India's evolving diplomacy during COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic has brought out the country’s diplomatic best garnering praise from international agencies

The ‘Covidisation’ of our planet managed to shatter the façade of present world order and unveiled the unsightly political cobwebs. It brought forth the unyielding blame game between the United States, China, and the World Health Organisation and questioned the many incoherent international relations.

India, amidst a pandemic seemingly has managed a diplomatic upper hand under the present government. Indian administration and health department honed a message of regional unity, under the leadership of Prime Minister who during a virtual summit of SAARC countries pledged 10 million dollars for COVID emergency fund. Of which 13.89 crores have been disbursed to various SAARC countries, for medical supplies etc; notably, Nepal being the biggest beneficiary of the fund followed by Bangladesh.

During the initial phase of the pandemic on March 24, India spearheaded an immediate response against the pandemic by announcing the biggest lockdown in the world, owing to its mammoth population of 1.3 billion. This task was aided by intense contact tracing, containment of high-risk zones and rapid response by COVID teams, all which has currently been applauded globally.

Consecutively, beyond these diplomatic engagements, India has lived up to its title of “Pharmacy of the World”, having vast historical and deep knowledge in medicine and health. It has provided pharmaceutical assistance to nearly 85 countries on a grant basis to aid them tide over the pandemic. The Prime Minister’s visit to Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India recently paved the way for over 60 foreign envoys to approach leading biotech companies in Hyderabad, which displayed India’s “vaccine diplomacy”. So far India has supplied medicines to 133 countries in the fight against COVID-19. This move has secured its non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council period of 2021-22.

COVID-19 has provided India an opportunity to address the irritants in its ties with some countries, most notably Iran and Malaysia. Iran recently sought India’s assistance to deal with COVID-19 and its PM also reached out to Mr Modi hoping that India would stand with Iran against the US sanctions.

The COVID-19 crisis presents unique opportunities for India. Companies are seeking to reappraise their manufacturing operations and the overdependence of global supply chains on China has caused firms to reconsider their business operations.

To benefit from this economic crisis and offer an effective alternative, India will have to reorient its role in South Asia and beyond. Essentially, the restructuring of economic policy and the bridging of the trust deficit will have to go hand-in-hand for India.

India’s proactive approach during this crisis will have a long-term impact on how the world views India. Our response may not have been perfect, but it has certainly underscored that when needed, India can certainly rise to the challenge.

As India revives its economy policymakers will need to recognise that domestic policies have a direct bearing on India’s image. The idea of self-reliance or Atmanirbhar Bharat is not about reverting to economic isolationism; its essential aim is to ensure India is a key participant in global supply chains.

Just as Pax-Romana did not disintegrate overnight, similarly the present world order will perhaps not disappear instantly, with the possible emergence of a new variant of globalisation. The time is ripe for an Indian global re-order.

Deepanshu Singh
Top Unacademy Educator

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