More than seventy years ago, in 1947, India was born. Few Indians now alive know how uncertain India’s future looked in 1947. The most prominent question then being asked was ‘Will India Survive?’ Now, seventy-one years down the road, that fearful query has been replaced by a far more hopeful one, namely, ‘Will India Become a Superpower?’ or Can India Become the Next Superpower?
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India’s rise has undoubtedly been impressive and warrants the attention that it has commanded. India has been one of the world’s best-performing economies for a quarter of a century, lifting millions out of poverty and becoming the world’s third-largest economy in PPP terms. India has tripled its defense expenditure over the last decade to become one of the top ten military spenders. And in stark contrast to Asia’s other billion-person emerging power, India has simultaneously cultivated an attractive global image of social and cultural dynamism.
From the statements above, can we assume that India is rising as the next superpower? If so, how do we take this “rising” notion on board?
The Indian Economy despite short-term ups and downs has strong foundations. It is currently the world’s third largest in terms of Real GDP after the US and China. According to a report by the World Bank, India is the fastest-growing major economy in the world replacing China. The self-interest of India’s liberating coalitions within this growing and liberalizing economy is driving its foreign policy and negotiating behavior in an increasingly cooperative direction.
In an endeavor to achieve status commensurate with its demographic and geographic size and ancient civilization magnitude, India has been steadfastly building up its capabilities. India, under the leadership of Mr. Narendra Modi, has been working to strengthen ties with foreign countries in areas of regional, bilateral and international issues of mutual interest and most importantly to propagate the concept of “Make in India.”
India has been rapidly moving up the ladder when it comes to Space Power. On September 2014, India sent its maiden and cheapest Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission) in space. Budgeted at Rs. 4.5 Bn ($74m), this mission was accounted to be the cheapest when compared to the making of even Bollywood or Hollywood movies. The country is now in a position whereby it can offer affordable launch solutions (in 2017 India set a record by deploying 104 satellites during a single launch) and space-based tech like Earth-imaging satellites. Further on March 27, 2019, India conducted Mission Shakti, an anti-satellite missile test. The satellite, according to official statements, was one of India’s, operating in the lower orbit. This test, which required an extremely high degree of precision and capability was successfully carried out by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). With this, India has successfully proved its mettle in interdicting and intercepting a satellite in outer space based on complete indigenous technology. India is now the fourth country to have tested an anti-satellite weapon, the others being the United States, Russia, and China.
India has been continuously working to bring about structural changes and reforms in its policies while revoking the outdated policies. As a consequence of these reforms, within a very short period, India has become one of the top Foreign Direct Investment destinations in the world. Also, India is emerging as the youngest nations in the world. According to a report, by 2020, 64% of India’s population will be in the working age group. While some of the powerful nations across the globe like the US, China, and Europe are witnessing a decrease in their workforce, India is expected to be brimming with youthful energy. This large workforce will prove to be pivotal in India’s growth story.
Culture has long been a potent tool of national power. Cultural institutions help in shaping the preference of foreigners towards a country and can help build the country’s international presence. The Government of India has been at the forefront of promoting cultural tourism. Ahmedabad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage City. India with its multi-faceted rich heritage is working to spur economic growth through tourism. With the proliferation of smart devices, India has also been leveraging it to promote its culture. It is through our persistent efforts that the UN General Assembly proclaimed June 21 as International Day of Yoga and digital channels like Twitter are used to promote the ancient Indian practice of Yoga. The combination of diverse ancient culture with modernity and the mix of Eastern with Western world-view is potentially making India a social laboratory for the evolution of futuristic global-unity consciousness.
The Military of India maintains the second largest active-duty force in the world after China, while the Indian Paramilitary Forces, over a million strong, is the second largest paramilitary force in the world. The total armed forces of India is the world’s third largest with 2,414,700. Besides this, the Indian Air Force is the fourth largest air force in the world, and the Indian Navy is the world’s fifth largest. The Indian Army controls land-based ballistic missiles. While Agni 1, Agni 2 and Agni 3 are fully operational, other missiles are under the research and development phase. Air-based defense technologies are also on the progress. Indian Air Force’s SEPECAT Jaguars and the Dassault Mirage 2000s have ground attack roles. The Indian Navy is also very powerful coming up with latest technologies for ensuring the defense of the nation. They have launched two nuclear-armed sea-based ballistic missiles. The first one is a submarine launching system that consists of approximately six thousand tons of missile submarines belonging to the Arihant Class, the nuclear-powered submarine built by India. Thus, the defense technologies of India are rapidly expanding.
Are these developments enough to suggest that India will become the next superpower? Or is there something more to it?
Unfortunately, despite all these developments, India still faces major challenges. The still-entrenched divisions of caste structure are being compounded by the emergence of new inequalities of wealth stemming from India’s economic success, and while the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. India’s democracy may have thrived in a manner that few ever expected, but its institutions face profound challenges from embedded nepotism and corruption.
Domestically, insurgent violence affects large parts of India, creating risks and imposing additional costs on investment and economic development. Longstanding disputes necessitate that India focuses its security concerns on its immediate borders and near-abroad, stymying efforts to define its strategic interests in a broader regional or global context. India’s military capabilities, though growing, reflect the consequentially narrow bureaucratic concerns which India’s institutional structures struggle to transcend.
While doubts prevail around this metaphoric ‘India rising,’ the West seems to acknowledge India’s confidence, determination and power of governance and if the nation is able to overcome these problems, it is bound to become the next superpower.
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