The success of India-US defence cooperation offers lessons for bolstering bilateral development cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
As the Indo-Pacific construct is internationalised through bilateral and plurilateral arrangements between regional and extra-regional powers, critics say the overt securitisation of the region has spurred the return of a “Cold War mentality”. In such an environment, joint development initiatives offer the means to underscore shared normative goals and not just common threat perceptions as primary motivations for nascent partnerships.
India and the European Union (EU) have chosen to precede security cooperation with the India-EU Connectivity Partnership, even as India promotes maritime cooperation with individual EU member-States, such as France. Similarly, the scope for collaboration on shared development aims is being identified among like-minded partners, including Japan, India and France. For instance, the slow-brewing (yet widely anticipated) partnership between the three countries could soon include joint development investments in Africa, given the convergence of interests on the importance of East Africa in the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, a trilateral arrangement is already being advocated, given France’s regional investments (such as the €2-billion transport contract in Kenya) as part of its effort to alter the post-colonial “Françafrique” approach, and the planned ‘Platform for Japan-India Business Cooperation in Asia-Africa’ between Japan’s External Trade Organisation and India’s Confederation of Indian Industry.
At the same time, the defence component continues to dominate the India-US agenda for cooperation. However, the ground for development cooperation has been set long before the recent prioritisation of defence collaboration, which informed a lateral expansion with security plurilaterals like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and the finalisation of interoperability agreements. For instance, the 2016 India- US joint statement affirmed the two sides’ commitment to expanding global development cooperation in agriculture, health, energy, women’s empowerment, and sanitation. In 2019, India and the US also signed the First Amendment to the Statement of Guiding Principles (SGP) on Triangular Cooperation for Global Development, extending its validity to 2021 and institutionalising this aspect of bilateral cooperation. Despite this early consolidation of the intent to pool resources and expertise for shared development aims in third countries and regions of mutual interest, India-US development cooperation has remained focused only on a few sectors and is mainly limited to Africa, Afghanistan and South Asia. The success of India-US defence cooperation offers lessons for bolstering bilateral development cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
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Indonesia had sent around 3,400 oxygen cylinders and concentrators to India in May.
Over the past few months, India has found itself in the throes of a cruel second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. In May 2021, the country registered the highest single-day tallies of new Covid-19 cases (over 400,000) and deaths (about 4,500) in the world. Combined with the toll of the first surge, the second wave of the pandemic has pushed the total death count in India to exceed the 300,000 mark. Experts attribute the steep rise in infections to the B.1.167 variant, and a lapse in preventive measures early this year. Images of the pandemic’s impact filled the news across the world, and quickly spurred an outpouring of solidarity from the international community.
Nations around the world scrambled to assist India with critical medical supplies and therapeutic/diagnostic equipment. By early May, the country had received some 9,000 oxygen concentrators, over 5,000 oxygen cylinders, 18 oxygen generators, and 3.4 lakh Remdesivir vials. Nearly 40 countries, by mid-May, have offered assistance in varying forms.
This report offers region - and country-specific analyses of the assistance received by India for its battle against Covid-19. The report makes an extensive account of the assistance received, and ponders the domestic factors that drove these regions and countries to extend their hand to India.
Sohini Bose and Kabir Taneja note the centrality of India’s historical and socio-cultural linkages with South Asia and West Asia in their respective chapters. Similarly, in identifying the prevalence of nascent geopolitical trends in assistance received by India, Sreeparna Banerjee and Mrityunjaya Dubey underscore the impetus to region-based solutions in the Indo-Pacific, and the fast-developing India-Europe partnership on the global stage.
In their chapters on the global powers, Nivedita Kapoor and Kashish Parpiani underscore the vitality of India’s time-tested partnership with Russia, and the enduring India-US relationship even amidst a continued focus on ‘America First’ nativism. Finally, Aarshi Tirkey outlines the growing international support for India’s efforts to bolster multilateral initiatives against the Covid-19 pandemic.
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