Justice Markandey Katju, Amile Gulzar, and Dr Salfiyah Shameem-
The recent proposal by the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to jointly tackle COVID and other challenges is to be welcomed as a step in the right direction.
In fact, all three countries in the Indian subcontinent, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh face the same problems of grinding poverty, record and rising unemployment, appalling level of child malnourishment, almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, sinking economies, skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs, fuel, medicines etc, acute shortage of water, electricity, housing etc.
India and Pakistan waste their precious and scant resources fighting with each other and spending billions of dollars in buying foreign arms for this purpose when they should join hands and jointly ( with Bangladesh) tackle the abovementioned massive socio-economic evils.
As mentioned above, Prime Minister Imran Khan telephoned the Bangladesh Prime Minister yesterday and suggested joint efforts to face COVID and other problems before both countries. This step should be appreciated and emulated by India too.
We recommend to the Prime Ministers of all three countries to 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 ( head of Biocon Ltd ) may also be included in this team. This joint team should be provided all funds and facilities by the 3 governments for doing scientific research into the problem.
We have many bright experts in all 3 countries who can be charged to focus jointly on doing research and finding out a vaccine and/or medicine for COVID 19 on a war footing, and recommending other steps in this connection.
The three governments can also pool their resources for manufacturing sufficient ventilators for COVID patients
We believe that in such a situation like this, political leaders of all 3 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 3 countries, and also other countries.
[Justice Katju, former Judge, Indian Supreme Court, Amile Gulzar, Advocate Lahore, Pakistan, and Dr. Salfiyah Shameem, a medical doctor in Srinagar, Kashmir. The views expressed are their own.]