India’s Indian Ocean Diplomacy in the COVID-19 Crisis

The outbreak and spread of COVID-19 has created multiple challenges for the entire world. Apart from containing the spread of virus and treating infected patients, there are related political issues such as the blame game between the United States and China, the role of the World Health Organization (WHO), and questions about the future world order.

Amid this entire crisis, India has been playing an important role. India’s role could be considered at both the domestic level – the steps taken to tackle the crisis at home — and the diplomatic level — India’s assistance to other countries, especially in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), amid the pandemic.

India’s approach, including on the diplomatic front, has been proactive since the outbreak of the crisis. One of the first steps taken by India was to evacuate citizens of different countries along with its own citizens from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the first COVID-19 outbreak. Those evacuated as compassionate cases included citizens from IOR countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Maldives, South Africa, and Madagascar. India not only evacuated these people, but also quarantined them in India as a precautionary measure before sending them to their respective countries.

Second, India has emerged as a major supplier of medicines to different countries worldwide in the fight against COVID-19. As part of that effort, India was the first responder to Mauritius and the Seychelles. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured all possible help to both these countries to face the challenge of COVID-19. Accordingly India sent a consignment of life-saving drugs, including hydroxychloroquine, to Mauritius and the Seychelles.

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