a view on why india cannot be a superpower anytime soon- open magazine

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by bengalraider, Feb 10, 2010.

  1. bengalraider

    bengalraider DFI Technocrat Stars and Ambassadors

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    India’s Superpower Delusions
    Some dreams can be dangerous. Especially ones that are not drawn from any sort of reality. Like India’s fixation with being a grand player on the world stage.​


    BY Ninad D. Sheth

    For a man to be superman, he must first overcome himself —Nietzsche

    There is a thin line between the audacity of hope and grasp of reality. India’s middle-class, with its fond dream of India as a Superpower, is like a trapeze artist walking that very thin line. Despair too much, and your case is hopeless. Daydream too much, and you topple into a delusionary void.

    Over the past decade or so, it’s the latter which has been the bigger danger. India the Infotech Iron-pumper. India the Nuclear Non-aggressor. India the Space Scorcher. India the Cricket Conqueror. India the Massive Market. India the Enormous Economy. India the Growth Giant… you get the drift. With a flying cape and coloured briefs, it’s an India ready to make the world spin the other way round on its axis. At the top level, the dream was articulated by an optimist-in-residence at the Rashtrapati Bhavan itself, former President APJ Abdul Kalam. With his technocratic training straight from the rah-rah realm of rocket science, he went forth and set a deadline: 2020. And then got little children all across the land waving little tricolours to pledge their support.

    The Millennium Goal to beat all millennium goals! The future that was promised! The glory that was destined! Each success has brought another bout of delirium, India’s lunar mission being a fine example. There’s ice on the moon, Jai Hind!

    So many have grown so fixated on the target, that should we miss our date with Superpowerhood, we might need group psychotherapy for decades to come. But delusions of grandeur, some think, are best cured by grander delusions of grandeur. So, with some digital jugglery—Infotech Imperialism has its privileges—the deadline has been reset to 2012. As if the poor hungry child in drought-ridden Bundelkhand just has to wait for the clock to tick past the midnight of 31 December 2011, and he’ll be reborn in the land of milk and honey.

    THE WILL TO POWER
    That a sizzling economy can fuel hysteria has been a new learning. In a way, this is understandable. For a generation of Indians who remember the humiliation of PL-480 food aid from America, a five-year wait list for a scooter, a phone as a symbol of authority, and a working phone as a sign of cosmic rarity, the emergence into this bright new world of choice and plentitude is cause enough for exhilaration. And with $280 billion in the treasure chest and a nuclear bomb in the basement, nobody dare take it away.

    The ‘Hindu rate of growth’ of 3 per cent has been replaced by a robust 8 per cent. There is ‘feel good’ in the air, and it is making us heady. “There is a feeling that the next generation will be better than the previous one,” says Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of Centre for Policy Research, a think-tank, “In itself, the fantasy is not a bad thing, but to believe that you have arrived can be dangerous. India has a very vast underclass and this just cannot be wished away.”

    One aspect of the fantasy is the belief that India has finally secured a seat at the high table of global power. After all, the G-8 has become the G-20, coordinating stimulus packages to save the world. As for wielding a veto over world affairs, don’t forget India has achieved parity with the Big Five, having found a cosy place in the Nuclear Club at long last, even if the official membership card is still in the mail.

    With heft such as this, it is puzzling to have Bangladesh defy India in letting terror camps run amok. Or ragtag pirates thumbing their nose at Indian flag carriers on the high seas. Or even Indians opting for foreign citizenship at the slightest chance. As any international traveller will tell you, all passports are not created with equal prestige. Perhaps it is no surprise that non-resident Indians have played a big role in formulating the fantasy. Oblivious to starvation deaths in Madhya Pradesh but delighted to find Laxmi Mittal as Britain’s richest man, unaware of the scarcity of potable water in Uttar Pradesh but at their loudest holding wine glasses the size of watermelons, they have become India’s cheerleaders. India’s moment, they exult, has come. If only.

    “Nation building is a hard grind,” says Lord Bhikhu Parekh, political scientist, “Rhetoric, on the other hand, is easy. The Superpower Fantasy thus is an escape from reality. In the Nehruvian era, elections were won on the premise that ‘we cannot offer you a great today but hard work will assure that your tomorrow is better’. This has been replaced by the rhetoric of ‘India Shining’.”

