Turning challengeinto an opportunity

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MOHAMMAD JAMIL
CHINESE President Xi Jinping called on Donald Trump to take “substantive actions” to improve relations between the two countries with a view to developing a relationship that is without conflict and confrontation but based on mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation. He said: “Working together brings both sides benefits, fighting hurts both. Cooperation is the only choice.” Till recently, Trump continued to call the disease “the Chinese Virus,” despite protests from Beijing. Chinese diplomats had in turn claimed that the virus, which emerged in the central Chinese city ofWuhan, originated in the US. President Trump reciprocated in a tweet: “Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China; discussed in great detail the Corona Virus that is ravaging large parts of our planet. China has been through much and has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together!” There are more positive vibes.The United Nations Department of Global Communications (DGC) has given a message of hope that the Corona Virus pandemic presents an opportunity for the human family to act in solidarity and turn this crisis into an impetus to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. “The United Nations – and our global network of country offices – will support all Governments to ensure that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis,” said Secretary-General António Guterres in his recent statement. This shows compassion for the Covid-19 affected countries. Meanwhile, the IMF and World Bank in a joint statement called on all official bilateral creditors to suspend debt repayments at once, if asked for forbearance by countries that qualify for the World Bank’s concessional lending programme. This group consists of 76 countries, including larger countries such as Nigeria and Pakistan. Indeed those countries are ill-equipped to cope with the rapid spread ofthe virus.KristalinaGeorgieva,the IMF’s Managing Director, saidlast weekthatthe IMF could channel $10bn of emergency financing to the poorest countries – with a further $40bn available for middle-income emerging economies. The suspension of debt payments would release funds for countries to spend immediately on shoring up health systems. It would also givethe IMF andWorld Bank time to assess the impact of the crisis on each country, identify those in need of debt relief, and put forward a proposal for financial aid and debt relief atthe annual spring meetingsinApril,they said. Lastmonth,WashingtonTimes carried an article by Joseph DeTrani, who stated: “Ideally, China and the US would seize this unfortunate development and enter into a dialogue on the value of working together to address this and other health emergencies that could develop into pandemics in the future”. This joint US-China effort would complement the work of the WHO, with more of a focus on unknown pathogens that could affect the global community. This also would be an opportunity for the US and China to work to restore the trust and partnership of the 1980s and 1990s when the US and China cooperated successfully on a number of strategically important issues. Meanwhile, China has urged for lifting of US sanctions against Iran in the wake of fight against Corona Virus pandemic. Earlier, the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang said that the US sanctions has limited the country’s power to fight with the pandemic. Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund for emergency funding and a substantial list of essential equipment ranging from gloves and masks to portable respiration and X-ray machines. It appears that better sense will prevail. And the Trump Administration would not stand in the way of such basic needs by voting against an IMF loan to Iran, asit would convey animpressionthatthe United States actedinhumanely. In FPmagazine,RobertMalley,AliVaez published a treatise captioned ‘The Corona Virus Crisis Is a Diplomatic Opportunity for the United States and Iran’ stated that the most logical and mutually beneficial outcome would be a two-phased humanitarian de-escalation. Iran would first agree to release all detained foreigners and the United States would transfer the medicine and medical equipment Iran needs”. The author radiated an aura of optimism by stating state that here’s a spot of good news: “The pressure of the epidemic may force a humanitarian deal between Washington and Tehran. At the start of the Persian New Year, there are signs that Iran may free some U.S. citizens while Washington may finally facilitate desperately needed humanitarian aid to Tehran. On Thursday, Iran released US Navy vet Michael White on medical furlough to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents American interests. White apparently had the misfortune to visit an Iranian girlfriend in 2018 in the north-eastern city of Mashhad, at a time when Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were seeking payback for US sanctions, in the wake of the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Since then, Iran has been arresting Western academics and dual citizens visiting Iranian family members and holding them as hostage in future political bargaining. Having that said, one should not ignore the warning of Malthus who reckoned that population outstripping resources could pose a serious challenge. He had cautioned to limit numbers because whenever world population increased to the level of outstripping the resources, there were natural calamities, chaos, tensions, conflicts and wars. In this backdrop, the necessity for human numbers to conform to the environment cannot be overemphasized. If numbers become too great, obviously there will not be enough food for them. The disposal of wastes will also pose a serious problem in the form of pollution, which could result in epidemics and chronic diseases. The numbers then would inevitably come to be controlled in nature’s way of removing the excess. —The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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