COVID Impact on Foreign Policy – UPSC GS2

What are the likely impacts of COVID on India’s foreign policy?
  • Impact on Regional Supremacy:
    • 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 neighbourhood for development assistance and political autonomy.
    • As a result, South Asian states are likely to shift towards China for financial support.
  • Impact on Quad and Indo-Pacific:
    • The pandemic could adversely impact India’s ability to contribute to the Indo-Pacific and the Quad.
    • 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.
  • Focus on domestic issues rather than foreign policy:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Impact on SAARC:
    • India’s foreign policy may also become more accommodative, reconciliatory, and cooperative in the neighbourhood. (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.
    • SAARC nations should collectively focus on ‘regional health multilateralism’ to promote mutual assistance and joint action on health emergencies.
  • Impact on Strategic Autonomy:
    • 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.

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