- All are using the analogy to war
The 21st century has been earmarked as the era of technological advancements and human efficiency reaching unprecedented heights of living standards. Twenty years into it and it spoke volumes of the evolution of the evolution made by humans in every field, particularly in technology, artificial intelligence, and healthcare. However, nature always has plans uncalled for. The pandemic, rising from Wuhan, China, has engulfed the entire world, shaken the international powers to their core, and has disrupted, maybe for good, every aspect of life that was possible.
It has brought international powers and emerging leaders, all to their knees, probably exposed the reality of how feeble “power” can be. More than 700,000 people had lost their lives fighting the covid-19 pandemic till Sunday, millions were still suffering from it, finding themselves in constant fear of losing their lives while the rest are either cured or are trying their best not to get caught up with this pandemic. The “sky-high” standards of healthcare in developed and developing countries alike are facing an extreme emergency to cope with the rising tide of disease. Economies and industries are in danger of being crippled over by it. Humanity faces terrifying insecurity in terms of health and wealth with seemingly no way out.
Millions of death, crippling economies, and terror everywhere, is this not a scenario humanity has seen before? Is this something that resembles a world war? Can we call it would World War III? These and so many other questions pop up when we eye the current COVID-19 fiasco with what humanity has dealt with in world wars fought in the 20th century. Even if it would not be a question to come up, the international leaders used an analogy with war, probably to create a sense of urgency and responsibility among the general public but the question needs to be answered if we can have the audacity to call it a World War III? Let us have an in-depth analysis and find out for ourselves.
The eastern hemisphere seems to be having an edge in the war against covid-19. The next few decades will see the pivot shifting towards the East, which has fastest growing economies and population centres. It can, therefore be argued that the battleground for ‘Undeclared Third World War’ could be the Indo-Pacific, and the world has already entered in preparatory phase of it, without recognizing or declaring it to be so
One must keep in mind that world wars always had a side that was looking up for the attainment of resources and land, thereby extending the rule of the combatants. It was driven by a sense of wanting to feel “important” on the international stage, and was guided by combatants’ insecurities and terminated by the expulsion of power, either of themselves or of oppressed ones. To put it in perspective, it had always one against another, but not all. The entire world never had to physically face the wrath of the war itself. Some countries always remained neutral. Here against covid-19, it is one against all. There is no class, no group, no nation, and no individual who can be assured safety from it. It is the whole of the world, trying its best to encounter covid-19 in any way.
Let this perspective be put aside for a moment and let us consider a wider perspective. Strategically, China is taking advantage of the pandemic when the entire world is fighting against covid-19. China launched aggressive offensive posturing by sending airplanes near Taiwan, knocked off fishing boats of Vietnam and Malaysia to strengthen its control on the South China Sea. It exposed the dangerousness of any possible biological weapon to the world, adding a new dimension in the ongoing undeclared third world war. China, having declared victory over the pandemic, was quick to put back its manufacturing in place, trying to boost a ‘Covid-19 Economy’ by creating a ‘Health Silk Road’ and re-activating a most-needed supply chain of medical equipment and medicines, as an attempt to earn maximum profit out of the pandemic, besides attempting to repair its global image.
Covid-19 has been a wild card entry in the ongoing undeclared third world war. It has exposed the vulnerability of great powers; the USA’s massive trust deficit for China has been shown worldwide; henceforth the belief of any state in accepting one or two countries as great powers or dominant leader may be outdated down the road. The new paradigm will be not like earlier World Wars, where all countries were not at war, because all of them may not have agreed to the mutual narratives of key players, hence some countries would be at hot war, some in military posturing stage, and some using other dimensions and instruments of war, simultaneously. A new global order will emerge post-covid-19, which need not be US/China centric. The world may see a shift in manufacturing hubs and tendencies to be self-reliant in critical manufacturing. The eastern hemisphere seems to be having an edge in the war against covid-19. The next few decades will see the pivot shifting towards the East, which has fastest growing economies and population centres. It can, therefore be argued that the battleground for ‘Undeclared Third World War’ could be the Indo-Pacific, and the world has already entered in preparatory phase of it, without recognizing or declaring it to be so.
The Writer is a Scholar at the National Defense University, Islamabad.