Challenges preventing India to become a great power-I

By Madhav Grover

The Introduction 

The Republic of India as a state gained independence from colonial Britain rule in 1947. It was one of the many decolonized nations as European powers left Asia and Africa after the 2nd world war. The British colony of India was originally divided into two parts forming the independent nations of India and Pakistan. India became a secular and democratic state with a federal structure giving states within India somewhat regional autonomy within the parameters of the Indian constitution. India fought various wars with its neighbors Pakistan and China over the years creating regional tensions. India was also a founding member of the non-alignment movement and championed the rights of third world countries and also propagates for better Asia-Africa relations. During the cold war, India later started inclining itself with the USSR to counter the US-Pakistan alliance. India also largely followed a socialist economic framework until it started to open up the economy post-1991 in its liberalisation-privatisation-globalisation policy. The Indian economy grew tenfold rapidly post this reform and is currently the 5th largest economy in the world at $2.5 trillion and is expected to be the third-largest economy by 2030. India is also a nuclear power with possessing the second largest standing army and the fourth most powerful military in the world. India has the second-largest population in the world at 1.35 billion people (2018) projected to grow to about 1.44 billion by 2024 becoming the largest. For the first few decades after independence, India’s grand strategy rested on four pillars which included unity and territorial integrity, regional primacy, economic self-reliance, and non-alignment. This strategy has evolved over time as domestic and international conditions have changed. Economic self-reliance was discarded for global integration, and non-alignment morphed into the more flexible doctrine of strategic autonomy, with a pronounced tilt toward the United States. However, both of these pillars are likely to come under pressure in the coming future. But unity and territorial integrity and regional primacy will persist as key elements of the strategy.   

There are still various key challenges which can prevent India from becoming a great power. The paper will be looking upon various Geo-political, economic and domestic issues which can hamper India’s growth in the coming future. I will also be discussing how India can improve upon these issues and work upon various aspects of foreign and domestic policy.

Geo-Political Challenges 

India is hostile to its neighboring countries of China and Pakistan. China has grown considerably to become one of the most powerful nations in Asia and the world. India is striving for regional primacy but is failing for its ambition to counter China. The nation has a strong cultural significance in the south Asian region but is lacking the economic investment China is making. The Chinese investments in the country are making countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, etc. less inclined towards India. The one-belt road initiative is also a project which India has seen with the lens of the debt trap diplomacy and string of pearls initiative. There were attempts of improving relations with initiatives such as the Shangri-La dialogue and it also joined the shanghai cooperation organization in 2017. India is still hostile towards OROB whereas all other nations in the region are already benefiting from it. When we look at relations with Pakistan there were attempts of easing friendships with various visits by leaders to both nations but the relations are getting worse as due to various reasons. The biggest reason being terrorist activity in India having Pakistani links especially creating tensions in the disputed region of Kashmir. The sore relations between the two nations has its toll on SAARC as it is becoming a dead organisation and the member states are swaying away to china for economic cooperation. It’s tricky to seek and accept membership in the Chinese led SCO but block full Chinese membership in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. India has to fully evaluate the rise of china as containing it is almost impossible and balancing it is particularly difficult.  India also has the challenge to revive SAARC and create sound economic cooperation with its neighbors. India largely focused also on the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), an organization consisting of a mixture of SAARC and ASEAN member states, meant to promote economic cooperation and trade, which turned into a forum for talk rather than action. This is due to India not being able to fulfill its prior commitments like the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral road connectivity project. 

India also has to increase its economic relations with ASEAN in the recent past but it is still below potential. Therefore, it has a task to increase relations with both members of ASEAN and the regional organisation as a whole. India has been increasing its investment with the initiative but still, it is not a significant contribution and potentially can get more investment. India has also in recent years increased its cooperation with the United States due to reasons which are strategic, economic, etc. India had always remained an arm’s length from maintaining relations in the past. The Indo-Pacific region is very important for both the nations to counter the growing dominance of China in the region. India also has to find a power balance between Russia and the US which would be beneficial for the nation as Russia grows closer to China. India also seeks to benefit from the US-China trade war but it would have to rapidly grow and diversify its production capabilities for that purpose. India still lacks a clear formulation of a long-term policy on Pakistan, China, and the USA which is key to overcoming these challenges. 

Madhav Grover is a 2nd-year student at Jindal School of International Affairs. 


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