this pandemic crisis with an international perspective, it can be said that the need of the hour is a strong collaboration between nations irrespective of the former disparities because one must understand that eventually its human fighting for human.

Its spread throughout the globe

Before one dwells into the intricacies of the virus and its consequences at a global scale, it is important to understand the accurate meaning of what exactly is a Pandemic disease and in which circumstances is a disease considered Pandemic. As per the definition provided by the World Health Organization, an influenza pandemic is said to have occurred when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads across the globe and the major problem surrounding this is the fact that people have less immunity against this Pandemic disease. COVID 19 is now a Pandemic disease owing to the fact that it has affected thousands of people across the globe.

One must have good knowledge about the routes of transmission of Corona virus so as to ascertain preventive measures pertaining to the same. The World Health Organization reports assert that COVID 19 is transmitted through droplets and fomites due to the unprotected physical contact between the infected individual and the rest of the world. A common notion surrounding influenza virus is that these are predominantly air borne but COVID 19 is found not to be air borne but merely through physical contact.

The transmission of virus amongst nations occurred at an extremely fast pace. In countries like India, most of the patients who were found infected with this virus, had international travel history and did not develop this within the country. In absence of any certain cure of COVID 19, the only way of minimizing the disastrous effect of this disease is all sorts of attempts to prevent this. Social Distancing is the only way that can prevent spreading of this virus among the masses. As per the WHO report, almost all the regions across the globe have reported confirmed corona cases. These regions primarily include Western Pacific, South East Asia, Region of Americas, European region and Eastern Mediterranean region.

Its effect on international relations

The outbreak of this deadly disease not only killed people in large numbers but also adversely affected the global economies and international relations amongst the nations. For instance, India witnessed a 45 minute closure in the SENSEX which had adverse impacts on the economy as a whole. The Chinese economy is bound to witness a slowdown due to it being the epicenter of the virus but one must pay attention to the impact on the existing trade tensions between US and China.

As per the phase one agreement between the two countries, China promised to bring about an increase in the imports of goods and services manufactured and provided by US respectively but due to this pandemic crisis, there is a high probability that China might not adhere to its promise owing to the economic slowdown it is currently witnessing. The financial markets across nations have rattled. This is clearly evident from the crashing GDP of nations across the globe and the heightened issues of sustaining market forces within almost every nation.

It should also be noted that amid all the tensions, nations presently stand united in the battle against corona virus. As per a newspaper report, the Russian army was sent as a part of medical help to Italy. It must be known that Italy has been facing extremely harsh conditions in terms of spread of the deadly corona virus. In less than three months, the virus has resulted in most of hospitals being occupied by hundreds of sufferers.

Approximately, fifteen thousand have been infected as of 13th of March, 2020. This noble initiative by Russia is actually helping Italy fight the health crisis that it is going through. It is pertinent to note that leaders from across the nations have been appealing masses to follow and encourage social distancing in pursuit of preventing more cases of COVID 19 that could arise in future. Looking at the collaboration amongst nations, it can be contended that this health crisis has had varying impacts on the relations amongst nations in monetary as well as non- monetary terms.

Critical analysis and probable way forward

Analyzing the current situation in India and across nations, it is important to note that only the citizens themselves are capable of controlling the spread of this virus through maintaining considerable distance amongst them. They must avoid visiting any public place and should practice self- isolation in order to prevent any further spread of this virus. Leaders of nations across the globe have been trying to convince masses into practicing social distancing through several platforms of communication like social media, press, radio and television. As a researcher, it is important to analyze that if the spread of COVID 19 is not contained during these months, it might heighten up to the third stage which if at all happens, will be difficult to deal with.

The only way forward is to strictly adhere to the government released instructions until the countries are able to contain the virus. This shall not only help the masses residing within a particular country but also will stop the uncontrolled transmission of Corona to other countries because people tend to visit different countries following work, vacation, etc. Restricting movement from one country to another shall also solve the issue of quick transmission of virus and so as if at all the initiative of self- isolation does not work in favor of the citizens, then the government may adopt the strategy involving restriction of movement not within the country but between two or more countries.

Conclusion

The Pandemic crisis of COVID 19 is not resolved but is still progressing in terms of number of deaths across the globe. So, asserting any statement of conclusion will not be appropriate because the issue has not yet witnessed a downfall. It is pertinent to note that the Pandemic crisis has led to change in economic and trade relations that the neighboring countries share, yet it is interesting to know that all these countries stand in unity against the virus and are striving hard to control the situation. Apart from this, it is important to understand that this virus primarily spreads through social contact as it requires a surface to settle down unlike other influenza viruses that are air borne.

Awareness regarding the anatomy and spread of virus amongst the masses is important so that they are not carried away by fake information. Detailed understanding of the scientific origin of Corona virus is important to judge the veracity of information being shared majorly across the social media platforms. It should be understood that the masses tend to believe a piece of information when they are in a state of panic. The same has been happening across the globe, due to the Pandemic crisis which eventually results in unnecessary panic where the time could have been productively used in discovering and following innovative preventive measures in a pursuit of combating the spread of COVID 19.

Author: Meghna Bhatt from NMIMS School of Law, Mumbai.

Editor: Ismat Hena from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.

Decoding Brexit: What’s in it for India?

Reading time: 5-6 minutes.