    This is not the first time that India’s elite has been in a euphoric mood. In 1947, Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ had everyone agog. It was supposed to turn this ancient civilisation into a beacon of enlightenment for the world. The 1962 humiliation by China was a cold shower, and a bitterly sobering one at that. In 1971, it resurfaced. India famously won its first war in a thousand years and split Pakistan. Internally, Indira Gandhi’s ‘Garibi Hatao’ was the great new adrenalin shot. It ended in a nightmare called the Emergency. Today’s delusion has its origin in the BJP’s atomic muscle flexing at Pokhran. From ‘desert vibrating’, the country was taken in five years to ‘India Shining’—a slogan that lost an election but gave the middle-class an ego kick. Resplendence, it would seem, is like transcendence. Fold your legs, chant the mantra, and you’re there.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2010
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  3. bengalraider

    bengalraider DFI Technocrat Stars and Ambassadors

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    GET REAL ON THE VISION THING
    So, can India realistically hope to be a superpower by 2020 or even 2050? This is not a prefix one can buy with $280 billion in hard currency or wrest with a bomb. If power is the ability to exert one’s will, a superpower is understood as having the ability to exert itself globally, or at least beyond one’s territorial borders. In world history, expansive empires have done this, from the Persian, Greek, Roman and Mongol expanses to the latter-day Chinese, Russian and British empires. From the mid-20th century onwards, America has been the Big Superpower.

    Only, the information revolution of the modern era has been making it harder and harder to exert power without the consent of those affected, most pertinently that of people within one’s own borders. In other words, there is no question of achieving or sustaining real power—super or not—if the basic aspirations of your own citizens go unfulfilled.

    After decades of adhering to Mao’s four-word ‘keep a low profile’ dictum, China has just begun to assert itself globally. America is America, of course, still in charge. So, where does that leave India?

    For one, with an urgent need to align vision with realism. To be sure, given the grim scenario in South Asia, India has the makings of a regional power. Missiles and money count, but one neighbour neutralises the warheads and the other has more moolah. This limits India’s influence in its immediate littoral, the big reason why the ‘super’ prefix eludes the country. Can India overcome Pakistan, at the very least, as a critical constraint?

    In 2009, India was the world’s second largest arms importer. But it’s still an importer. Frontline tanks, fighter jets and warships, they’re all foreign made. This means dependency. China, in contrast, is now among the world’s five top arms exporters. India’s own defence development efforts since 1947, barring the odd missile, so far have been a scandalous waste. This tardiness retards the country’s power projection capability in hard military terms.

    Then, there is the question of economic emergence. At last count, this country of 1.14 billon people had the world’s largest number of malnourished children. India also has more people who can’t write their name, more malaria deaths and more jobless youth than any other country. To most statisticians at human development organisations, the very aspiration of superpowerdom is a crude joke.

    Gung-ho Indians, meanwhile, are counting on the ‘demographic dividend’. By this conventional wisdom, India will still be youthfully energetic while the developed world ages into its drone years. This view ignores the fact that a majority of India’s young are illiterate and underfed, and unfit to do anything except the most ill-paid of jobs. The dividend could well turn out to be a disaster.

    The third superpower paradigm involves the State and its institutions. While Indian democracy is often hailed highly for its ‘soft power’ appeal worldwide, it masks a bad case of dysfunctional politics, a reality that strikes the elite only in occasional spasms. Instead of delivery of results, electoral politics is all about retention of power and dispensing of patronage. Unlike the revitalised US democracy, India’s capacity for self-renewal seems much too weak for the country’s good.

    Worse, the resolve to attain the grand goal India has set for itself is in sparse evidence. Internally, the Superpower Project is hollow. Take a look around. The fissures of petty politics block attempts to win elections on national issues. Nor can these become priorities of governance. Superpowers, on the other hand, have always upheld issues that are vital to them in a broad sense.

