Last year, the world saw the 25th anniversary of WTO’s establishment amid the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Indeed the global trade body played a critical role in ensuring a stable multilateral trading regime over the past decades. Yet its credibility is currently challenged due to the lack of consensus and crippled dispute resolution system. The pandemic has exacerbated this situation to a whole new level, with protectionism prevailing over the need for liberalisation. The WTO members must cast aside their differences and work towards a mutually beneficial and sustainable future.
As Joe Biden takes charge of the U.S. administration, all the eyes of the world are stuck at Biden’s actions on how he tackles China and mends the strained relations between the two nations. The tensions between the two nations have been a cause of concern for the whole world. The two countries have several issues acting as points of contention and these issues are aggravating the strain in the relation of the two nations further. Their tensions are halting many endeavors of the world community to find a solution to the burning global problems. The two countries are competing to be a global power and thus it cannot be considered anything other than a duel for global dominance. Hence, it becomes important to understand the implications of these strained relations in the short and long run and how India needs to play out in the given situation.
At a time when the whole world is battling the deadly COVID-19 crisis and when the virus has become the biggest story in the world of diplomacy, it has become important to look at how India is playing the game of diplomacy and shaping its foreign policy to meet its own demanding needs. The world witnessed a lot of change in its foreign policy approaches and many established bonds have been broken. It is a time when the world is witnessing heightened tensions among some nations while some transformed this into an opportunity for themselves. India has both hard realities to face and at the same time has ample opportunities to rise as a world leader. It thus becomes important to see how India is dealing with the present crisis and transforms it into an opportunity in the foreign policy domain.
Last year’s crisis demonstrated the limitations and vulnerabilities of countries and multilateral institutions in dealing with global threats. With India and France enjoying similar aspirations and interests like in the areas of Indo-Pacific, climate change etc., both countries can cooperate towards multilateral rules-based world order. For this, both countries must work towards strengthening bilateral ties and proactively addressing common challenges plaguing the world.
After three and a half years of tensions and blockades, the GCC had come together to reconcile and sign the Solidarity and Stability Agreement. The stability of this West Asian grouping holds significance for India as a major trading partner.
Despite being economically and politically weak, Central Asia is playing an important role in international politics due to its geostrategic location and abundant natural resources. Many countries like the US, Russia and China are competing to make their presence in the region. India’s interests have also increased, mostly aimed at reducing Chinese influence in the region. Yet, India’s relations with the Central Asian countries are hampered by geography, economic constraints, security concerns and red-tapism. Addressing these issues would enable India to gain access to one of the most strategically significant regions in the world.
In early July 2020, An extract of the final award of the ad-hoc tribunal constituted to settle disputes related to the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regarding Italian marines Case between India and Italy was published by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). It has ordered to cease all criminal proceedings against the two Italian Soldiers in Indian courtrooms by rejecting India’s contention that the soldiers, who were accused of killing Indian fishermen, could be trialled in Indian courts. Following the order, Centre has made a plea in Supreme Court seeking the closure of cases against the Italian soldiers. But the Supreme Court has refused to pass any such order without hearing victims’ kin and getting them paid the compensation.
India recently joined the Djibouti Code of Conduct as an Observer, after a high-level meeting held virtually on August 26 this year. This has furthered India’s outreach at the Indian Ocean Region. This opportunity must be utilised, especially amid the current times of crisis to provide various assistances apart from maritime security to the littorals in the Western Indian Ocean Region, which holds global strategic significance.
The world was already in flux before the COVID-19 pandemic. The central notions of the pre-cold war and post-cold war period were being questioned with the emerging countries talking about multilateralism. But the COVID-19 has become an unexpected accelerating force to this churn and the world is been left debating what the post-pandemic world will look like. In this backdrop, it is important to analyze the possible outcomes of the pandemic and try to understand what India, a fierce proponent of multilateralism, should be looking at and preparing for.