Can India be Great? Chinese Translation

Image: Lyle Vincent By: Sumit Ganguly

South Asia commentator Sumit Ganguly thinks so, but warns woeful infrastructure and grinding poverty could still hold it back.

India’s aspirations to become a great power in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond can be traced to the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, its first post-independence prime minister. At that time, however, India’s hopes of assuming great power status were based an aspirational world view of constructing a new global order based on international law, reliance on multilateral institutions and an end to balance of power politics. This world view was based both on expediency and a moral component.

It was expedient because India’s material power, both military and economic, was quite limited. Yet it was not bereft of ethical considerations. Nehru genuinely believed that it was possible to fashion a new global order based on moral principles. His vision, however, met a tragic demise in the aftermath of the brutal and disastrous Sino-Indian border war of 1962. A grossly underequipped and unprepared Indian Army was dealt a cruel defeat at the hands of a battle-hardened and well-armed Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the Himalayas when attempts to reach a diplomatic settlement of the border dispute failed.

So, six decades after it secured independence, can India emerge as a great power? The question is far from trivial. At an international level, India’s rise, if peaceful, would challenge a widely held belief in the study of international politics that holds that the rise of new great powers can lead to major war as their interests clash with those of existing great powers. Yet, so far at least, no state has expressed serious misgivings about India’s rise. Indeed, regionally, its rise could improve the lot of a number of the smaller states of South Asia because India would be in a position to provide a number of collective goods to them. For example, it could help create a free trade zone in South Asia, thereby benefiting all the states in the region. Even though India has signed such a treaty it has yet to ratify it. And in the domestic arena, meanwhile, India’s rise would also mean an end to the grinding poverty that has stalked a significant segment of its population since it secured independence from the British Empire in 1947.

There’s little question that India is on a renewed quest for great power status. However, as it embarks on this path, it still faces a number of pitfalls–its rise is far from certain or inevitable.

The Palimpsest of the Past

During the Cold War, thanks to flawed domestic and foreign policies, India’s policymakers had successfully managed to marginalize the country in terms of the global order. At home, economic growth was anaemic thanks to India’s pursuit of namby-pamby, pseudo-socialist policies. Abroad, its professed policy of nonalignment, which operated with a profound pro-Soviet tilt, marginalized it in global politics. It is only since the end of the Cold War that India has been able to meaningfully revive its fond hopes of achieving great power status.

With the end of the Cold War, and for complex reasons, India came to fitfully embrace more market-oriented development policies. At the same time, for all practical purposes, the country dispensed with its commitment to the anachronistic dogma of nonalignment. The results of these two shifts were nothing short of transformational. In the domestic arena, India was able to break the shackles of what the eminent Indian economist, Raj Krishna, had mordantly termed the ‘Hindu rate of growth’ and move the country on to a path of rapid economic growth. Following its abandonment of a sclerotic economic regime that strangled economic growth, the economy grew at 5.3 percent in 1992. By 2007 it had reached 9.5 percent, making India the second-fastest growing economy in the world. Even in the wake of a global recession India managed to grow at 6.7 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, the country made important strides in poverty alleviation. For example, according to the World Bank, the percentage of the population living below the poverty line declined from 36 in 1993-94 to 27.5 in 2004-2005.

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I am extremely happy to read the above article and agree to the points mentioned. But at my age of 62 I would like to emphasize on one basic point i.e.,no body should lose heart at any time even if failure is looking straight into your face. Get up and look into the big eyes of failure and challenge it.
Get set and go with double determination, will power, dexterity and reaching the goal is definite.There are many young entrepreneurs both male/female who should work shoulder-to-shoulder and reach the goal. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. MAKE EVERYTHING QUITE POSSIBLE.

satish Patel January 10, 2010

India has no choice but stand firm with China. India should remain close with USA and less with Russia.India should realise that its biggest strength are its educated workforce around the globe and should protect it , so far it failed in UAE , Fijji, Kenya and at present in Australia. How can India be a Super power?

Mohan January 11, 2010

I came across this article while surfing and the viewpoints are certainly interesting. The topic of ‘Great,’ though profound, is also a bit of a misnomer at times; just like most companies and CEOs want to move from Good to Great. This said, isn’t the Indian economic growth of the past decade ‘Great?’