    So why does this fancy persist? Says Shiv Vishwanathan, a sociologist, “There is a fantastic urge within the middle-class for upward mobility. For status. This is fuelled equally by the expatriate Indian cousins when they visit or hold ‘India’ days. It is a dangerous fantasy because it is taken as manifest destiny. Bear in mind that a lot can still go wrong in the India story. If the middle-class insulates itself in the superpower ivory tower, it will invite reactions.”

    There are sniggers in the dark, scowls in the aisles. Read The White Tiger. Or watch Slumdog Millionaire. Though aimed at Western audiences, they are reminders of the mockery that comes the way of India’s middle-class consensus on Superpowerhood. And indeed, there is much that should make the country squirm. There is nothing ‘super’ in having to declare a quarter of the country’s districts tormented by Naxal violence. There are people out in the jungles who are taking up guns to overthrow the State, an entity they see as increasingly hostage to the mollycoddled middle-class and its fancies.

    MATTER OF SELF BELIEF
    So, can no good come of hallucination? It could depend on how the energies are channelled. In Meiji Japan, or Imperial Britain, the State took national ambition to new heights. “Some good does come out of the fantasy,” says Gurcharan Das, “It gives a sense of self-belief. But it is critical to direct this positive energy, for otherwise it can lead to a dangerous disconnect of the elite from the concerns of a transforming country.” India must wake up.

    http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/india-s-superpower-delusions
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2010
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  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Ok Nice reality check or rather i say self flagration by writer.thats one side of the coin.other side is writer answers himself but then he doesnt realise in selfflagration. author says seeing dream is like running away from reality.that means dear indians you font have right to see dream.but then he forgets only those who see dream tend to realise it.Thats why APJ always said dream dream and dream.In1947 nehru saw a dream to make india realise its past glory.Writer himself gives example that nehru 's election slogan was ‘we cannot offer you a great today but hard work will assure that your tomorrow is better’.and yes compared to 1947 the indians life is far better coz of the dream of industrialization of nehru.thats y we r seeing the those dreams bearing fruits in terms of ISRO and other sector.or it was the dream to remove the humiliation of PL-480 when shastri gave 'jai jawan and jai kissan' slogan and indira took it forward in form of green revolution and white revolution there by bringing billions of indians out of hunger.PV narashimha rao and manmohan shingh combo did wonders in economy. thats where we see today india is with its$280 billion.

    and regarding 1000 years india not winning wars author has to 1st himself re-read history and define the concept of india for the past 1000 yrs.was is the only hindu inda ?was it the india of all religion author is blaming.even if we look separately for different periods marathas conquests,mughal conquests,ranjeet singhs conquests of kabul can give 1000s of example.and even if author thinks only 1971 was the conquest then what was 1947-48 in kashmir,wat was 1965 wat was kargil were they all loses.i dont think so.India waving her nuke muscle was necessary by vajpayee as power begets power.sure there were hiccups like 1962 and emergency.but every country has its share of hiccups.

    for Author shining india may be some delusion by just watching slumdog millionair.but author forgets that same slum dahravi's annual business contribution to indian economy engine is $2.3 billion.sure there are people dieing of hunger in MP but then million are uplifted out of poverty too. sure indian neighbours snarls at india but then india do have its moments of sticks too along with carrots.author complains india as being arm importer but china being exporter.but did author care to check what indian millitary equipment india exports to world and to whom?


    bottom line is india shining is not an hallucination as author trying hard to project.India has arrived at world scene and in near future will rightfully claim its glory and place.so people dream........
     
  5. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    Ajtr, good reply.

    At the end of the day, the truth is somewhere between the two POVs. India is neither as worse off or as well off. But the bottom-line is we have a dream as a nation(which we have every right to have), but just seeing the dream is not enough, we will have to work for it.

    A cricketing analogy: India after last 50/50 world cup was down and out, a new team with youngsters was formed and there was dream that one-day India will climb the charts and become number 1. Today, India has become number one test team(lets ignore the latest loss).

    Dreaming is the first step to achieving something...
     
  6. roma

    roma NRI in Europe Senior Member

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    I see it as a fair articles - he's merely saying it's a long stride ahead - not that it cant be done . INdeed he's listed a number of areas were the nation has already achieved eg overcomning that 3% rate of growth and a list of other barriers broken already . He' s actually hinting : lookout world here comes INdia !
     
