With the privilege of being the region’s largest economy by far comes the power to make a difference. Covid-19 has presented India with an unprecedented opportunity to help restructure its economy and reshape regional cooperation and integration towards a more sustainable path. In a just-released report from the Centre for Policy Research, India as the Engine of Recovery for South Asia: A Multi-Sectoral Plan for India’s COVID-19 Diplomacy in the Region that we have co-authored with our colleagues, Shyam Saran and Sandeep Bhardwaj, we look at India’s agenda-setting role more closely to map the road ahead as India prepares to assume the G20 presidency in 2022.
There are three fundamental reasons why India’s Neighbourhood First policy needs reorientation. To begin with, there are dire warnings of a “pandemic depression” with growth projections worldwide revised heavily downward, and an estimated 42 million people within South Asia out of 100 million worldwide already driven back to extreme poverty.