Boris Johnson, the UK’s new Prime Minister will be dealing with a lot of issues left over by his predecessor, Theresa May. May was forced to resign after the UK’s lawmakers rejected to ratify the Brexit deal that she secured with the EU three times and also failed to agree on any alternative outcome.

At a glance, Johnson’s Brexit plan is simpler than May’s: Get a new agreement with the EU or crash out on October 31 with no deal. Given that the EU has said numerous times that May’s deal, formally known at the Withdrawal Agreement, is not open for negotiation, no deal seems on the cards.

When Parliament returns from its summer holiday on September 3, Johnson could well face a motion of no confidence in his government. It’s a vote that Johnson and his team can’t expect to win. He currently has a parliamentary majority of just one and some of his own Conservative lawmakers have implied they will put blocking no deal ahead of party loyalty.

But why is Britain willing to leave EU in the first place?

Brexit is the abbreviation of the term “Brtiish Exit” from the European Union. It mirrors the term Grexit, a term which was coined and used to refer to the possible exit of Greece from the EU. Britain decided to leave the EU after the result of the referendum which stated that 51.9% of the voters favoured exit of Britain.

A referendum denotes voting in which everyone of voting age can take part, normally giving a ‘yes’ or ‘no; answer to a question. After growing calls from many MPs of the Conservative Party and the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the referendum was finally held on June 23, 2016. A similar referendum was held in 1975 in which 67% of the voters voted to stay in the EU.

While there is no specific reason why Britain took this decision, people who voted for leaving the EU argued that it was necessary to protect the country’s identity, its culture, independence and its place in the world. They essentially were opposed to immigration of people into Britain for work related purpose. The Eurozone crisis added to their resentment.

Which international law is involved in Brexit?

Article 50 is a clause in the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty that outlines the steps to be taken by a country seeking to leave the Union voluntarily. Invoking Article 50 kick-starts the formal exit process and serves as a way for countries to officially declare their intention to leave the EU.

The procedure applies to each of the 28 nations of the EU; “in accordance with its own constitutional requirements’. The first step along the road to departure is for the departing Member State to notify the European Council of its intention to do so. The UK did this on 29th March 2017, after the assent of 498 MPs in the House of Commons. The next step was for the EU to negotiate and conclude a Withdrawal Agreement with the departing state, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal.

What can be Brexit’s repercussions on Indian economy?

Brexit was one of the biggest global macroeconomic events in June 2016. The decision of Britain shook markets worldwide and had a major economic impact. This was clearly reflected in rebound the Indian stock markets showed post referendum results.

The UK has been an attractive centre of business and international finance due to its strong legal system and contract enforcement practice. India is one of the top investors with UK on account of UK being part of the European Union. With its strong investment climate and relationship with EU, it was considered the gateway to do business in Europe.

Many Indian companies like Rolta, Tata Steel, Bharti Airtel Ltd (UK) have set up operations in the UK and derive revenue from European operations. A no-deal Brexit is likely to cause some disruption in the operations and may also cost a few jobs. Jaguar Land Rover plc, owned by Tata Motors ltd. plans to eliminate 4,500 jobs in response to sales slowdown caused by Brexit and slowing Chinese demand.

Indian companies would need to recalibrate European operations, like setting up an additional operating company within European Union. This means short term disruptions will have a financial impact, as also take up management time. Similarly, Indian companies who have used London as their base to raise capital abroad may face issues and may need to work harder on the process.

Given that this risk has been around for a while, Indian investments in 2017 were at the highest level since 2008. This is partly driven by the depreciation of GBP (British pound sterling) against the rupee post the Brexit vote. Indian companies will need to focus on their merger and acquisition deal efforts across Europe while tackling the British market.

India would also need to negotiate a free trade deal with the UK as it proposes to retain the same goods and services schedules post Brexit. The concessions agreed upon by WTO members’ prior to Brexit may not hold the same value once Brexit happens.

All the additional costs and tariffs agreed upon may need to be rescheduled. India exports around USD 9.6 billion worth of goods and services to the UK. Though there may be other factors looming, Brexit may be another reason why the trade surplus of USD 4.6 billion in 2017 almost dropped by half to USD 2.5 billion in 2018.

The road ahead…

India sees the British exit as an opportunity to expand its trade and economic relations with the UK. British and Indian officials have been signalling that Brexit will make the conclusion of a bilateral free trade pact much easier. This is because Brexit provides a fresh opportunity to India to strengthen its economic relationship with the UK through an India-UK trade and investment agreement.

On the other side, a no deal Brexit and the uncertainty it produces would have many adverse impacts on the Indian economy in general and Indian businesses in the UK in particular. For instance, at present, roughly 800 Indian companies operate in the UK. The UK serves as an entry point for many Indian companies to the European market. A disorderly British exit would shut the direct access of these companies to the EU market. That may force some of the companies to relocate or shut down their businesses.

Finally, the doubt of a no deal scenario and risk aversion tendencies across markets can further depreciate the already fragile rupee. Economists note that the US Dollar would be the only currency that benefits from a hard Brexit and the subsequent uncertainty in global markets. Such an outcome will not only affect the pound sterling but the currencies of emerging markets as well, including the Indian rupee.

A no deal scenario will, therefore, have an adverse impact in the short term. However, in the longer run, Brexit is expected to provide an opportunity to India to reset its trade and economic relations with the UK and the EU.

-This article is brought to you in collaboration with Shivaang Maheshwari from Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.