COVID-19, a non-state actor, invisible to naked eye, has shaken the world order, and the practical demonstration of a globalised system since late last year. For now, countries are struggling to develop a vaccine, but having a broader look at the aftermath of this gives indications about a possible change in the world order. The two prominent, liberal, yet rival states -- China and USA -- might play vital role in re-shaping the global politics of relations, interdependence and trade. This pandemic seems to accelerate and aid the Chinese efforts to take the global lead. Due to the application of “Theory of Complex Interdependence,” as emphasised by Steven Pinker; the complex interdependence of both states on each other makes it highly unlikely for them to engage in a military conflict. We witnessed trade war which was another tactic used by the United States of America to decelerate the advancing approach of China. This pandemic might give a chance to China to boost back their economic progress. Quoting facts from this pandemic, China with 1/3 of total cases as compared to USA, has successfully curbed the virus and is working on economic recovery, whereas USA is still stuck in this quagmire with nearly 3 million total cases.  The post-COVID-19 world would have China taking the lead as the United States of America is already occupied by several prodigious issues, having Coronavirus as pandemic on one hand, the forth coming economic crisis on the other, and the long existing and recently triggered racism as another problem.

Taking advantage of US’ declining economy and weakening foothold from world politics, embryonic nuclear states like Iran and North Korea might find it as a golden opportunity. Iran might try to work on Uranium enrichment and at least bring it to 20% calling it sufficient for medical research motives. Similarly, North Korea who has already developed HWASONG-14 which has a range of 15,000km approximately till Alaska might also work more vigorously over her nuclear arsenal. North Korea might attempt to threaten neighbouring Japan and South Korea through SKUD and Nodong. USA being a close ally and protective shield for both might not be able to counter this. And in turn both, Japan and South Korea, might work on developing their own nuclear arsenals, encouraging other neighbouring states. Hence, post-COVID-19 world order might see an increased nuclear proliferation.

Apart from possible atomic procreation, world might see a rise in global terrorism. Afghanistan has recently moved a step closer towards durable peace, as Afghan Taliban and US representatives signed deal in Qatar. But as they back off from terrorist activities, Islamic State is making roots stronger. IS considers to utilise the prognosticated apocalyptic region of Khurasan as their foundation for future terror activities by creating their long desired “Caliphate.” Afghanistan might also become a centre for IS incendiaries and terrorism as they have lost control in Syria and neighbouring countries. Moreover, while America and rest states are already busy fighting spread of Corona and increasing health concerns, IS might find it as a golden time to develop strong foothold in the region. On the other hand, while during this time period, non-state actors like ISIK might re-organise, states like India under Hindutva ideology followed by BJP government might accelerate extremism as a weapon to gain regional hegemony. India, though suffering miserably at hands of this novel virus has not stopped genocide policies and atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir. India thinks to manoeuvre to gain control over IOK in these hard times and shows its apparently hard muscles in terms of military and politics. From already abrogating Article 35A and 307 to bringing Domicile Law leading to change in IOK’s demographics to torching houses to sexual assaults to killing of unarmed defenceless Muslim civilians and the list goes on. Post-COVID-19 world might see further increment in these barbaric holocaustic ethnic cleansing of Muslims in IOK by India. Along with this rise in LOC violation and killings of Pakistanis and spying quad copters across border is another technique by Indians. The shift in dynamic of Kashmir conflict will eventually change Pakistan’s pace and efforts.

While, struggling at all forums for the rights of Kashmiris, post-pandemic times will be harder for Pakistan’s internal dynamics as well. In contemporary world, economics is one of the most important pillars of a state. Pakistan with an already lagging economy malfunctioned with corruption and money-laundering is wrecked by lockdowns due to COVID-19 spread. These lockdowns, be it complete, partial, smart or selective all have further handicapped the economy, from rise in inflation to 11.8 per cent to decline in GDP growth by 1.3 per cent. All this will take the lead in challenging Pakistan’s growth and development. Lockdowns will lead to rise in poverty and unemployment. Sacked, idle and quarantined masses might drive towards illegal ways to feed their stomach. And so, crime rates will increase. Unoccupied, psychologically disturbed mortals might become bait for aforementioned ISIK or Indian intelligence agencies like Research and Analysis Wing to destabilise, stabilising peace in Pakistan. Not only, will international agencies and actors play role in abating peace and progress of Pakistan but local anti-state, separatist organisations might also take the lead. Recent events, from attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange as admitted by Baluchistan Liberation Army to skirmishes in Waziristan, all prove the above-mentioned connections of COVID’s side effects and its exploitation by anti-Pakistan elements. Besides, security challenges, Pakistan will face challenges in terms of implementation of SOPs for curtailment of Coronavirus, as Pakistan is an over-populated state. Maintaining social distancing in all walks of life requires vigilant, determined and efficient strategic planning and execution. Not just this determination to deliver to the full potential is required in maintaining pre-requisites for containment of virus, rather this is equally required in the most affected sector -- health. This virus will reshape the world order from relations to economies to priorities of states. States will become more self-reliant and will try to adopt more proactive approaches for future possible pandemics. Quoting example of Pakistan, Pakistan has recently started making its own ventilators in order to become more self-dependent in these demanding months of virus. Apart from military might, progress in health field will become a new race between developed states. A possible shift of hegemony from USA to China is yet another possibility to occur. But at the same time, the possibility of multi-polar world system also exists. The already criticised and questioned economic systems, especially capitalism might lose its impact. Moreover, knowing its own challenges, USA might step back from global politics of international conflicts, such as those in Syria or Yemen. This accelerating pandemic leaves us with various questions: from availability of multipolar relations to validity of a new hybrid economic system to whether states will move towards isolationism, leaving behind liberal thoughts of collectivism, or USA might ask its allies like Pakistan to either opt for China or USA during this developing cold war between the two states, like it did during Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and during the global war on terror. Are we really going to experience another cold war?

–The writer is an undergraduate student of Peace & Conflict Studies at National Defence University Islamabad.