Will India become a Superpower?

Ramachandra Guha writes on this issue. Unlike the typical reports which just have an economic perspective, this one is a much more comprehensive review covering many areas. I was tempted to call it balanced but not sure having read very little on these areas.

Basically Guha points to seven reasons why India is unlikely to be a superpower:

  • The challenge of the Naxalites;
  • the insidious presence of the Hindutvawadis;
  • the degradation of the once liberal and upright Centre;
  • the increasing gapbetween the rich and the poor;
  • the trivialisation of the media;
  • the unsustainability, in an environmental sense, of present patterns of resource consumption;
  • the instability and policy incoherence caused by multi-party coalition governments

Apart from these reasons, he thinks India should not attempt to become a superpower:

These are seven reasons why India will not become a superpower. To this, so-to-speak objective judgment of the historian, I will now add the subjective desires of a citizen – which is that India should not even attempt to become a superpower.

In my view, International Relations cannot be made analogous to a competitive examination. The question is not who comes fi rst or second or third, whether judged in terms of Gross National Product, number of billionaires in the Forbes or Fortune lists, number of Olympic gold medals won, size of largest aircraft carrier operated, or power of most deadly nuclear weapon owned.

We should judge ourselves not against the achievements, real or imagined, of other countries, but in the light of our own norms and ideals. The jurist Nani Palkhivala once remarked that ‘India is a third class democracy with a fi rst-class Constitution’. Both parts of the equation remain as he stated them. In conception we are a unique nation, unique for refusing to reduce Indian-ness to a single language, religion, or ideology, unique in affi rming and celebrating the staggering diversity found within our borders (and beyond them). The Constitution defi ed the Laws of Manu by giving women equal rights with men. It violated thousands of years of social practice by abolishing Untouchability. It refused, despite the provocations of bigots of both religions, to make India into a ‘Hindu Pakistan’. And it challenged the evidence and logic of history by giving even unlettered adults the power to choose those who would represent them in legislatures and in Parliament.

That is the ideal, still fi rst class; and then there is the practice, mostly third-class. The equality of women and low castes is denied in homes and villages across the land. There are chauvinists who privilege one language, setting upon those Indians who choose to speak another. There are religious fundamentalists who likewise harass and persecute those whose Gods are different from theirs. There are allegedly ‘democratic’ politicians who abuse their oath of offi ce and work only to enrich themselves; as well as self-described ‘revolutionaries’  who seek to settle arguments by the point of the gun.

Another of those amazing write-ups from Prof. Guha. It gives you a different perspective and many lenses to evaluate the India story.

The intro is real good:

Few Indians now alive know how uncertain our future looked in the summer of 1948. The question then being asked everywhere was ‘Will India Survive?’. Now, sixty-four years down the road, that fearful query has been replaced by a far more hopeful one, namely, ‘Will India Become a Superpower?’. 

This new, anticipatory, expectant question has been prompted by the extraordinary resilience, in the long term, of India’s democratic institutions. When the fi rst General Elections were held, in 1952, they were dubbed the ‘Biggest Gamble in History’. Never before had universal adult franchise been tried in a poor, divided, and largely illiterate society. Evidently, it is a gamble that has worked. The country has successfully held fi fteen General Elections to the national Parliament, as well as countless polls to different state assemblies. Rates of voter participation are often higher than in Western democracies.

And after what happened in Florida in 2000, we can add that the conduct of polls is at least as fair. Back in 1948, doubts were also being cast about the Indian experiment with nationhood. Never before had a new nation not based its unity on a single language, religion, or common enemy. As an inclusive, plural, and non-adversarial model of nationalism, the idea of India had no precedent or imitator.

Very good reading….

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