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India in the post-pandemic world

  • 28 April, 2020

  • 15 Min Read

India in the post-pandemic world

By Sujatha Singh, (Former Foreign Secretary)


  • The manner in which the country deals with the crisis will determine its place in the future world order
  • Yes, we all know that the world we once knew has gone, perhaps forever. Much has changed and will continue to.
  • What has not changed though, is human nature itself.
  • The way we react, as a species to the unknown, or to an existential threat, on a scale not experienced in recent times.

Multilateralism Vs Anti-Globalisation

  • The pandemic has added heft to arguments of foreign policy analysts across the entire spectrum of strategic thinking, from nationalists and anti-globalists, to advocating a more robust multilateralism and a leadership role for India in mobilising international cooperation.

Post pandemic India:

  • There will be a churning as nations scramble for advantage in the world order as the pandemic recedes.
  • The role that India plays in the post-pandemic world order will be determined by how we deal with the crisis now, and how we emerge from it.
  • India needs to be more concerned at this point of time with the social and economic churning under way within our own country, accentuated and magnified by the COVID-19 crisis.

Fundamental factors to be looked on by India are:

  • The quality of leadership.
  • The quality of administration at all levels, (Centre, State, district and village).
  • The robustness of institutional frameworks.
  • The quality of health care, and our social coherence as a people.

Crucial investments:

  • COVID-19 has highlighted our age-old fault lines of caste, class and creed.
  • There are still too many inequalities, and too many of us who have been left behind, on whom the effects of the lockdown have been the most severe, compounding the economic distress of recent years.

Issues in India’s complete lockdown :

  • The lockdown was necessary in order to pause the spread of the pandemic.
  • But the manner of its implementation, without the government of India even foreseeing, much less planning for, the consequences of such a step, or coordinating with States in advance, or spelling out how it would support the millions so affected, was harsh in the extreme on the poorer sections of our population.
  • It was starkly reflected in the thousands of migrant workers believing (not without reason) that they were invisible to the Establishment, and not knowing what else to do, leaving by foot, trying to reach the only safety net they had — extended families and homes in their villages.
  • There lies grave danger here, of both the health and the economic consequences of the crisis intersecting amongst our poor

Way ahead

  • It often takes a crisis to bring about fundamental change.
  • The investment that needs to be made in the millions of our people who live in poverty, or on the edge of it, are not merely welfare measures.
  • It is time for the government to lay out a comprehensive road map to deal with both the health and the economic consequences of the crisis, and to make long overdue investments on the massive scale needed, in universal health care, education and social security.
  • At Global Stage:
  1. India needs to be part of international efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis — multilateral, regional or bilateral.
  2. Strategic sense for us to supply medicines of which we are the major producers (dependent though we may be, on China for 70% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients needed to produce them), to other countries.
  3. Participate in international efforts towards finding a vaccine and ramp up capacities to produce it in the quantities needed.

Post Pandemic World Order:

  • On the international front, nations will continue to strive for strategic advantage in furthering their interests and constrained by realpolitik in striving for the common good.
  • Countries that emerge in positions of relative economic advantage will present competing visions for the post-pandemic world order.
  • If we wish to play a leadership role and to present a vision for a more inclusive world defined by international cooperation, then we need to back it with our own example, on the domestic as well as the international fronts.

Source: TH


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