A Moment Has Come, Which Comes But Rarely…
The UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyanreceives India Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Abu Dhabi on June 28. — AFP
On 75 years of the nation’s independence, predictions by great pundits on India becoming a world leader are coming true
Rarely in history have such moments come when a nation could make a resounding comeback after 300 years to reclaim its lost preeminence and glory.
For India, a momentous moment has come, “which comes but rarely in history when it steps out from the old to the new…”
As the curtain falls today on ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, which was designed “to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of independence”, India will be charting a new journey of reinvention for its next tryst with destiny to recapture its ancient glory and clout as a global economic powerhouse by 2047, the centenary year of freedom, fulfilling the bullish prophecy of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
India's first Prime Minister JawaharlalNehru and V.K. Krishna Menon during theUN General Assembly session in New Yorkin 1960. — AFP
Nehru had forecast, even before the country gained independence in August 1947, that the future international order would be shaped by four countries: The United States, the Soviet Union, China and India. That prediction might have sounded like a rhetorical utterance of a visionary statesman but was rooted in the infinite intrinsic potential India possessed to make itself a success-story several decades later.
In the changing international order, India’s geopolitical and economic stature on the world stage has grown significantly since the nation gained independence. Ever since, the country, currently the fifth global economic power, has steadfastly increased its weight in international institutions and improved its relations with other global powers thanks to its foreign policy anchored on a time-tested non-alignment strategy that is defined not only by national interest but also by solidarity with the developing world and democratic ethos.
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
Despite its many paradoxes, during the past 75 years, India stayed unified and whole, exemplifying the slogan of “unity in diversity,” and remains one of the few post-colonial countries to stay democratic.
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the future-ready nation has begun to reimagine its digital era transformational growth, driven by innovation. As Modi envisions, the next 25 years would be ‘Amrit Kaal’ where new goals and new ideas would propel the country towards a higher orbit. “Over the years we have gone ahead with the mantra of Reform- Perform-Transform. We have laid emphasis on policy stability, emphasis on coordination, emphasis on ease of doing business,” the PM said as he declared that the new growth phase would be green, clean, sustainable, and reliable.
Asia’s third economic powerhouse has also been rolling out bold initiatives to spread its influence across the globe through a spate of bilateral and multilateral engagements, including some landmark treaties sealed in 2022 with the UAE, the host country of 3.5 million Indian expatriates. Over the past 50 years, the multi-level strategic partnership between India and the UAE has flourished and strengthened like never before as evidenced by the signing of CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) and the formation of an alliance, I2U2 (India, Israel, the UAE and the USA), a multilateral cooperation bloc.
RISING GLOBAL CLOUT
Thanks to Modi’s standing as a seasoned statesman and his extraordinary ability to build a strong rapport with global peers to serve India’s interests better, the country’s status as a re-emerging global power is being not just recognised but increasingly institutionalised with a seat on the G-20, increasing clout in the international financial institutions, entry into the club of nuclear-armed states, impending membership in the various technology and supply control regimes, and impressive peacekeeping credentials under the United Nations. India continues to play a key role in international trade and climate negotiations. Being a strong candidate for the permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and additionally getting elected for the eigth time as a Non-Permanent member, India is proving its point in getting its voice heard.
STRATEGIC FOREIGN POLICY
Modi’s style of diplomatic engagements and strategic foreign policy push has even earned the praise of none other than Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said: “I applaud our neighbouring country India. They have always had an independent foreign policy. India is in an alliance with the United States in Quad and yet it’s buying Russian oil despite sanctions. This is because Indian foreign policy is in the interest of Indian people.”
Going forward, Modi envisages India as a “leading power” and a “world guru” (vishwa guru). “And as a nation, which is rich in knowledge and science, leaving its mark from Mars to the moon. Like the history of the freedom movement, the journey of 75 years after independence is a reflection of the hard work, innovation, and enterprise of ordinary Indians. Whether in the country or abroad, we Indians have proved ourselves with our hard work. We are proud of our Constitution. We are proud of our democratic traditions. The mother of democracy, India is still moving forward by strengthening democracy,” the Indian premier said while launching the 75-week ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ in March 2021.
MODI’S CLARION CALL
In line with the Prime Minister’s clarion call for establishing a New India, NITI Aayog has created the Strategy for New India@75 to transform the nation in the post-pandemic world across all key sectors, a drive that requires a paradigm shift in the thought process, methods, and tools of the policymakers. For faster growth, the government is working together on infrastructure, investment and manufacturing.
