COVID-19, a pandemic that originated from China has now become a public health crisis, resulting in a crucial global financial quandary. Simultaneously, it is all set to impact the global economy and world politics. Similarly, the current situation has placed critical geostrategic challenges before the US powerful ascendancy in the Indo-Pacific region. With the pandemic spreading across the globe at a large scale, it looks quiet probable that many existing geopolitical trends will take a sharp turn. The obvious accelerating swing is pushing Washington and Beijing against each other into the battle of their own narratives for this catastrophic situation as both are seeking for legitimacy and dominance in the region.
It is not just the fight over the various narratives of the US and China, but there is rivalry between these superpowers which was silently simmering. The COVID-19 outbreak opens up obvious manifestations in the realms of Indo-Pacific relations, where the US and China are becoming the potential players in the emerging situation. Subsequently, it is also turning up of the potential regional Asian powers like India which is forming an illusory apprehension of multi-polarity. The pandemic has become a source and cause of multi-dimensional intrinsic changes, resulting in various regional powers understanding their geo-political and geo-economic priorities.
The coming years may witness a potential inflation in the intensification of rivalry between the US and China, and regional powers may also get triggered and involved. With India pledging to come-up as an economic power by 2025 and also facing China’s untimely military adventures in the borders amidst the pandemic is surely paving the way for a global power competition in the region. Washington would definitely seize this opportunity and increase its involvement in this region by developing its partnerships and allies, with the recently laid out statement by the US about Indo-Pacific as a priority ‘theatre’.
Against this geo-political backdrop, the contesting relations between New Delhi and Beijing might form a complex paradigm, challenging the security concerns in the Indo-Pacific region. Moreover, a serious implication lies in the reconciliations developing between China and Russia too, in the recent years, along with Pakistan adding fluidity to the existing ongoing trends. India is considered as a trustworthy ally by the US when it comes to counterbalancing China, but the current pandemic has definitely bruised India’s economy severely which might change India’s priorities. However, New Delhi would obviously like to lead as a security provider in the region, particularly looking into the China’s military adventures in the region.
The current intent to develop QUAD for close coordination and collaboration seems to be a collective effort to dissipate the message of universal respect for international laws. Further to this, it mainly calls for attention as a US-led counterweight model contesting China’s presence and assertiveness in the region. China with its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is intending to become the economic lifeline of the subcontinent. Recently China with its “Health Silk Road” a moniker of BRI is trying to play the role of health leader in amidst this crisis.
The new defence cooperation deals between India and Australia unfolds more military engagements and sharing technological advancements between them obviously has an agenda to provide security and stability to this region. New Delhi, with an eye on the close proximity with Washington also continues to provide its warmth to Russia amidst this complex and accelerating crisis with Beijing.
It is highly expected that a prominent geopolitical shift will emerge out of current situation, primarily due to China’s assertiveness and to earn economic leverage out of this crisis. This will surely trigger the US’s efforts to create a potential counterbalance to protect the regional stability and security. A major role is expected out of the potential regional powers, with India participating in QUAD and the US, Japan and Australia rising prominently providing a structure to the security concerns in the region. Russia might play a significant role here with its growing rapprochement with China, but at the same time, its decades old with India will create certain interesting figures.
Geo-economic reconfiguration will bring another tectonic shift in this region, as a consequence of this pandemic, significant opportunity and challenges will emerge from the changes in the global supply chain. Manufacturing units moving out of China and US’s effort to bring back its economic units from China to raise America’s economy will certainly affect the Indo-Pacific region. This geo-economic reconfiguration would also benefit the regional powers which would be crucial for China.
The post pandemic world will also witness a large degree of interdependence, which will push the countries for political cooperation and coordination to overcome the crisis. The recent G20 and G7 meetings confirm this driving force among the nations. However, the priority for individual interest will also be there as a primary objective before the nations. It will also have a significant effect in the Indo-Pacific region.
An important trend that could emerge as a result of this pandemic is the fading influence of the international organizations. World Health Organization coming under the radar of politics as its early endorsements towards China’s efforts to fight the pandemic has raised alarms and questions in the world community. Whereas the US and several other nations are quiet sceptical about the Beijing’s version of the pandemic. The role of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) requires more effectiveness in its functionality, moreover these international organizations needs to overcome the big power politics and work independently, without any big power politically shadowing its deliverables.