Press Release: New CPR Report on 'India as the Region of Recovery for South Asia: A Multi-Sectoral Plan for India’s COVID-19 Diplomacy in the Region'

20 August 2020

Delhi, Thursday, 20 August 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unparalleled threat to the peace and prosperity of South Asia, home to one-fourth of the world population. Aside from the immediate health crisis, the pandemic also threatens to undo decades of economic development in the region and destabilise it socially and politically.

How can India take the leadership role in South Asia in this time of crisis?

The Centre for Policy Research (CPR) announces the release of a groundbreaking report India as the Region of Recovery for South Asia: A Multi-Sectoral Plan for India’s COVID-19 Diplomacy in the Region

Co-authored by Shyam Saran (Senior Fellow, CPR and Former Foreign Secretary)Gautam Mukhopadhaya (Senior Visiting Fellow, CPR and Former Diplomat); Nimmi Kurian (Professor, CPR); and Sandeep Bhardwaj (Research Associate, CPR).

According to Shyam Saran, one of India’s foremost voice on foreign policy, “The launch of the Centre for Policy Research commissioned ‘India as the Engine of Recovery for South Asia’ is most timely and topical. While acknowledging the serious public health and economic challenges which have been triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the report sketches out a more hopeful vision of the crisis also providing a rare opportunity for India to impart renewed momentum to its Neighbourhood First policy through a regionally crafted economic recovery strategy. The report puts regional economic integration squarely back on the South Asian agenda.”

Speaking on the report, Gautam Mukhopadhaya, who has served as India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan and Myanmar, said, “No doubt, COVID-19, has been a huge blow to the world economy and the region. But if we can overcome the temptation to limit our ambition to simply recovering from the shock, and take advantage of the pandemic to rethink some of the flaws in our development models towards greater long-term economic and environmental sustainability, closer regional trade, investment, connectivity and regional cooperation, and the nimble use of new technologies to overcome ever widening gaps in social development, then this pandemic could have served a positive purpose. As the largest economy of the region, India has to provide the vision and take the lead. Prime Minister Modi's call for 'atmanirbharta' and 'going local' needs to have a regional dimension and application within a framework of open regionalism.”

The report covers a series of practical policy recommendations for critical areas of health, food security, ecology, trade and finance. Focusing on the immediate problems as well as long-term challenges, the report envisions a prosperous South Asia, with India as its engine of recovery.

The report answers the following questions:

  • What are the immediate and medium-term steps that India can take to assist its neighbourhood overcome the health and economic challenges presented by the pandemic.
  • In what meaningful ways can Indian foreign policy repurpose South Asian regionalism post COVID-19?
  • To what extent can the pandemic be a game changer that helps strengthen regional capacity building as a strategic priority within South Asia?

The complete report can be accessed here. For further information and to schedule interviews with the authors, please write to: or  or  or write to Sandeep Bhardwaj at

The views shared belong to individual faculty and researchers and do not represent an institutional stance on the issue.