New Delhi: At a time when the credibility of the World Health Organization (WHO) has plummeted to an all-time low and internationally there's a groundswell for new leadership, India's Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is all set to be the chairman of the WHO's Executive Board. He has been elected to the post and will take charge this Friday itself, succeeding Japan's Dr Hiroki Nakatani.
This all important Executive Board has 34 members who are technically qualified and represent their nations. All of the 34 are designated by their respective states in the World Health Assembly, which in this case was recently concluded where Harsh Vardhan made a long speech about India's response to COVID-19 and how Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown "leadership" benefiting not just India but the world.
In fact, the proposal to appoint India's nominee to the executive board was signed by the 194-nation World Health Assembly.
While it has not been a sudden decision since last year itself WHO's South-East Asia group had decided that India would be elected to the Executive Board for three years from 2020, the timing is extremely crucial.
None less than US President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) if it fails to commit to "substantive improvements" within 30 days. Trump also accused WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of bias towards China and alleged that the "only way forward for the WHO is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China," in a letter to Tedros, the director-general of the WHO.
The world health body was forced to give its nod for a coronavirus probe, aimed to investigate China's alleged role of hiding crucial details of COVID-19 from the world, after 61 countries had moved a resolution at the WHO's decision-making body asking for an "impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation".
And now, with India taking the centre stage of its Executive Board, many see it as India's stature rising internationally at a time when China's alleged influence over the WHO has provoked much debate.