Coronavirus: Covid-19

The Geo-politics of Covid-19: South Asia at a Glance

Two contradictory aspects have emerged out of the unprecedented global crisis over the Covid-19 pandemic one pushing countries to turn inwards closing territorial boundaries and distancing/isolating to help secure themselves from the rapid spread and the other the need for globalized effort to help contain the disease. Be that as it may, an interesting fall out of the crisis is how the power equation between countries would play out particularly in the realm of economics. Nothing more would serve to be an apt example to probe into this issue other than the two rising South Asian neighbours – India and China – that have been traditionally up against each other. The question therefore is how will this crisis affect the economic ambitions of these two countries and who stand to benefit from this?

At the outset, it should be underlined that prior to the outbreak of the pandemic the economic situation of both countries have not been very encouraging owing to the then prevailing global economic slump. Now that the pandemic has gripped all including both countries with China being the epicentre it has further slowed down their full economic capacities. In the case of India the political measure taken to secure itself by enforcing a complete lock down has several economic dimensions. Not only that the intra-state movement of people and goods and services has come to a halt but also inter-state movement in the sense that import of goods and services has also been cut off. Seen in the context of the expanding bilateral economic relations between India and China and the ever increasing dependency of goods particularly electrical machinery and spare parts, pharmaceuticals, and other mineral resources and many other goods from China, this lock down in effect means that unless alternative measures to overcome this bottleneck is made, which is very unlikely in the present lockdown situation, the supply chain and thereafter economic production in India and consequent growth will be drastically affected.

Surprisingly, this has not been the case for China which, even though succumbed to the disease initially, has been able to come out of it. From what appears in the media it seems that China has effectively contained the disease from spreading across the country and is back on track with production and other economic activity getting back to business as usual. This is exemplified by the huge volumes of medical and technical support that China has now extended to all countries including South Asia’s neighbours. India has not kept quiet either, despite its constraints, and has utilized the SAARC forum valuably, which all neighboring countries of India have also acknowledged. Anyhow, the fact remains that in comparative terms China is better off with a huge Forex reserves at its disposal giving it a potential edge over that of India and to make adequate fiscal economic corrections.

Therefore, ideological dispositions notwithstanding, the fall out of Covid-19 has leveraged further China’s power equation vis-a-vis India.

Author: Dr. M. Venkataraman
Dr. M. Venkataraman is a faculty at the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, University of Madras.

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