While the world battles with the COVID-19 pandemic; in conflict zones across the world, the war of power persists.

In the Gaza Strip, Israel has been choking the Palestinians, but now with the world powers occupied with the pandemic, it has now adopted an even more aggressive stance. A health-starved conflict region with very limited resources where the virus keeps spreading, has no defences of its own. In one swift move, Israel could bring the entire region under its control. In the Indian Occupied Valley of Kashmir, a similar conflict prevails.

But in these particular cases, the governments are also the aggressors. Broadening our geopolitical sphere for this discussion, in the Middle East, the situation gets a little more complex. With each state having its own set of insurgent, rebel, and aggressor group, the world powers have yet to come together to negotiate a ceasefire in these conflict regions. In these war-torn countries, inadequate health facilities and scarce resources highlight the priorities of the tyrant rulers and global hegemon which has historically spent very little on the public sector. Where there’s historically been very little development and people are fleeing, how do you convince a group to cease fighting?

The greater good here is a rather subjective term. Many would argue that in a pandemic-stricken world, the right course of action shouldn’t be that hard to agree on. A counter to this; concerns for global economy, and of states trying to come out of this ‘stronger than ever’ highlights underlying competition between states and blocs which somehow still persist amid a mounting death toll. How do we then convince a group of people to aspire for peace in a world where states have put economic well-being at the helm of their affairs? This interaction between non-state actors and the state or stakeholders is classified as insurgent diplomacy.

There needs to be a clear understanding of what the two sides are essentially agreeing on; what constitutes peace, and what ideologues are legitimising the actions of each. This equation is employed in any typical diplomatic exchange. But when two groups are sustained by two different ideologies, reaching mutual consensus can remain a rather elusive dream. As we have seen in Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition called for a unilateral ceasefire for the two sides to be able to jointly fight COVID-19 crisis, however, as is typical of any conflict zone, the Yemeni forces are propagating their attack as retaliatory, a pre-emptive strike to Saudi-led coalition’s movements against it.

We have Libya’s Khalifa Haftar who has previously attacked hospitals and wounded and killed medics, along with civilians. It comes as no surprise that such a warlord would find all the more reason to advance in an already war-torn health-starved country. As is seen in recent days, the Government of National Accord’s advance towards regaining control of three coastal cities has created an atmosphere in which the possibility of a truce-like situation is highly unlikely. This comes especially after remarks by GNA’s head Fayyez al Sarraj for not agreeing to sit with Haftar, and an aggressive push towards capturing coastal cities up till Al Watiya airbase highlights the government’s frustration, as well as its eagerness to defeat the insurgent group, so the battle against COVID-19 can then be fought.

As a norm, insurgent groups gain their legitimacy by offering a set of guarantees to their supporters. The question now arises if they can offer any guarantee for healthcare facilities amid this pandemic? Especially when states themselves have been unable to. The state governments almost always cut supply routes for essential goods, case in point, Yemen. Will this persist amidst a pandemic as a means of gaining leverage? As routes remain suspended, speaking objectively, how is the Saudi-led coalition any better than any insurgent group?

This debate of right versus evil, which already presented itself as a subjective one of alternative competing realities, is even more prudential now. There is a need for conflict zones to de-escalate, and hostilities to suspend between the governments and insurgent groups. This can only happen with a consensual understanding of providing a safe zone for people stuck in and fleeing violence, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

This pandemic has presented the world with an opportunity to think of new inclusive ways of governing it. And therefore, this competition between actors (non/state) will further tighten the noose in determining the new world order. With oil prices hitting historic lows, has the price of war gotten too low to be waged?