Modi’s Coronavirus Test
Anubhav Gupta and Puneet Talwar in Foreign Affairs
This is an excerpt from an article by ASPI Associate Director Anubhav Gupta and Senior Fellow Puneet Talwar that was originally published by Foreign Affairs.
The novel coronavirus is an enormous test for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Not only must his government contain the spread of the virus in one of the densest, most populous countries in the world but it must prevent social-distancing measures from pushing India’s flagging economy over the cliff into free fall. Even before the pandemic, the country was struggling with slow growth, high unemployment, and widening social divisions. Now, the coronavirus is exacerbating all three problems—risking a perfect storm of health, economic, and social crises.
But the pandemic also gives Modi a chance to hit the reset button. So far, he deserves credit for acting with urgency. India evacuated its citizens from China, Iran, and other epicenters of the virus in February and March. It shut its borders to almost all foreigners and initiated a contact-tracing and testing operation for Indians coming into the country. And when it became clear by late March that the virus was already spreading within India, the government announced a national lockdown that so far has slowed the infection rate. If Modi seizes this opportunity to address India’s underlying problems as he battles COVID-19 and the economic wreckage it has caused, he has a chance to emerge from this crisis in a stronger position both at home and abroad.