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India could emerge as the global power the world has been waiting for after Covid

India needs strong leadership & decisive action to strengthen its economy and military power. Platitudes and appeals to nationalism are not enough.

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The crisis unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic will almost definitely create a new global order, and India could emerge stronger. But for that, Indians will have to shed the complacency that comes from believing that the nation’s long history makes its rise inevitable.

If India wants to be seen as a serious global actor, and not just an important one because of its large population, the Narendra Modi government needs to do what major powers do.

This includes, among other things, investing in a modern military, bolstering the economy, boosting partnerships with allied democracies, and strengthening India’s democratic institutions. India requires strong leadership and decisive action, not just platitudes and appeals to populism and nationalism.

The global community has been waiting for the last two decades for India to play a bigger role in Asia and beyond.

Also read: India at G7: Trump’s invite to Modi a start but membership a long way away 


India’s global potential

For the rest of the world, India’s promise is huge: its historical civilisation, geo-strategic location, huge labour force of 500 million people, the fourth largest military in the world, and a formidable consumer market. But Indian politicians have hesitated in matching their rhetoric about the country being a leading power with building hard power.

It is almost as if India wants to be a great power because it is entitled to be one, without doing the heavy lifting like other major powers.

Systematic development of accoutrements of global power, in terms of economic strength, military power, ability to affect global decisions and recognition by peers, has thus far not proved to be India’s strong suit. If India grows economically at 8-10 per cent, it is seen as a large consumer market for global companies. It would also have more resources to invest in military modernisation, and make India a desirable partner for countries such as Australia, Japan, the United States, and nations of the European Union.

But today’s India, which is growing economically only at 3-4 per cent, is protectionist, inward-looking, and does not have the resources to invest in defence — all of which make it an undesirable partner.

Also read: India, Australia sign defence pact, upgrade ties to ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’


Economy matters

Just as economic growth attracts allies, it also deters rivals. It is not a coincidence that India-China relationship has had a strong trade component from 1990 onwards, when the Indian economy was liberalised and Chinese companies began to seek entry into the Indian market.

The higher India’s economic growth and investment in military and the deeper its bonds with countries like the United States and Japan are, the more Beijing is likely to woo India.

The lower India’s economic growth and the weaker its military capabilities are, the more Beijing will provoke New Delhi, as is happening right now.

Twice in the last three years, China has forced a confrontation with India on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with the intention of changing the ground realities.

For now, India needs to stand its ground, and push back along the border at points where China is on the back foot.

In the long-run, New Delhi needs to focus on economic growth and gathering resources to boost its border infrastructure.

India also needs to bolster its maritime capabilities in the Indian Ocean region, to send a strong message to China.

Hit by slow growth

India’s progress on the economic front has been problematic. Economic growth has slowed down from 8.5 per cent in 2010-11 to around 4.5 per cent before Covid-19 hit in February 2020.

The economic slowdown started in 2016, long before the Covid-19 pandemic, with the double shock of demonetisation and implementation of a nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST).

This hit large sectors of the economy, leading companies to scale back investments, lay off workers, and adopt a wait-and-watch approach.

Most analysts believe that Covid-19 will lead to further decline in India’s GDP growth, down to 1.5 per cent in 2020-21, while some are even anticipating a negative growth.

The Modi government’s response to the widespread economic distress has been sporadic and insufficient to ensure long-term recovery.

Long road ahead

There are many, both in the Modi government and outside of it, who argue that India will bounce back once the government eases the drastic lockdown it imposed as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many economists and international agencies, however, disagree. All three international credit rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and Fitch, recently downgraded India to the lowest investment grade.

Furthermore, these agencies echo what many economists have been arguing for some years now, that ever since the 2016 economic slowdown, the Modi government has not implemented economic reforms. They argue that there has been sustained low economic growth, rising stress on India’s financial sector, and “significant deterioration in the fiscal position of governments”.

