| Oct-Dec 2007 Vol 4 Issue 15
|WILL INDIA BE A SUPERPOWER BY 2020?
by Neha Khanna
MBA-IT 1st Sem, IIIT-Allahabad
The Republic of India is considered as one of the possible emerging superpowers of the world. This potential is attributed due to several indicators, the primary ones being its demographic trends and a rapidly expanding economy
Factors in favor of India as a emerging Superpower
Big - India has the world's second largest population. The government has attempted to control the population so as to avoid overpopulation. Some South Indian states have slowed down their population growth to below 1%.
Youthful - Due to its high birth rate India has a young population compared to most aging nations. It has approximately 60% of its population below the age of 30. In addition, declining fertility is beginning to reduce the youth dependency rate which may produce a demographic dividend. In the coming decades, while some of the powerful nations witness a decrease in workforce, India is expected to have an increase.
Global Diaspora - More than 35 million Indians live across the globe. Under fair opportunities, they have become socio-economically successful.
English - India has the world's largest English speaking/understanding population. Claims one of the largest workforces of engineers, doctors and other key professionals, all comfortable with English. It has the 2nd largest population of "fluent English" speakers, second only to the U.S., with estimates ranging from 150 to 250 million, and is expected to have the largest in coming decades.
Democratic Republicanism - India is the world's largest democratic republic, more than three times bigger than the next largest (U.S.). It has so far been successful, at least politically, especially considering its functionality in difficult ethnic composition. The fact that India is a democracy has improved its relations with other democratic nations and significantly improved its ties with the majority of the nations in the developed world.
Candidate for Security Council - India has been pressing for permanent membership of the Security Council (as part of the G4 nations) but without veto ability. It has received backing from the UK, France and Russia. However, China and the U.S have not been supportive of the bid. With improved Indo-US relations, the US is expected by some to reconsider its stand.
Foreign relations - India has developed relationships with the world powers like the EU, the U.S., Japan and Russia. It also developed relationships with the African Union (esp. South Africa), the Arab World, Southeast Asia, Israel and South American nations (esp. Brazil). In order to make the environment propitious for economic growth, India is investing on its relations with China. It has significantly boosted its image among western nations and signed a civilian nuclear deal with the United States in March 2006. It is also working for better relationships with Pakistan and Iran.
Booming Economy - The economy of India is currently the world's fourth largest in terms of real GDP (PPP) after the USA, the People's Republic of China and Japan, and the second fastest growing major economy in the world, averaging at an annual growth rate of above 8. India’s Economy has experienced a robust growth in the second quarter of the year 2006-07. The Gross Domestic Product in the country increased at an impressive rate of 9.2 percent per annum. The GDP Growth was mainly led by the fast rising industrial production as well as the growth in the services sector. The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act in India has resulted a declining deficits both in the center and state levels. Some deficit indicators are expected to decline by 0.7-09 Percent of GDP for the year 2006-07.
India is becoming one of the world's leading producers of computer software and with mushrooming R&D centers; it is experiencing a steady revolution in science and technology. A typical example of India's rising scientific endeavors is that it was the 3rd nation to found a National Space Agency called ISRO, after the USSR and the U.S. It was the third Asian nation to send satellites into space after China and Japan in 1970, starting with Aryabhata in 1975. By 2008 it plans to send an unmanned mission to the Moon. India is among the world leaders in remote sensing, a technology coming to great use, among others, to Indian fishermen & farmers. India is also trying to join international R&D projects - e.g. it has recently joined the European Galileo GPS Project and the ITER for fusion energy club. Some Indian educational and research institutions like IIT, IIM, IISc, TIFR and AIIMS are among the world's best.
Total Strength - The Indian Armed Forces, India's main defense organization, consists of two main branches: the core Military of India and the Indian Paramilitary Forces. The Military of India maintains the third largest active duty force in the world after the People's Republic of China and the United States while the Indian Paramilitary Forces, over a million strong, is the second largest paramilitary force in the world. Combined, the total armed forces of India are 2,414,700 strong, the world's third largest defense force.
Points against the rise of India as a superpower by 2020
India has had border disputes with both the People's Republic of China and Pakistan. This has led to 3 wars with Pakistan and a war with China. Mapped is the location of the 1999 Kargil Conflict, which is the most recent of India's direct military encounters with the Pakistani military.
Cost of Democratic Republicanism - Democratic republicanism has its value, more so in a multi-ethnic country like India. However, the applicability of the "theoretical" virtues of republicanism on a country like India is sometimes questioned. Some thinkers consider India's diverse democracy to levy a huge tax on its economy.
Lack of international representation - India is not a member of the UNSC, although currently it is one of the four-nation groups actively seeking a permanent seat in the council. Thus India lacks the ability to extend its influence or ideas on international events in the way superpowers do.
Poverty - As of 2005, approximately 22-26% of India's population lived below poverty line. Poverty also begets child labor. Various reforms, including mass employment schemes have been undertaken by the government to tackle this problem, and India has been quite successful in reducing its share of poverty. The number of people living on $1 a day is expected to fall in South Asia from 41.5 per cent in 1990 to 16.4 per cent until 2015.
Official numbers published by the Government of India, showing a reduction of poverty from 36% (1993–94) to 26% (1999 – 00), to 22% (2004 - 05), have been challenged both for allegedly showing too little and too much poverty reduction.
Disorganization - India's continual economic prosperity is also hindered by bad government and ubiquitous red tape (‘Bureaucratic Raj'). Retrogressive government regulations affect many areas. For example, in some states, black outs and power rationing are common due to underinvestment, differing state and local regulations, etc.
Unemployment - Unless India finds a quick way to generate jobs, its population of unemployed youths could be a reason of instability. India's growth in the services sector and Information Technology sector has not been matched by growth in manufacturing which can provide more jobs.
Low Literacy - As per the 2001 India census, India's national literacy is only 65.2 percent. Literacy drive is spreading slowly to other states. India's youth (age 15 to 24) literacy rate was 76.4% between 2000 and 2004. At current rates India will take no less than 20 years for a literacy of 95%.
Social Divide - The problem of India's social divide is often linked to its millennia-old caste system. In an attempt to eliminate the caste system, the Indian government has introduced special quotas for low-caste Indians in educational institutions and jobs. The measure is with the motive of helping lower-caste Indians to pursue higher education and thereby elevate their standard of life. However, the system is often criticized about its effectiveness as so called creamy layer (rich among the lower caste) get non-needed advantage & leave other lower caste groups poor only. There also have been cases of reverse-discrimination and persecution of upper castes by lower castes.