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alam January 11, 2010

Consider the case of Kasab a young fellow of 25 years, held at bay for a week, a platoon of ‘ Vir ‘ heavily armed Indian commandos – flack jackets and all – in that run down railway station ( posing as Taj Hotel ) in Bombay last year. This is the pathetic state of Indian defences. Also, alarming is the fact that the bunhya Indian army call in the Israelis whenever in trouble.

The Hindus pen pushers conjure up a military doctrine every morning, afternoon and night with nothing better to do save arrogating more money and consequently more corruption for the armed forces. In an asymmetric conflict with China & Pakistan, Hindyah it is hoped will be sliced east to west, north to south, Hindyah that we know will, hopefully, cease to exist. Hindyah’s battle glory presently is in the murder of hapless Kashmiris.
That Bengali Babu adorned with title of Defence Chief must refrain from passing on skewed statements to a gullible Hindyan public. The last time that happend was during India/China 1962 when the Chinese army broke through the Nathula Pass into Hindyah while the Hindyan public, the world was informed that one Raj Kapoor- an actor – had single-handedly conquered Peking.

Poverty stricken, debt ridden, with no money to feed its growing population it is being driven into an arms race and inevitably into bankruptcy. If the lessons of 1962 are to be learnt, Hindyah can never, ever to be a great power, too many factors militate against that.

Finally, another hilarious object-the so-called Kapoor Strategic Doctrine, is to set up a military base in Outer Mongolia. Don’t they realize that that the said Base will be blown up in a matter of minutes in case of war and there is also the inevitable clash with the Russians which encroaches their sphere of influence?

Thank you,

Madhav January 12, 2010

Until Indians start thinking Indians, they can forget about becoming great. Presently, Indians are thinking like Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews etc…

Also India must practice secularism. Presently it is a secular country only on paper (constitution). If a boy above 21 and girl above 18 loves each other there must be no hurdle for them getting married. Neither religion, caste, parents or human rights must be the first preference above region as ‘first human beings came into origin then came religion.’

yapchongyee January 13, 2010

Why does India want to be great ? China does not think she is great, and they are loaded to their eyeballs in cash !

BHARTI January 13, 2010

No one is born great.
Greatness, is not a matter of chance but it’s the matter of choice. Discrimination on the basis of caste, religion etc. has forced others to ask this question, ‘Can India become great?’
I believe in: when 1.2 billion manpower, or rather I should say 1.2 billion undiscriminated horsepower, focuses on the one-and-only target: to prove greatness of India, then the question in itself becomes very small.

Saurabh January 14, 2010

Surely some 50 years later India will be, I believe. Given around 90% literacy. Imagine 1.3 billion people educated and working for the country.

Saurabh January 14, 2010

@Alam and yapchongyee

India is much less corrupt than both China and Pakistan. We all know about the condition of defence in Pakistan, every day a new bomb blast kills 40 people or so. Nations are not marked great by their armies but by living standards and values.

2sfs January 15, 2010

I am interested in some keywords from the article: Singh, infrastructure, education, China. I hope India can move forward because it is proud of the Asia.

Amit January 15, 2010

Yeah, India can be great and its great because it will help everyone in trade and commerce

Samar Abbas January 15, 2010

To alam

India is of Indians not of Hindus or Muslims. Secularism, democracy and a forward-looking attitude will ensure a better future undoubtedly. Sadly, tolerance is missing in Pakistan and many other Muslim countries.

ASHOK KUMAR MEENA January 16, 2010

Yes, it’s true that India will be a future power in all aspects. but India has to prevent its new educated breed to go to foreign countries. We constitute 45% of the NASA. So is not it reasonable to say how this breed is important for us. As far as education is concerned changes should be brought in the university level education. And doors of IIM and IIT should be opened for underprivileged people. Because they can not have such an exceptional study background which these premier institutes consider to give admission.

As far as secularism is concerned it can be transformed just by eliminating the political parties because at the time of elections only these parties raise the issue of religion, caste, region, language etc. and it does let the country be stable politically. And for economic progress it is much necessary to have stable government to run the country. Like china where only one party, the Communist Party rules. That’s why it was able to maintain double digit growth rate for a long time.

