Images of Indian people gasping for breath and dying in cramped hospital rooms, screams of parents and children beseeching emergency medical care for a family member or who lost a loved one, and widespread cremations and burials are deeply agonizing.
Some doctors and health workers have been physically assaulted, bearing the brunt of the people’s anger and desperation.
An apocalyptic surge of COVID-19 cases has been bludgeoning India for two weeks now, with no apparent end in sight for the sufferings and deaths.
India, the world’s second most populated country (some 1.4 billion people), has recorded more than 21 million infections, with some 400,000 daily cases and around 4,000 deaths per day. More than 230,000 have died of the virus. The numbers continue to rise.
We grieve with the Indian government and people as they grapple with the deadly catastrophe.
Since COVID-19 is a global pandemic, the crisis in India will surely have ravaging effects in South Asia and the international community. Already, there are reports of a rapid surge in coronavirus cases in India’s neighboring country Nepal, which is alarming. There are fears that Nepal may suffer the same predicament as India if the COVID-19 situation is not immediately contained.
The Indian crisis will also weaken the global community’s effort to combat the pandemic as the country is a major supplier of vaccines and medicines worldwide.
India has supplied vaccines to poor and developing countries through the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Covax facility. It is also a manufacturer of Remdesivir, a medicine used to fight COVID-19.
Indeed no country is safe until all countries are safe. Global solidarity and cooperation are needed to defeat this plague. No nation can solely win against this health and economic calamity.
We last visited India in April, 2017 when we addressed a conference organized by the IAPP, the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace, in New Delhi. The IAPP is composed of incumbent and former members of parliament from Asia, North America, Latin America, Europe, and Africa.
We also appreciate the support of the political parties of India to ICAPP, the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, in fostering peace and security, cooperation and development, friendship and dialogue through the channel of political parties. As we have mentioned in this column, the ICAPP is a Philippine-led initiative which we founded and launched here in Manila 21 years ago, in September, 2000.
India’s two major political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party of incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modiand Indian National Congress led by Sonia Gandhi, widow of the assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, sit in the governing body of ICAPP.
When we were Speaker of the House, we had the privilege of inviting then India’s President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to speak at the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa, which the Indian leader graciously accepted.
President Kalam addressed the joint session of the Philippine Congress on February 6, 2006, in the course of his state visit to the Philippines.
A physicist and aeronautic engineer, President Kalam served as president of India from 2002 to 2007. He passed away in 2015.
The other world leaders who addressed the joint session of the Philippine Congress when we were Speaker of the House were US President George W. Bush on October 18, 2003; Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on April 18, 2005; and Chinese President Hu Jintao on April 27, 2005.
The Philippines and India established diplomatic relations on November, 1949, shortly after both countries gained independence in 1946 and 1947, respectively. The two countries also signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1952 in Manila to strengthen the ties between Manila and New Delhi.
The first Philippine ambassador to India, who served from 1952 to 1956, was the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Narciso Ramos, father of former President Fidel V. Ramos.
President Ramos and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made state visits to India in 1997 and 2007, respectively.
We also remember fondly our old friends in India, including the late Maharani (Queen) Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, whom our wife Gina and we visited in India a few years before she passed away in 2009 at the age of 90.
Maharani Devi was a philanthropist and was elected, in a then world-record landslide, to the Indian Parliament in 1962 and served until 1971. She was a good friend of the late incomparable US First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.
We wish to greet our wife Gina, our daughters Sandra, Leslie, Vivian and Carissa, daughter in law Karen, and all the mothers in the Philippines and around the world a Happy Mother’s Day.
We also remember our beloved mother, Casimira Claveria de Venecia, who passed away in 1946, when we were nine years old.