IUKDPF Report: ‘Partnership in Times of Pandemic: India’s COVID Diplomacy’

Executive Summary

India’s ‘COVID Diplomacy’ has drawn considerable attention from foreign policy observers and analysts. However, there does not exist a single source which accurately represents the totality, depth and diversity of India’s actions in this regard. This report provides a cross-spectrum, analytical overview and typology of India’s ‘COVID Diplomacy’, highlighting key insights and implications for India’s global health diplomacy more broadly. This report finds that: 

  • India’s COVID diplomacy has been directed towards addressing both the immediate and direct health implications of the pandemic, as well as its longer-term socio-economic consequences. It represents both continuity and change in established patterns in its global health diplomacy. 
  • India’s COVID diplomacy may be organised into three clusters of activity: the transmission of ideas (normativecontributions), the flow of resources and services (material contributions), and the sharing of expertise (knowledge contributions). 
  • Normative contributions have included advocating for health as a global public good, emphasising cooperation as a mode of engagement in global health governance, and articulating a new vision for health multilateralism (and multilateralism more broadly).
  • Material contributions have included supplying qualified medical professionals, medicines and emergency medical equipment to partners, unlocking new funding streams for bilateral and multilateral partners through innovative financial mechanisms, and facilitating the repatriation and evacuation of Indian (and citizens of other countries) from overseas.
  • Knowledge contributions have included disseminating technical expertise and knowledge through on-line and on-site training, generating public information resources to dispel ‘fake news’ and developing collaborative health research initiatives.
  • India’s COVID diplomacy represents five new ‘trends’ in India’s global health diplomacy: an explicitgeopoliticisation of global public health, the proliferation of new actors and agents of Indian global health diplomacy, the elevation of ‘Indianness’ as a core tenet of Indian global health discourse, the recognition of self-reliance as an emerging principle of global health governance, the deepening of relations with the Indian diasporic medical community, and the strategic mobilisation of digital and social media to advance global health diplomacy aims and agendas. 
  • While India’s COVID diplomacy is expected to yield goodwill, enhance India’s global stature and improve its relations with partners in the longer-term, certain domestic factors may present challenges to the materialisation of  this vision.