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SOURCE: SUNDAY GUARDIAN LIVE

The deadly pandemic has engulfed rest of the world in general and India in particular and has raised a number of debates among the members of strategic and academic community regarding the future of the global order. The “Wuhan virus” has become a big geopolitical issue. It seems China wanted to alter the balance of power and build its sphere of influence. Unfortunately, the method which China adopted in occupying the seat of power across the global spectrum has revealed its nefarious intentions and will never be acceptable to the members of international community. The international community is surprised to see how the virus had such a low impact on China.

The whole world has been witnessing the ramifications of the pandemic and is clueless about the magnitude and scale of unfolding in India in particular. The outbreak of the pandemic has severely hit livelihoods across the world and a country of India’s size and population has been combating a very deadly second wave of the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China.

China’s intransigent behaviour and the lack of transparency in its handling of the pandemic has shattered all hopes of it emerging as a responsible power in the eyes of the international community. Amidst the pandemic, the kind of military aggression China showed at the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) spoke volumes about the challenges that India faces from China, and will continue to face in the foreseeable future. There is no denying the fact that the geopolitical centre of the gravity of power is being shifted from the west to the east, and the growth of China and India had shown much promise of a new global order in the 21st century. However, China’s behavioural patterns, and its failure to come clean on its callous, if not intentional, mishandling of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic have raised serious concerns among the policymaking elites of the comity of nations. In this context, India will be required to show a more pro-active role in terms of bringing together a concert of powers, to ensure that China is exposed and isolated.

For this, a stronger convergence in India-US partnership will have to be built in order to manoeuvre the strategic interests of like-minded countries to create a more robust deterrence against China’s behavioural patterns that are turning out to be detrimental to global peace and stability. In all spheres of global governance, India has always stood for rules and norms that are non-discriminatory and in the interest of all. In this hour when the whole world is going through an uncertain phase, India’s intention to engage multiple poles of power in the international system, both in bilateral and multilateral ways, will be a crucial asset. India’s diplomatic skills will have to be employed in order to bring about more collaborative and cooperative efforts for a quick post-pandemic recovery in multiple dimensions, from health to the economy. At the same time, it will be required to build a global consensus to call China’s bluff and limit its ability to set the agenda to its own favour, through undue influence in bilateral and multilateral settings.

The threats to multilateralism in the global order have become more apparent with the onset of the pandemic, and there is no guarantee that the challenge will reduce in a post pandemic world. Therefore, it becomes imperative for India, and its like-minded partners to take the lead in handling not only military but also the non-military dimensions of international security, particularly on issues such as climate change, health security, infrastructure building and financing, connectivity and technological innovation. In the contemporary geopolitical scenario amidst China’s aggressive rise, India’s role as net security provider will be extremely crucial in the pursuit of a stable security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region. The pursuit of a free, open, inclusive and rules based Indo-Pacific will be a high priority in the post pandemic global order. In this context, India’s own preparedness and its partnership with its Quad counterparts, the United States, Japan and Australia will be increasingly relevant. How India is able to engage these powers, for the promotion of regional as well as global peace and stability, will remain a matter of discourse.

As one of the largest economies of the world, India has been playing a pivotal role in multilateral groupings like the G20. However, in the context of the pandemic, India will have to present itself as a more augmented player, in the immediate purpose of combating the pandemic through multilateral vaccine research, development and distribution. India will also have to invest its diplomacy in the long term objective of ensuring a more transparent global governance in the face of China’s blatant disregard for global norms and rules. In addition, how will India be able to leverage its non-permanent membership at the United Nations Security Council for its interest, that is in alignment, with a greater global good, will remain a priority area of debate for India’s policymaking and strategic community.

While combating the immediate challenge of the pandemic, India will be required to strengthen its core foreign policy objectives through initiatives in its immediate and extended neighbourhood, and in the larger arena of global politics. Areas identified as crucial for India’s growth and progress, including the economy, infrastructure, demography, democracy and supply chains will require policy attention and implementation, as India prepares for a post pandemic global order. The vision of a “self-reliant India” (Aatmanirbhar Bharat) will depend on the extent to which India can become a net exporter, rather being a net importer. An India that is defined by economic vitality and political stability will be an India that will be well prepared to assume a leadership position in a complex post pandemic world that will be replete with both opportunities and challenges. India with its experience of dealing with multiple poles of power in the international system, and its credibility of pursuing a rules based order, has to, realise its potential to shape a new era of interdependence in a post pandemic global order.

India will work for global interests and create a win-win situation for all. China has always believed in the zero-sum game which has proved detrimental to both political and economic sovereignty of a number of nations with whom China established contacts. How India will mobilise international public opinion remains a tough challenge for India’s diplomacy. The dominant view that isolating China would prove fatal for the global economy needs to be replaced by a strong thinking in the minds of comity of nations that China will get hurt maximum. The nature of interdependent world will usher in a new era where the concert of powers will lead the world system and India undoubtedly will have a pivotal role to play.

Arvind Kumar is a Professor of United States’ Studies at School of International Studies (SIS), JNU. He is also the Chairperson of the Centre for Canadian, US and Latin American Studies, SIS. Monish Tourangbam teaches Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal.