Kupriyanov Alexey
“Soft Power” of the Indian Navy in the Pandemic Era. Analysis & Forecasting. Journal of IMEMO, 2020, no 4, pp. 40-51. https://doi.org/10.20542/afij-2020-4-40-51
Publication Type:

ISSN 2713-170X

DOI: 10.20542/afij-2020-4-40-51

The article describes and analyzes the activities of the Indian Navy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The author looks at the experience of the Indian Navy at the beginning of the pandemic, noting that it mainly consisted of helping the states of the Indian Ocean region affected by hurricanes and monsoons, and evacuating Indian citizens and residents of neighboring countries from areas of hostilities. At the same time, the Indian Navy did not have specialized floating hospitals. The author analyzes the situation in which India found itself at the beginning of the pandemic: a gradual slowdown in GDP growth questioned the further expansion of the Navy, and the outbreak of conflict with China further emphasized the importance of the Air Force and the Army. In these conditions, the Indian Navy was forced to prove its value for the Indian external and domestic policy. The author then describes how the Indian Navy fought COVID-19, concluding that Indian sailors were able to prevent the pandemic from spreading to naval bases and ships. The Navy fully retained its combat capability and was able to take part in two large-scale operations: the “Samudra Setu”and “Sagar” missions. During the former, several thousand people were evacuated from Iran, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, the latter involved providing medical assistance to the population of the Maldives, Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar and Mauritius affected by the pandemic. The author notes the high level of organization of both missions, which made it possible to avoid pandemic spreading among the ship crews. He argues that the conduct of Operation “Sagar” allowed India to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean region amid the pandemic and demonstrate its role as a security provider countering unconventional threats. The author then describes the joint exercises carried out by the Indian Navy during the pandemic and notes their significant political role. In conclusion, he analyzes the experience of the Indian Navy using soft power and proposes an original concept of “floating soft power” based on the constant presence of hospital ships in remote regions. In his opinion, this format of presence could also be suitable for projecting Russian interests in the South Pacific.

Keywords: Indian Ocean | COVID-19 | Indian Navy | hospital ships | soft power | naval drills | Sagar mission |

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