Amalgamation of Two Antithetical Approaches

    Date : 09-Jun-2020

Outcome of Covid 19: Amalgamation of Two Antithetical Approaches 

By Yatan Sharma 


The pandemic of Covid-19, spread by SARS CoV-2, has transformed the nature of international relations. It has propelled the countries into such an ambivalent situation where they cannot venture to adhere strictly to a particular approach to international relations.

In the following article, an attempt has been made to unveil the current nature of international relations where the blends of two antithetical approaches, namely Idealism and Realism, have become a thing of common praxis.




In a daily lexicon, globalization is defined as a cross border exchange of goods, services, technology, ideas, and most importantly, people. Interdependence and interconnectedness are fundamental characteristics of the process. It would not be spurious to say that the concept of globalization is in accordance with the principles of idealism, where it has been mutually accepted that international relations (IR) could be regulated by the set of common rules of international laws. Based on the liberal conviction, Woodrow Wilson in his historic 14 points speech said that it was possible to achieve peace through a rational and intelligently designed international system.


However, the pandemic of Covid-19 spread by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (commonly known as Novel Coronavirus) has completely changed the traits of relations shared by the countries in the pre pandemic globalized era. On the one hand, countries are compelled by the circumstances to seal their borders for foreign nationals and on the other hand, they are heavily dependent on each other’s cooperation to fight the common invisible enemy. In this ambivalent situation, the fact is quite evident that even in this globalized era, countries cannot afford to be solely governed by the forces of globalization (idealist principles), and the realist precepts of statism and survival are also playing an equivalent role in the governing processes and in determining the nature of international relations.


This paper entails the comprehensive analysis of the prevailing traits in international relations where the two antithetical approaches, namely idealism and realism are serendipitously working in concurrence with each other.


Metamorphosis of International Relations


Prior to the outbreak of catastrophic pandemic, countries were entangled in the net of interconnectedness and interdependence in such a way that the concept of world citizen or cosmopolitanism seemed to be quite feasible. Rapid increase in the cross border migrations had made the state borders permeable. It was not the territorial boundaries and local politics, instead, it was the economy that had been playing a decisive role in the formulation of foreign policy (however, it should not be assumed that state sovereignty and local politics were of no importance, but more emphasis had been laid on the economic aspects during the policy formulation). The pre pandemic situation was in accordance with the idealists’ principles where it was widely believed that international relations could be regulated by a common set of rules and regulations.


Astonishingly, the pandemic has shadowed the ideals of globalization as it is quite evident that the nations are resolute enough to protect ‘their citizens’. For instance, the member states of European Union have instantaneously adopted the realist paradigm of statism and survival and consequently suspended the free movement across the borders, just after the outbreak of pandemic. Akin to it, many countries have sealed their borders for the foreign nationals despite being cognizant of the fact that they have to bear a huge economic cost for this act. Hans J. Morgenthau in his magnum opus Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, said that politics is an autonomous sphere of actions and cannot therefore be reduced to economics or morals. State leaders should act in accordance with dictates of political wisdom (Morgenthau 1978). During this period countries that were once the staunch advocates of free trade across the borders are now reluctant to share their limited resources with others, especially those which are essential in combating the disease. The change in trade policies have substantiated the fact that the nations are now not primarily concerned about the amelioration of ‘global economy’ but are more inclined to protect and foster their ‘local economy’. Countries are contouring their economic policies, in a way that will protect the interest of local players and will subsequently reduce their dependence on others. 


Nonetheless, in such vicissitudes, countries have diligently contemplated the situation, which has thus led to the incorporation of the indispensable element of ‘integral humanism’ in their policies. Though the concept was coined in context to Indian society by Deendayal Upadhyay, however, it has become more prominent during this pandemic and has gained universal acceptance. Integral Humanism is a philosophical foundation of life, useful for the entire world. The concept endorses the integration of our lives with Nature (society) and such an integral system ensures the all-round development of individuals and the society. In the pre pandemic era, countries were primarily focused on the growth (not development) of their economies at the cost of natural resources, but the pandemic has compelled them to value nature and ‘human life’. Consequently, despite the abeyance of cross border travelling, they have manifested their determination to save the lives of people of other nationalities as well by exchanging goods that are essential in combating Covid-19. Apart from goods, countries are also providing monetary assistance to those who are unable to save lives due to the paucity of adequate resources. 


The current situation has testified to the fact that in international relations, one cannot strictly cling to a particular approach or ideology. What we are witnessing today is a perfect blend of realist and idealist principles where on the one hand countries are giving primacy to protect their citizens with the cooperation of a country like China, but at the same time, they are openly criticizing it for the outbreak of the disease. Countries like the US, the UK and India imported personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and Covid-19 testing kits from China initially, despite duly acknowledging the fact that the fundamental cause of the outbreak of Covid-19 was China’s irresponsible act and subsequently demanded a probe against it. The most common change that could be easily observed in the policies of the nations is that they are trying to be self-reliant by reducing the dependence for essential goods on the other nations without deteriorating their amicable relations and extending their helping hand to the countries which are in need of it. For instance, in the early stage of the pandemic in the country, India ordered around 15 million PPE kits from China, but over a period of time, India has begun to manufacture a colossal amount of PPE kits within the country. By this, they are not only catering their needs but also ready to export around 5 million kits to other countries.  In this way, the realist precept of statism - survival and the idealist precept of cooperation are being followed simultaneously.




Anomalous situation requires extra ordinary solutions. Unequivocally, the apocalypse caused by the pandemic cannot be overcome by a single country. It requires persistent collective efforts as its catastrophic impact has hardly left any economy and society untouched. The nations are embroiled in such a bewildered situation where they are compelled to impede the free flow of goods, services and people across the borders but at the same time are in a desperate need of cooperation from each other. In order to minimize and overcome the grievous impact of the pandemic, countries should work in congruity with each other rather than indulging in superfluous quarrels. Amalgamation of idealism and realism seems to be the most pertinent paradigm to overcome the life threatening crisis generated by the pandemic.


Undoubtedly the global economy has to bear a humongous cost for this temporary halt because our economies (markets) are so interconnected and interdependent on each other that activity taking place in a country has a multidimensional impact on others. And confining the exchange of goods and services has a significant impact on the relations shared by the countries. Therefore, in these testing times, the exchange of goods and services, especially those of essential services are the most pressing and common conundrums faced by almost all of them. However, countries should not hasten to resume the exchange immediately. Perhaps the recovery process will take time but once the nations will attain their pre pandemic positions, the integrated global economy will augment subsequently.


It would not be a folly to infer that the pandemic has substantially transformed the traits of international relations. As prior to the outbreak of coronavirus, we all were the members of ‘global village’ but the pandemic has made us realize that we are the members of our respective nation first and then of the world.