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  7. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    Top five??

    US- France-Russia-UK-Israel

    No China...
     
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  8. SATISH

    SATISH DFI Technocrat Stars and Ambassadors

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    Well its only the Media that wants India to be a superpower. No politician or an ordinary Indian citizen wants it. All our establishment needs is to defend ourselves, protect our interests, feed the public and alleviate poverty while filling their own pockets. If the dreams of a few media ranters are squashed then the establishment is not responsible.
     
  9. fulcrum

    fulcrum Regular Member

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    The probability of India becoming a super power in future is ZERO! It will end up like Japan, a militarily passive state but a economic power. To become a super power, you need a lot of balls apart from economic might to back that up. India, or rather Indians in general, are only interested in making money, not becoming world leaders while taking huge risks in such an endeavor... and that is not going to change for the next 1000 years atleast.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2010
  10. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Thats wat 1000 years of salavery does to a country.india got physical freedom in 1947 but mentally is its still under slavery.unless india unshackles itself from mental slavery and attain mental freedom india will be like japan.both have power wut they r affraid to exert it.India is at present like the case of hanuman who was unaware of his own unlimited powers then it needed jamvant to make him realise his own powers.india needs its own jamvant to make it realise its power
     
  11. fulcrum

    fulcrum Regular Member

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    ^Yup, and that is not going to change anytime soon.

    Not true. Several politicians used that term. There are even a few popular figures like kalam who said that. Even a few of my friends think the same. They think only having money and development means "super power". Totally clueless people.
     
  12. bengalraider

    bengalraider DFI Technocrat Stars and Ambassadors

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    The truth however hard to swallow is we are not ready to be a superpower yet

    We still do not have a viable military industrial complex
    We still have little influence in our own neighborhood(leave out Bhutan)
    We still do not have a coherent national geopolitical strategy(at least none that's inherently visible)
    We have not suppressed our internal militancies completely yet
    We still are not financially, politically and militarily capable and secure enough to take the mantle of policeman for the entire region

    In the spiderman story Peter parker learns that "with great power comes great responsibility" the question is are we ready to assume that responsibility yet?
     
  13. Payeng

    Payeng Daku Mongol Singh

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    North Korea or DPRK is one of the highest militarised zone in the world, it is also assumed that it will be one in the top states list in military power, above many developed nations,

    but that alone donot describe a defination of super power,
    India have the potential to be a future super power, but India need to look afetr a lots of areas other then being a military giant, like infrastructure, economy, public health and socail upliftment and no doubt thier is already a lots of changes, compared to 50 years ago.

    Its like do your job well and sucess will kiss you feet.
    My take:
    we need better political and administrative system in the nation supported by consciuos class of people from the society, better leaders and a more transparent administration and political machinary, opportunity for all (regardless of political backing :p) and ofcourse quality education for the new generation to become a better citizen of the future. Citizens of the nation are the wealth of the state, we should never forget.

    If we can bring this upliftment in the society we will see a better India...just forget being a superpower in terms of military myths and think of a better life.... a better tomorrow ;)
     
  14. anoop_mig25

    anoop_mig25 Senior Member Senior Member

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    SORRY MATE I DONT AGREE WITH UR VIEWPOINT HERE . WITH ECONOMIC POWER COMES MILITRARY POWER .PLZ rember that americe became power not because of its military but because of economic and same goes for USSR which lost is power status because it wasnt economically strong and for japan they had pact with usa plus their governemnt was pre-occupied with nation building post wwr2
     
  15. NSG_Blackcats

    NSG_Blackcats Member of The Month OCTOBER 2009 Senior Member

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    I have a question. Is military Industrial Complex is the only parameter to become a superpower??

    I do not like my country to be an irresponsible super power like the United States. Remember this is the only super power that had used Atom bomb which killed thousands of people.

    I would like the standard of living of the people of India and per capita income grow. More employment, innovation in agriculture for food security must be one of our priorities.
    We must invest more in renewable energy. More reforms in our laws like introducing the RTI Act (Right to information) needed.

