India must go much further than just survive this pandemic. A political culture of communalism and vengeance led to opaque governance and misplaced policy priorities. Many Indians voted for false communal pride, but as the pandemic hit, they found that they needed oxygen instead.
From a haphazardly unplanned vaccine diplomacy drive to undiplomatic public letters, India's foreign policy has prioritised image over substance. Without substance and efficient and effective delivery of services, such measures are simply perceived by the outside world as empty, self-promoting bluster.
Unlike the U.S., which was criticised for hoarding vaccines with no clear intention to use them all, India was the poster boy of true global integration – sharing its already limited resources with the ones that needed it. But amidst the pride and triumphalism, the Indian government forgot to plan and prepare.
India ranks 148th out of 193 countries in terms of representation of women in politics. Suppressed by deeply entrenched patriarchy, women make up only 9 percent of all ministers in India. But studies have shown that increasing their participation in politics leads to better governance, and quotas will help.
Till the 1990s, India’s stance towards Myanmar prioritised democratic values, which ran counter to the junta. Several strategic considerations forced India to change. But India’s pale response to the recent coup is not only morally bankrupt; it is also short-sighted, in view of India’s own strategic goals.
India has the largest percentage of undernourished people in South Asia and is also one of the most undernourished countries in the world. Schemes aimed at nourishment, such as the Food Security Act, have not fulfilled their purpose yet. This is because they are implemented in disconnected silos.
Developing countries want patent protections to be temporarily removed for COVID-19 vaccines and drugs. But this will destroy the incentives that made these vaccines possible in the first place. Pharma companies and global institutions have shown that there are other ways to make medicines affordable.
As of 9 March 2021, India has supplied about 60 million doses of vaccine globally. On the other hand, China has supplied only about 12-15 million overseas. And deeper analysis of India's supply of vaccines to different countries shows that New Delhi has been using its vaccine diplomacy very strategically.
China and Russia have long exercised outsized influence over Mongolian affairs. But under Mongolia's 'third neighbour' policy, India has an opportunity to help Mongolia balance China. In return, India will gain crucial access to Mongolian energy reserves and leverage against China in its sphere of influence.