Impact of the Pandemic on India’s foreign Policy

Synopsis: The consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic second wave have far-reaching strategic implications on India’s Foreign policy.

What are the likely impacts on India’s foreign policy?
  • First, India’s Supremacy at the regional level (in South Asia) will decline in the future.
    • India’s traditional primacy in the region was built on a mix of material aid, political influence, and historical ties.
    • The Pandemic has reduced India’s ability to materially help its immediate neighborhood for development assistance and political autonomy.
    • As a result, South Asian states are likely to shift towards China for financial support.
  • Second, India’s geopolitical ambitions to become a leading power will be impacted.
    • The pandemic could adversely impact India’s ability to contribute to the Indo-Pacific and the Quad
    • For instance, COVID-19 will prevent any ambitious military spending or modernization plan.
    • It further limits the country’s attention on global diplomacy and regional geopolitics.
    • With reduced military spending and lesser diplomatic attention to regional geopolitics, India’s ability to project power and contribute to the growth of the Quad will be uncertain.
    • India’s inability to take a lead role and China attracting smaller states away from the Indo-Pacific with aid and threats can change the balance of power in favor of China.
  • Third, the shift in focus on domestic politics in the coming years by the ruling government will reduce India’s willingness for new foreign policy innovation or initiatives.
    • For instance, Economic distress, a fall in foreign direct investment and industrial production, and a rise in unemployment will compel the center to focus on COVID-19 recovery. This will limit India’s strategic ambitions in global space.
  • Fourth, India might become more appeasing towards China. The mismanagement of the second wave has limited India’s ability to stand up against China.
  • Fifth, India’s foreign policy may also become more accommodative, reconciliatory, and cooperative in the neighborhood. (SAARC nations).
    • The Pandemic has forced India to reimagine, the friend-enemy equations in global geopolitics. While the US was hesitant to assist India during the pandemic Pakistan and China offered aid to India.
  • Sixth, India’s freedom to pursue Strategic autonomy might be reduced. For instance, a post-COVID-19 India might find it harder to resist demands of a closer military relationship with the U.S.
  • Seventh, as every crisis opens up the possibility for change, one good outcome will be the opening up of new regional opportunities for cooperation under the SAARC framework.
    • SAARC nations should collectively focus on ‘regional health multilateralism’ to promote mutual assistance and joint action on health emergencies.
    • Further, geopolitics should be brought in par with health diplomacy, environmental concerns, and regional connectivity in South Asia.

Source: The Hindu

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