    If we give importance to the basic issue than we will do great as a country. So I do not care whether we become a super power or not.
     
  16. thakur_ritesh

    thakur_ritesh Administrator Administrator

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    Just trying to answer the question you raised for i thought it was an extremely important question raised.

    The romance with military as the only tool of being a super power is as absurd an argument as it can get, we have seen the worst of the examples in the former ussr and keep seeing a failed attempt by the name of Pakistan every now and then which is only able to sustain it self because of certain vested interests that keep it alive and kicking or they would have also ended up much like the way ussr did.

    The way it has to be is only and only through economic power, you cant have millions go hungry for days together, malnutrition populace, high unemployment rate, abject poverty, big syndicate of beggars in all our metros, and much more and still be able to call your self a super power and in here no matter how much people around might be critical of the prc but some important lessons have to be learnt from them right from cooperative system introduced in agriculture to having large scale labour intensive manufacturing sector targeting the export market at a large scale and we have shown we can do it quite successfully with the exports having grown at over 20% yoy for quite some time.

    The priority areas has to be economy which not only strengthens you internally but also helps in creating goodwill amongst other countries since they and their needs directly stand to benefit and even if there is an enemy state and trade is made a part of some kind of a relationship with them even they get obliged to address to your concerns at some time in future, and leave aside all the animosity, and move ahead together.

    Followed by economy, diplomacy comes in second, which is a tool of converting gains had through fledging economy in extracting leverage and molding other countries opinions in our favour. It is a very simple fact, you gain clout through diplomacy, and as is famously said the best of wars are won and lost on negotiation tables through diplomacy so you got to have you best people in here, and not else where.

    Pushing your agenda around is helped by intelligence agencies which help in getting unknown information which can at some later stage be used to our advantage. They help in building assets in other countries (both friendly and adversaries) which work as tool to our advantage either at regular intervals or at some critical point.

    After the above three I place the military might of a country because it is not always and every day a military goes to a war until and unless you are located in some corner in Africa. Offence is the best defence and this is where the military is critical to the safety of a nation. If you are armed well, others think infinite times before attacking, and is another tool of power projection in far off places from ones country, and if properly built earns you respect since most of the world still values military over the rest for the fascination they have with the power projected through guns.
     
  17. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    The answer to NSG's question is that Military, Economy and Culture go hand in hand. One without the other is meaningless and even dangerous. One also fascilitates the other and protects the other. A real super power is a country which has a considerable military power, economic might and cultural domination over the most part of the world. This is what we must aim for. Developing military complex is an extremely important step which cannot be disregarded. But it must not come at the price of giving up social responsibilites. A proper balance must be sought and implemented. Lastly, the soft power symbolised by our culture is also important and cannot be underestimated.
     
  18. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Indian subcontinent's unique geographic location in the Indian ocean (which connects both pacific and atlantic ocean )in the south and china in north-east,russsia in the north-west,europe in the west and its near location to worlds 2 main known oil reserves middle east and central asia makes it a very covet prize to beg by super-powers.the reason india wont be a superpower but a vassal of the west is hidden in its pried geopolitical location.And in 21st century india is heading towards being vassal sate.

    India And Geopolitics

    This is where pakistan is being propped up ba west/china.And thats the reality thats gonna bite india in future.

    In the last pouring cold water on indian dreams :its not india but pakistan thats gonna be islamic superpower/UNSC permanent member.etc etc.coz thats how its being prooped up since 1947.
     
  19. NSG_Blackcats

    NSG_Blackcats Member of The Month OCTOBER 2009 Senior Member

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    @Ritesh, Great post mate. I completely agree with you.
     
  20. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Indian needs three things to survive the eventual onslaught from its western and eastern neighbors.
    1. Strong Military
    2. Strong Leadership
    3 Strong Economy

    one without other two make country capitulate.today india has strong military and strong economy but spineless/clueless/inexperienced leadership.there has to be balance between all the three
     
  21. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    Leadership is produced from our society. Thus, society and culture are still evolving after the recent(less than 100yrs) achievement of Independence from a long(about 1000yrs) of foreign rule.
     

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