India and Pakistan try to keep a fifth of humanity at home

Mar 26, 2020

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ON MARCH 17TH Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, declared that there would be no national lockdown to block the spread of covid-19. “If we shut down the cities,” he said, “we will save them from corona at one end, but they will die from hunger on the other side.” Barely a week later, not only have 210m Pakistanis been confined to their homes; on March 24th next-door India shut in all 1.3bn of its citizens, too.

The unhappy neighbours did not co-ordinate these moves. Indeed, the two scarcely communicate. Earlier this month, arguments over Kashmir nearly wrecked a top-level virtual meeting to plan a regional response to covid-19. Their approaches to the epidemic itself have been different, too. Whereas India’s order for a strict 21-day lockdown came directly from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an 8pm speech, Pakistan’s de facto ban was enacted haphazardly at the provincial level, and then grudgingly...


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