Episode 20

India in the COVID-19 Era

Released on September 28, 2020


In the second of our special editions recorded at the Association for Asian Studies’ annual conference, we turn our focus to India. Our guest is Pratap Mehta (@pbmehta), one of the country’s best-known public intellectuals, who’s also the former president of the Centre for Policy Research. India has the world’s second-highest coronavirus caseload and has been averaging 90,000 cases daily in recent weeks. So how has the pandemic changed Indian politics, both at the domestic and international level? What are the main challenges confronting Narendra Modi’s government - or could these strange times even present it with new opportunities? As in other countries, in some areas the pandemic has not so much altered as revealed the way things really operate. India, long seen as a key democratic ally to the West, is grappling with internal issues of identity, belonging and justice; and externally, trying to carve out a place for itself in the post-pandemic global world order. Our guest presenter this week is Yuka Kobayashi, political scientist at SOAS in London.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Pratap Bhanu Mehta is a political scientist and academic who has taught at Harvard University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the New York University School of Law. His areas of research include political theory, constitutional law, society and politics in India, governance and political economy, and international affairs. He was the previous president and chief executive of the Centre for Policy Research. Mehta has served on many central government committees, including India’s National Security Advisory Board, the Prime Minister of India’s National Knowledge Commission, and a Supreme Court-appointed committee on elections in Indian universities. He received the 2010 Malcom S. Adishehshiah Award, the 2011 Infosys Prize for Social Sciences - Political Science and the Amartya Sen Prize. He holds a B.A. (first class) in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford and a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton.

Yuka Kobayashi

Yuka Kobayashi is Lecturer and Assistant Professor in China and International Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and Visiting Research Professor at Nankai University. Prior to joining SOAS, she was a Junior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. Her research interests include International Relations of China, International Law, Trade and Investment, Human Rights and Climate Change/Energy. She has advised various governments, think-tanks and international organisations on these subjects. She was an expert witness for the U.K. Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee on China and the International Economic Order. After receiving a LL.B. (specialisation in Public International Law) from Kyoto University, she studied Mandarin and Chinese International Politics at Nankai University and then obtained her M.Phil. and D.Phil. at the University of Oxford. She appeared as a guest on Episode 17.