To appeal to neighbours, counter rivals, and bolster alliances, India needs to be economically strong with a rising GDP and a skilled labour force, while welcoming foreign investment and less government regulations.

The author is Research Fellow and Director, India Initiative at the Washington-DC based Hudson Institute. Her books include ‘Escaping India: Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy’ (Routledge, 2011), ‘From Chanakya to Modi: The Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy’ (Harper Collins, 2017) and ‘Making India Great: The Promise of a Reluctant Global Power’ (Harper Collins, 2020). Views are personal.

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  1. Either than investing a huge amount of money in building monuments, the money should be used in improving the economic conditions of farmers and other destitute people of the country if India wants to gain in the first position in the world.

  2. This article is appalling to say the least, what kind of researchers are there today. They are but half baked clowns who are dishing out churlish street shit, very shameful…..

  3. Narendra Modi government needs to do what major powers do. i.e among other things, investing in a modern military, bolstering the economy, boosting partnerships with allied democracies, and strengthening India’s democratic institutions. India requires strong leadership and decisive action, not just platitudes and appeals to populism and nationalism.
    Does the Research Fellow and Director, India Initiative at the Washington-DC based Hudson Institute think that Modi is not aware of the reality?
    Has the Institute faught an election in India to know anything about the appeals to populism and nationalism. Do they understand that for doing whatever the major powers do one needs to get elected with not just votes but trust of the people.

  4. India is a basket case under Modi…. Weak economy, a collapsing banking system and no investment in education and healthcare… India super power… My ass

  5. The way things currently are, whenever someone says India next superpower, I say, color me skeptical.

  6. It is amazing that this article is written by someone who is Research Fellow and Director of a Washington based Institute! And of course, The Print needs such supply of such quality of articles from time to time. Beyond some balanced approach by Shekhar and fact based writing by Snehesh on defense issues, The Print is totally sickular.

  7. Let me say some words on authors assertations— World is waiting for India To emerge…….. First of all it is wrong to say world is waiting for India. In this world NO ONE WAITS A FOR –any other country . why wait for ? Waiting for competitor, waiting for emergence of a country that make your country s achievement look a bit smaller . There is always constant struggle to out-wit other countries. You can see the behavior of even small and tiny countries in India s neighborhood-like Maldives, Nepal ,Sri Lanka behave with India—not to speak of Pakistan and Bangladesh how they try to bring spanner in India s ways.
    Economy matters. But unfortunately this was not known to most of our authors prior to 2014. They have been supporting the non-performing Congress Governments since fifties of the last century which gave the country license –permit quota raj, sub-2-3% GDP growth, coupled with inflation @ 10-15 % . and vast regional, inter-sectoral disparities , unemployment and disguised unemployment, And surprisingly, many of them wish for return of old Family Rule.
    India remained poor and underdeveloped not because Indians have no propensity to grow . Forget about ancient stories of Sone-ki chidia (golden bird ), , At the time of Independence / Transfer of power in 1947, India had a huge Sterling Balance in account with the British Government. India was moderately industrialized country viz a viz other countries. Better than Japan or China or U.S.S.R . even war torn Germany of that time. It was the ideological baggage of leftism of the incumbents of power in New Delhi – Yours darling Congress party-, in the post –independence period that adopted Socialism, public sector hegemony, state control over commanding heights of economy as gospel for growth that failed and with that India failed. It gave to India corruption, stunted growth, poor infrastructure , hyper inflation, wide spread inequalities in Income and wealth. It was sheer economic disaster of early 1990 s that forced then Government to change the tracks and discard Nehruvian Model of economic subjugation of economy and suppression of political will of the people. At last there was some light at the end of dark tunnel of deprivation. India started walking from limping. The road to high growth is not one shot move. With a slow start , it is moving right now at a pace that assures that, irrespective of episodic slowness in growth numbers for some times, the growth trajectory is upwards moving at least for last two decades. As the world comes out of current phase of economic downturn due to covid -19 and other structural problems, India too will be moving ahead at better than others speed and numbers. The Government of the day has vision and capability for growth.

