Will COVID Call the Curtains on Asia’s Century?

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The 21st Century was supposed to be Asia’s Century. Until it was hit by a series of afflictions. Still waiting to recover from the economic crisis of 2008, it ran itself into a raging fever over the US-China trade war that transformed into a technology war. With global temperatures at fever pitch, Globalisation was in the throes of multi-organ failure.

Into this mix is now thrown COVID-19 — the spanner that has jacked the engine of the global economy.

The fever rages on — India leads and the US follows by banning China’s TikTok. Instagram launches Reels and the shares of Facebook soar. Yet the ‘clean network’ promised by Trump is still a headline sans the story.

It is claimed that America’s rivals will interfere to influence the outcome of the US elections. How far true is this statement?

It’s a measure of the pole position of the US that every country in the world has a stake in its elections — this may not always translate to interference.

But when apps have the power to influence which content goes viral, the question of who controls the app becomes crucial. In the US, news about interference plays along expected polarised party lines. For Trump who faced impeachment over links to Russia, any indication of Russian help is anathema. But both parties now acknowledge that the long-term threat to America is none other than China.

Since 1997, China has acted more and more in concert with Russia at the UNSC — the common target being the US. China has been gradually consolidating its position in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean Region. It has steadily improved ties with not just Iran, but also Saudi Arabia. While overtly leaning on Russia over the security architectures, China has nevertheless pushed its own security vision through its ‘development’ and ‘connectivity’ projects.

Threatened by the pandemic, leaders are using Nationalism to buttress their support base — Pakistan, Nepal and China all are playing a common hand here. While relations with Pakistan were long a given — the new-found bonhomie between Nepal and China should concern India and its neighbourhood policy.

The seeds of the post-Covid world are being sown in the Covid world. They are being determined by how well countries manage to survive the pandemic. Countries that manage themselves best in the Covid world will be the winners in the one that emerges from its aftermath. The choices India prioritises now will determine its future course.

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