Enduring pandemics

April 13, 2020


IN 2020, our world is vastly different from that in the twentieth century. The end of WWII not only changed the world map; it also gave birth to new paradigms -- liberal internationalism, economic interdependence and globalization. This made the world in the late twentieth onwards a global village, where everything — from ideologies to cultures, politics to economies, peace to terrorism and technologies to pandemics — were shared.

We have endured pandemics like Spanish flu of 1918-20, Asian flu-1957-58, AIDS and H1N1 Swine Flu 2009-10. But these pandemics did not result in any major shifts in the elements of international political and economic power. But Covid-19 is entirely a different case.

It has closed borders and confined the people of earth into their homes. Within the two months of the outbreak of coronavirus, half of the world’s population is under a lockdown or curfew.

Unlike the globalised world, where a cross-border flow of people, goods, technologies, information and opportunities was taken for granted, the pandemic has changed the order in a way that there is a strict inter- and intra-state ban on the movement of people, goods and opportunities. It has broadly affected the world’s social and economic interdependence.

Of course, restrictions would be eased after the extermination of the virus. But it would leave its deep and dark trails on the globe. Since governments have responded vigorously to coronavirus and restricted the movement of people around the globe, the post-pandemic world would surely encourage governments to devise new border strategies, business and leisure plans.

It also seems possible that there may be a shift in economic and geopolitical power from the West to the East. Besides, globalisation wouldn’t be its predominant feature, and populism and nationalism would replace the liberal ideas of a global village. The rise of populism and nationalism was very much there even before corona. In Europe, Brexit made it clear that nations are going back to preserve their national identities. Trump’s America first policy and rise of nationalism with fascist trends in Asia are already pointing to a different world. In brief, corona has made almost all statesmen think of more closed national borders, a limited scope of social activities around the globe, and a greater dependence on national resources.

Mamoona Mahmood

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2020