As a free nation, India has managed its evolution in an international system largely created and guided by the United States and its partners. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has said while there has been a profound transformation in the international order and its expressions are many, India finds itself in a different strategic environment. The country’s stature on the global stage has grown significantly and the world expects more from it in a globalised era. It has increased its weight in global institutions and improved its relations with other great powers.
With the balance of global economic power once again irrevocably tipping in favour of Asia, with China, India and Japan flexing their huge economic and technological advantages, a defining moment has arrived for the world’s largest democracy to reassert itself and find its rightful position as home to one-sixth of the planet’s population, and globally, the fifth largest economy and fourth military power. Just as a diplomat said, “For the first time since the end of the Second World War, a nation-state that is wary of hegemonic tendencies and identifies itself with the equitable governance of the global commons is in a position to shape the international order.”
SHAPING A NEW ORDER
As India catapults itself into a new growth trajectory, the challenge for the nation is to play its part in shaping an inclusive and equitable international order by the centenary of its independence 25 years from now. Given the fast-changing global political and economic dynamics, India must not hesitate to leverage its capabilities, its growing geopolitical clout, and industrial and economic weight to realise this goal while anchoring faith in the liberalism and internationalism of the world order.
Within this shifting global economic and political landscape, as a fast-emerging global power, India is uniquely positioned to put in place a new framework for its own security, growth and development, and that of developing countries around the world. The country must also initiate a holistic development policy that is consistent with its age-old values and historic view of the world as one: vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the world is one family) while looking beyond metrics of economic, political and military might. Such a new proposition will be appealing to communities across the world while guiding its course for the better part of the 21st century.
As predicted by Sir James David Wolfensohn, World Bank president (1995-20005) at an international forum in Dubai some 20 years ago, India is on the verge of a great comeback that only a few could aspire to. “History is going to repeat itself. India, along with China, will once again take the center stage in the global political arena as both nations are closer to regaining their glory as the world’s two top powerful economies after some 300 years,” he said.
According to economic historian Angus Maddison, during the years 0 to 1000, India figured as the world’s pre-eminent economic power, closely followed by China. India was the world’s largest economy with a 32.9 per cent share of the worldwide GDP in the first century and 28.9 per cent in the 11th century. In 1700, when most of the country was ruled by Mughals, India had a 24.4 per cent world GDP share, higher than Europe’s 23.3 per cent. However, thereafter, it started falling and slipped below four per cent by 1952 and further to its lowest at 3.1 per cent in 1973.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, India played an exemplary global role by exporting huge volumes of vaccines, living up to its claim as the ‘pharmacy of the world.’ The government extended assistance to the Indian nationals abroad and the diaspora community in many countries in the procurement of medicines and medical equipment. The government ensured that stranded Indian nationals from the Middle East and other regions come back home safely under the ‘Vande Bharat’ mission.
In 2020, as a future-ready nation pivoting to technology- andinnovation-driven transformation era, India rolled out its National Education Policy that seeks to reorient the educational system towards meeting the needs of the 21st century by setting the vision of developing an equitable and vibrant knowledge society and providing quality education to all. It seeks to achieve the twin objectives of inclusion and excellence. Effective implementation of the NEP is expected to restore India’s glory as a great centre of learning. One of the targets of NEP 2020 is to increase Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education to 50 per cent by 2035.
India, however, has its fair share of challenges during the next phase of the journey due to a range of structural deficits at the national level. Despite economic successes, India is, by many metrics, one of the G20’s poorest performers, and remains among the tail-enders in the Human Development Index (HDI). Other major challenges that India faces revolve around unemployment, poverty, pollution, illiteracy, corruption, inequality, gender discrimination, terrorism, communalism, unemployment, regionalism, casteism, alcoholism, drug abuse, and violence against women. The world’s second most populous country has slipped to the 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021 of 116 countries, from its 2020 position of 94th and is behind its neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal with over 3.3 million children remaining malnourished.
In order to live up to the claim that 21st century belongs to India, and to keep pace with the drastic digital-age transformation globally, and to achieve its ambitious growth objectives, the country’s policy ecosystem needs to be further overhauled while addressing the institutional failures, inequalities and setbacks over the next 25 years. It is imperative that policymakers change their perspective from considering innovation and technology an outcome to considering it a tool to achieve their objectives.