Few Indians alive now have any recollection of how precarious our destiny was in the summer of 1948, a year after India gained independence. “Will India survive?” was the question that was being posed everywhere at the time. Seventy-five years later, that question is replaced with a considerably more positive one, namely, “will India become a superpower?”
This change of mindset has been prompted by the extraordinary resilience of India’s democratic institutions.
In the last few years, India has shown tremendous growth in various fields starting from Education to Economy to Défense and Information Technology to Science and Technology. It has come to play an important role of leadership in politics and diplomacy. The various yardsticks on which India’s performance can be expressed are as follows:
Economic Growth. In 2015, India became the world’s fastest-growing economy with a 5% estimated GDP rate. India’s annual growth rate has been appreciated by core international institutions like that of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. India with a GDP of almost $3 trillion, occupies the 13th spot on the list of countries with massive GDP, international and military alliance, political and economic influence, and leadership skills. India’s purchasing power parity (PPP) is expected to reach $43 trillion and will surpass the US by 2050. By 2040, India is expected to surpass the USA (in PPP terms) and become the second-largest economy.
Defence Sector blooming. With defence budget of $54 billion and active military personnel of 1,362,500, India ranks number 4 on the list of top 10 most powerful militaries in the world. Add to it a total of 2,102 aircrafts and a naval strength of 295 and we have a country ready to tackle any military emergency! India is gaining new technology and ideas from all over the world such as, 5th generation fighter plane from Russia while defence drone technology from USA and other technology from Israel. So, if India increases the defence budget in next 3 decades, especially in Air force, cyber and new technology, India can handle any critical situation.
Industry and Infrastructure thriving. The spotlight of the world economy has been, and still is on China as a main driver of global development. However, there is no doubt that India attracts attention as the next development superpower. Solidifying these projections, India has attracted the world’s highest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with a total of USD 84,835 million in FY 21-22. India’s favourable business landscape and supportive government policymaking have increased the ease of doing business in the country. Investor confidence has risen with a strong vaccination rate, recovery stimulus packages, and foreign investment programmes.
Indian government has tried to boost this sector by implementing project such as ‘ Smart Cities’, ‘Make in India’. Although cities and towns in India still don’t have a well-established public transport system, the government is in the process of developing a modern mass rapid transit system. Cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Kochi already have a modern metro rail system in place. With the onset of Bullet trains and other ambitious projects will lead to quick economic growth which will in turn lead to India becoming a superpower by 2050.
Demography leveraged. By 2050, India will be the world’s largest country in terms of population by a wide margin over China, with a mind-boggling 1.7 billion people – 400 million more than today. Over the next 35 years, its dependency ratio will decline from a bit over 50 percent today to a bit under 50 percent in 2050. Indians will live longer, so the aged population will grow considerably. With more affluence, India’s birth rate will come down too. While a massive working-age population gives India the chance to become the world’s next growth titan, the country will have to work hard to translate its demographic windfall into much higher standards of living for average Indians. Economic productivity is the key.
Friends with everyone, allies with no one. From the ruins of Ukraine, and the choppy waters of Taiwan Strait, amid the worldwide Covid pandemic, a new world order is emerging. And India is delicately placed at its centre of it. From BRICS and SCO to QUAD, India’s participation is vital in all multi-nation groupings formed with different and sometimes conflicting objectives. In the wake of USA leaving Ukraine on its own in the Russia-Ukraine war, the world is desperately looking for a global superpower to depend upon. The world has three options. USA, which is like a schoolyard bully who leaves his friends in tatters when they are in trouble. Another one is China, whose predatory diplomacy makes it impossible to believe them. The third option is India, which stands with its allies in times of need. Obviously, they will choose India over the other two. India has never backed away from provisioning any kind of assistance to the world. Currently, India is helping Ukraine in a humanitarian way, while on the other hand, it is also assisting Russia to develop a currency buffer in the wake of western sanctions.
Newly introduce National Education Policy aims at making India a global knowledge superpower. One of the challenges hindering India’s economic expansion was its outdated approach to education. The New Education Policy, 2020, corrects this shortcoming. The policy outlines the vision of India’s new education system. It places a welcome emphasis on a holistic, learner-centred, flexible approach that seeks to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society. It rightfully balances the rootedness and pride in India and the acceptance of the best ideas and practices in the world of learning from across the globe. If implemented well, this policy is the way forward to make India a thriving knowledge hub.
Digital Enablement. India’s emerging digital ecosystems supported by robust innovation in start-ups and favourable demographic dividend (with an increase in working age population till 2041 and 3.6 million STEM graduates annually) give us a unique opportunity to lead in the decades to come. This wave of digital growth would help core digital sectors and ones with immense growth potential (newly digitising logistics, education, healthcare, agriculture) to exponentially increase potential by 2025 – financial services (170X) agriculture (70X), education (30X), Government EMarketplaces by 25X. Digital India today, means different things to different people, but for the world, it means that India with its technology is here to lead.
Path braking Climate Initiatives. The Indian government’s commitment to pursuing low-carbon development is evident in its ambitious targets and path-breaking climate initiatives. The recently concluded COP26 marks a momentous moment for India, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring a Net Zero target for 2070 and propelling the levers of development towards more green and sustainable pathways. The country has declared to increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW, bring its economy’s carbon intensity down to 45 per cent, and reduce 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions from the total projected emissions – all by 2030. The capacity target for renewables has been increased from 175 GW to 228 GW by 2022, further committing to fulfil 50 per cent of its energy requirement through renewable energy by 2030. Climate change is a global challenge that implicates everyone and requires coordinated, multi-stakeholder action. India’s low-carbon growth pathway can provide a new and unique model for the rest of the developing world.
India’s civilizational heritage is still untapped. India’s soft power is unmatched and needs to be utilised as a strategy to raise India’s profile in the world. Few countries in the world can boast of an unbroken civilisational heritage which is 5000 years old and continues to thrive. Ancient Indian philosophical texts, the Vedas, the Brahmanas, the Upanishads, the epics, literature, science, etc., are large reservoirs of knowledge and wisdom, which should be studied and applied where applicable to modern conditions, particularly in the context of conflict resolution, harmony in diversity, environmental protection, etc. India has managed its tremendous diversity very well. This is becoming a subject of curiosity and enquiry the world over. It should and can offer the world new ideas which will help shape the world order. While many people in the West are looking for inspiration in ancient Indian wisdom, it is unfortunate that Indians are defensive about their own culture, history, and civilisation. This must change.
In the last few years, India’s stock in the world has risen, largely due to Prime Minister Modi’s vigorous outreach to the world. India has signed several strategic partnerships with countries across the world. It has joined several important global and regional institutions and contributed to peace and stability. Leading by example, it has helped set up groups, like the International Solar Alliance to promote solar energy worldwide. India is poised to become the third largest economy in the world in due course. It has been at the forefront of international cooperation to counter terrorism. Its large market, its Make in India program, its Neighbourhood First approach, its Act East Policy, its strong outreach to Africa, etc. have been some of the positive
initiatives which have drawn global attention. It has won praise from many quarters for its democratic functioning and non-hegemonic approach. In view of its size, location, economy, population, past record, and culture, India has the obvious credentials to play a greater role in regional and global stability. India is not yet a global power, but it is one of the top contenders for becoming one. India’s has the potential – and probably also the ambition – to become a global power. With India’s financial and political powers almost going vertical as compared to any other country in the world, its progress can only be stopped by India alone.