Dr. Krzysztof Iwanek is the Head of Asia Research Centre at War Studies University, Warsaw, Poland. His main area of interest is contemporary Indian politics and political ideologies. He also writes regularly for The Diplomat. In an exclusive interview with NEPAL FIRST, he discusses about India-China relations in the post-Coronavirus situation.
Traditionally, South Asia has been considered to fall under the sphere of influence of India. However, China has emerged as an influential actor in the region through projects under the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s economy is bound to suffer heavily in the aftermath of Covid-19. How do you view this equation will roll out in South Asia in the days ahead?
It is still too early to tell, as it is hard to assess which countries will be more economically more affected than other ones. India’s economy may be affected as well. That said, we do not know yet which direction will the power equation tilt in South Asia after the pandemic.
For now, one result of the pandemic and the lockdown that I do see taking place is India’s attempts to weaken some of its economic ties with China. The Indian government has implemented measures that will make it more difficult for Chinese entity to invest in India. New Delhi has also decided to financially support its pharmaceutical sector, to decrease its dependence of medical substances, such as the active pharmaceutical ingredients, from China.
Nepal and India share an open and porous border. The open border has been there since antiquity and the socio-economic considerations have so far outweighed the security threats that can emanate from such an arrangement. How do you view the opportunities and challenges of an open border?
Nepal has restricted movement between its territory and India because of the pandemic, but I think this is a temporary measure. In future, in case their political and economic relations deteriorate – which is possible – Nepal may decide to change the arrangement to something a bit more limited than a fully open border. Even in that case, Nepal’s ties with India are so wide, and its dependence on India so huge, that I am sure movement between India and Nepal will remain more free than restricted.
What are your thoughts on the impacts of the novel coronavirus on world politics? How could the post-Covid-19 world order be shaped?
Too little time has passed and there are too many processes and aspects to consider for knowing how the world will change after the pandemic. Nobody knows this – even the ‘experts’ that pretend to know it.
As for South Asia, so far it seems that regional politics have not changed directions. The general state of India-Pakistan relations appears to be mostly unaffected by the pandemic. India-China relations appear to be growing tenser, as showcased by the above-mentioned attempts by New Delhi to decrease economic dependence on the PRC and the recent border tensions (although it remains unclear if they are in any way connected to the pandemic-related circumstances).
Within India, the way Narendra Modi’s government has dealt with migrant workers under the lockdown has drawn sharp criticism, but the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Modi still appear as unchallenged on the political scene. So I do not think that the current circumstances have caused a political shift in India, at least till now. New Delhi’s ambitious initiative to salvage the weakened economy has been announced, so we should rather patiently wait for its results.
The effects of the pandemic and the lockdown on world politics in general may be different when we will be able to analyze few years from now.