The Corona virus pandemic is the biggest crisis that the world is facing today post World War-II. Even after over four months, the Corona virus crisis continues to be the deadliest pandemic which people across the world have witnessed in the last century.
Death toll across the world is on the rise. Some countries have passed their peaks while others are witnessing a steep rise in COVID-19 positive cases on a daily basis. Corona virus has wreaked havoc in almost all countries across the world. The total number of confirmed cases have crossed 6.5 million and the global death count is at 387,000 as of 03 June 2020. The Global mortality rate as on June 3, 2020 stands at 5.9% with a recovery rate of 48.2%.
“India’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) along with its Act East Policy and Link West Policy has gained traction in the countries of the Indian Ocean Region. The strategic and economic significance of the power politics among Major Powers, Leading Powers and Middle powers as well as Littoral Nations in the Indian Ocean Region will witness a lot of churning in the COVID era whose results will be visible in the post COVID era too”
It has touched every continent on earth and the death toll in each country depends on varying degrees of severity and response of that country in the fight against COVID-19. Almost all the countries which had high fatality, went into some form of lockdown for almost two months with eventual gradual relaxations in the lockdown.
The time has been utilised by nation states in adopting preventive measures against the pandemic because any lockdown can only be successful in containing the spread of the virus for a short-term duration. The states have now been able to prepare themselves for a longer battle so as to improve healthcare facilities required to fight the pandemic.
By slowly opening up the economy in a calibrated manner, countries are now trying to save their economies from collapse and bracing for longterm challenges. States are also going to witness a churning in global politics because COVID-19 has a serious impact on international governance as well as defence and foreign policy of every country.
The world is still a long way from the end of the corona virus crisis, and many questions are still unanswered about countries’ capability to handle the crisis coupled with the challenges of downfalls in the global economy. With extended lockdowns, the world is grappling with a halt in terms of demand as well as zero output in manufacturing and business with a stoppage of all trade in the goods and service sectors.
In Covid times, there is a rising debate on the future of a post-Covid world in terms of geopolitical realignments and the emergence of new partnerships across the world. The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is also not untouched from this Great power politics and rivalry.
In the last 5 to 10 years, the world has already witnessed a shift in global power axis from West to East and the subsequent emergence of new regionalism in terms of the Indo-Pacific region in general and Indian Ocean Region in particular. So, in this context, this pandemic is certainly going to further accelerate that shift in the regional balance of power within the IOR.
These geopolitical realignments will be based on national interests and respective needs of the country based on which countries will try to realign themselves and will do the balancing with major powers in the IOR so as to maximize their respective gains. The Corona virus crisis will certainly complicate the Great power politics and rivalries in post-Covid world and will lead to emergence of new partnerships and alliances.
The pandemic has impacted the economies of all countries in the Indian Ocean Region and this downturn may be long lasting for the years to come. In this hour of crisis, the extraordinary fiscal and monetary actions that countries in the Indian Ocean Region are taking to support small, medium and large businesses as well as public and private jobs along with households, will lead to development of new economic revival in their respective nations in the IOR.
It is possible that many of these interventions by the States might not produce desired results and the void may be utilised by the major powers to compete for geopolitical influence in the countries in the Indian Ocean Region which is home to large and small countries along with many Island nations.
The ongoing economic slowdown because of lockdown in many countries in the Indian Ocean Region due to the Corona virus pandemic will also lead to an era of increased debt-dependency of a country on the investing nation because till now most nations had enjoyed the easy money investment in their country although with stringent norms. This situation may ultimately result in years of slower growth and may also arise the chance of sovereign debt crises.
The countries within the Indian Ocean region will have to find a way out to fight any such crises post lockdown period because unless the countries within IOR change path and follow a totally different economic model based on self-reliance post lockdown, the gap between a slow-growing countries as compared to an economically dynamic economic growth elsewhere in the world is likely to widen.
The important trend that has been witnessed in the IOR is that in the Covid times, a debate of economic self-reliance is going on everywhere in the IOR countries in some form or other and it should not be interpreted as an isolationist approach but certainly it is linked to some form of de-globalisation where a country is made self-sufficient to be able to absorb any such future turbulences.
To balance the geopolitical equilibrium in IOR and to offset the attempts of creating spheres of influences by outside powers like China in the Indian Ocean, India needs to up its ante in being a net security provider in the region, a role which the country has played for long despite the presence of great powers. Therefore, it is time for India to project its role as a leading Power under Indian Foreign Policy’s conceptual framework of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) as enunciated by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015.
India has a track record of being a successful model of functional democracy and being a credible & trustworthy partner for the countries in the region. The time is thus opportune for India to assume a leadership role in the Indian Ocean Region during the Covid times as well as in post Covid emerging regional order in the IOR.
India did play a key role in taking the initiative of organising the SAARC virtual conference to formulate the joint strategy among South Asian countries but regional organisations like SAARC have their own limitations because of Pakistan’s perpetual inimical behaviour towards India.
Therefore, it lies in the interest of the region to promote regional cooperation with countries in the Indian Ocean Region. COVID times have presented a lot of challenges to countries in IOR in terms of healthcare facilities and overall national capability to fight the pandemic but the COVID phase will also prove to be an inflection points in terms of building of new partnerships, new institutions and new rules of Geopolitical & Geo-economic realignments in the post COVID Regional Order in Indian Ocean Region, and India could be the biggest beneficiary under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.