One more thing which I want to add is that India has been ignoring eastern states which are still unexplored and have an abundance of natural resources. Even they are not well connected with the other part of the country by rail, road or air. India has to involve these states into the mainstream by bringing development. Because of the negligence an number of insurgent groups now drastically emerging like ulfa, naxals etc. and demanding to make it separate from rest of the India. And also because of this negligence China is trying to penetrate into this region. India has to develop border states of this part to save it from China.

jimmy kantesaria January 18, 2010

The north-eastern part of the country has many attractive tourist points and can be developed for tourism business. But the government do not take much interest for that and because of that only those portion of the country is still unexplored.

Dev Kumar Dutta January 18, 2010

A well-written piece that sadly couldn’t avoid the invariable temptation of baiting the so-called “Hindu right-wing”. I really don’t have to explain why the author is wrong in his assessment about a “small segment of India’s vast Muslim community” having “turned to the siren call of radical Islam” because of what he perceives to be the wrongdoing of the Hindu right wing. The pathological hatred for anything and everything Indian and Hindu, in the tone and tenor of the respondent, Alam, a Muslim, is the best explanation of the author’s misplaced opinion about Muslims. The truth about the Muslims of India is that like most of their folks elsewhere, they’re a mullah-driven society where half the population is forced to live in darkness inside black veils while the other half lives in the blinding rage of lunatic fanaticism fuelled by the blazing sword of Islam. So, whether there’s a Hindu right wing or not India’s Muslims will remain alienated from the heart and soul of the nation and would do everything to stay as far away from the mainstream as possible. The author should do well to remember that there was no Hindu right wing worth the name when vandalistic hooliganism for the creation of Pakistan was launched by the Muslim leadership in pre-independence India. When the time came to vote for the creation of Pakistan, the entire Muslim community, lock, stock and barrel, voted for it, barring a ironic exception, the Pakhtoons of what is today, NWFP in Pakistan. Ironic, because that part of Pakistan is today identified as the epicenter of the fanatical Jihadi movement in the world. I don’t buy this assessment though, because in my opinion the problem lies not in any particular geographic location but in the creed itself. Coming back to the Muslims of India, they are the descendents of the very same separatists who divided India with their votes. Pakistan at least, would not have been created on the basis of voting by Muslims in what constitutes today’s Pakistan and Bangladesh because their votes would have drastically fallen short. Even if half the number of ancestors of the Muslims of today’s India had voted against the creation of Pakistan, it would not have come about, at least on the basis of voting. Today in India, nothing really has changed with regard to the alienation of the Muslims because they are still the same dogmatic, insular and fanatical community they always were. Their inspiration is Pakistan and they openly say so. No, don’t imagine that they all want to go away to Pakistan. Now they want to create more land for Pakistan out of whatever is left of India today. In my life spanning 43 years, I’ve known enough Muslims from different walks of life who have the same views as the respondent, Alam, or even worse. They just can’t identify with anything native Indian or Hindu and it is pathological. They can’t help it. I’m not interested in classifying it as right or wrong because in my view and those of a growing number of Hindus, it’s time to call a spade a spade and confront the problem head on. As for creatures like this respondent, Alam, well, I don’t know where he is from although it matters little because he’d be the same wherever he is. That is, if he’s still alive then he’s a walking human bomb ready to blow up in some crowded place and if he’s already blown himself up, then well, he’s in paradise as promised by his scriptures.

Mark January 20, 2010

The article failed to mentioned that for India to be great, it have to revisit “how it implement its democracy”. So far, being one of the longest running and open democracies in Asia, the vast majority of the population remains desperately poor. Despite the vast amount of wealth and knowledge accumulated by a small section of population, this failed to significantly impact and benefit the poor (and the rich does get richer, yes).

I think the poorly implemented democracy (which is copied from a western template) is hindering India’s ability to grow due to its cultural irrelevance (where else do you have such a huge population? India is unique). One can say India got the worst part of good democracy and China got the best part of bad communism.

I’d love to see India becoming great, but they have to realise the term “democracy” has got many layers of meaning, and it is used as a marketing buzzword allowing US to hold a moral high ground. Learn to question democracy, and not merely accept what’s on offer.