  8. Last lifeline of LIBRANDUS is to stop India becoming a global power. The day it happens, all librandus would commit suicide enmass.

  9. Nice try but this is not happening with the current leadership. Irrespective of ideologies India is a nation of whiners and crybabies that no longer lives by it’s own traditions. A nation of people that lack self belief and confidence in their own cultural heritage is hardly the stuff of which superpowers are made. At the most Indians can endlessly make babies and blindly ape foreign trends.

  10. India needs to return to high economic growth, of the sort seen during UPA I, not because it wishes to become a great power but to give its citizens a dignified life, better education and healthcare, avoid the vast human deprivation seen most recently during the migrants crisis. We need to build our strengths, bide our time, as the Chinese did, not strut across the global stage like a peacock in all its monsoon finery. Apart from the rating agencies, we should also be mindful about what the western media is saying about us.

  11. This author has written a book called, Chanakya and Modi; she could have as well written a book called, Chanakya and Prakash Javdekar. Modi bhaktas need to do course correction if they do not want to seen as completely bereft of judgment. Mr Modi has had 6 totally unhindered years to prove himself, and he has proved beyond doubt that he cannot differentiate between the bold and the reckless decisions. Not only the economy, but judiciary, democracy, Constitutional propriety, everything has deteriorated under his watch since 2014. This columnist is sickeningly naive if she thinks India is on the verge of emerging as a global power. It’s actually on the verge of a total collapse in terms of finances and societal values – – squarely because of the man she desperately wants to compare with legendary Chanakya.

  12. This article is a good example of the primary reason why The Print exists – to criticize, belittle, malign and attempt to harm the Prime Minister’s image, his deeds and achievements.

    These kind of hollow articles have a ‘diminishing rate of return’ – a concept that The Print probably doesn’t understand since it is allied with the Communists, Socialists and Congress.

    To its credit, The Print does provide employment to many otherwise unemployable ‘journalists’; and it also entertains the majority of its readers by posting ridiculous & hilarious articles like this one by Ms. Pande.

  13. The Print – stop your brazen attempts to diminish PM Modi. These silly articles only strengthen the resolve of your readers to vote for Mr. Modi who genuinely represents the aspirations of the majority of Indian citizens.

    The day you and your Khan Market ilk start to support Mr Modi, will be the beginning of the end for the BJP.

    Maybe you should propose this strategy to that fool who is being projected as The Prince in Waiting. Maybe his corrupt Mommy will listen.

  14. And needless to say, the Modi Govt is doing nothing that the author says India needs to do (Thanks for stating the bl00dy obvious in your article Ms Pande.)

    The reader is left to draw the unstated conclusion that Rahul Gandhi (that idiot) and his corrupt anti-India mother are the change that India needs.

    P#ss off Ms. Pande.

    We are tired of your negativity.
    India is being managed by honest & competent people. We need to give PM Modi & his team 20 years to effect changes. After all, the damage done by 70 years of Congress rule cannot be undone in 6 years.

  15. Stop Cheer leading, Stop living in fools paradise. Reality is quite different than your imaginative world you are living in. Author have absolute no idea of ground realities of India.

  16. When the diagnosis itself is wrong, then the prescription is not going to benefit the patient. What India needs is not strong or decisive leadership – we have had 6 years of that and the result is a comatose economy. What India needs is for Indians to get better – Indian education system has to ensure a product which results in a person capable of thinking out novel solution to problems. We need the govt machinery to be empathetic to the plight of Indians – not subject them to lathis and tax raids. We need a health system which listens to experts and needs of ordinary citizens rather than being run by babus from the national and state capitals. We need defense and external affairs to be bipartisan rather than being subjected to partisan politics for cheap electoral gains. We need govt to keep off all religious affairs entirely – only requirement has to be that all children till age 16 must go either to state schools or private schools which teach a curriculum for this world’s needs – not other worldly needs.
    Strong men and decisive leaders have tried and failed to achieve any of the above objectives. We need change.

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