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Why Australia’s Lowy Institute says India is Asia’s 4th biggest power but still an ‘underachiever’

The index ranks 26 countries and is based on 8 broad parameters. It includes Russia, Australia, New Zealand and the US for the influence they wield over the continent.

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New Delhi: India may have overtaken China in terms of population this year, but that’s no measure of how powerful a country is — as the Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index Report has highlighted.

According to the 2023 edition of the report released on 6 February, India stands as the fourth-biggest power in Asia. However, there’s an ocean of difference between New Delhi and second-ranked Beijing in terms of the power each exerts on the continent.

“This analysis reveals India to be an under-achiever, performing less well than would be expected based on its size and available resources,” the report reads.

The Sydney-based research institute’s Asia Power Index, launched in 2018, measures the resource-based influence a country has in the continent. The index ranks 26 countries and is based on eight broad parameters measuring 133 indicators. The scores on these indicators are based on averaged data from five years up to 2022.

It also includes Russia and the countries of Oceania — Australia and New Zealand. The United States is also part of the index — and ranked number one — due to the influence it  wields on the continent.

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India ‘no super power’

India’s score for this year was 36.3 out of 100, which is close to third-ranker Japan’s 37.2 but barely more than half of China’s score — 72.5. With a score of 80.7, the United States is still the most powerful country influencing Asia. A country is considered a super power if it scores above 70 points in this index. Those with a score equal to or above 10 are considered ‘middle powers’.

Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

The report also referes to a growing gulf between India’s resources and its influence in Asia, measured in terms of the ‘power gap’. This is a country’s “actual power as compared to its potential given its available resources”.

According to the report, “Despite a small uptick in 2022, India’s power gap has on balance deteriorated over five years, and now stands at -2.8 points.”

Much of India’s low score could be attributed to India’s economic relationships in the continent, the report suggests.

“India performs best in the Future Resources measure, placing third behind only the United States and China. By contrast, India’s lowest ranked measure is Economic Relationships, a result of the country sitting outside the regional economic integration agenda”, the report said.

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Where India falls behind

‘Economic relationships’ is the category where India scored lowest, with 15.4 out of a possible 100. Under this category, India is placed at 9th position in the Asia Power Index.

This particular score was based on three sub indicators (each with a possible score of 100) — Regional Trade Relations, Regional Investment Ties and Economic Diplomacy, where India scored 13.2, 12 and 18.1 respectively.

Despite a relatively higher score in Economic Diplomacy, India was placed at the 17th rank, largely because of a lack of foreign trade agreements it had.

According to the report, in terms of global and regional Foreign Trade Agreements, India is placed at 16th position — lower than even smaller countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam or the Philippines.

“India’s economic ties with the region, reflected in its absence from regional trade agreements and its displacement by the United States and China as a top investor and trade partner for several South Asian neighbours in recent years, hamper its influence. India ranks just ninth for Economic Relationships in Asia and has gone backwards in this measure every year since 2018,” the report read.

Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur| ThePrint

“Its choice in 2022 to absent itself from the trade pillar of the US Indo-Pacific Economic Framework will only cement this position,” it added.

In September last year, India had opted out of the trade pillar of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework citing “concerns of likely discrimination against developing economies”.

This is in contrast with the fact that India scores high in Diplomatic Influence, which is measured by Diplomatic Network, Foreign Policy and Multilateral Network (summits, UN capital contributions, the multilateral dialogues a country hosts etc). In this category, India received a score of 65.8 (and 4th rank), which is very close to the benchmark superpower score.

“The gap between India’s resources and its influence in Asia is growing. Since 2018, the Asia Power Index has measured each country’s “Power Gap” — a country’s actual power as compared to its potential given its available resources”, the report read.

It adds, “Despite a small uptick in 2022, India’s Power Gap has on balance deteriorated over five years, and now stands at -2.8 points.”

The Asia Power Index also gives a ‘Major Power’ category to countries scoring at least 40 points. In 2018, India ranked fourth but with a score of 41.1. It lost the title in 2020 when it scored 39.7, followed by further deterioration in its score to 37.7 in 2021.

(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)

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