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A change in the global world order?

Due to inherent economic potential and geo-political advantages, we are on the way to having more soft power, writes Mrinal Pradhan
Last Updated : 14 August 2022, 19:15 IST
Last Updated : 14 August 2022, 19:15 IST

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Despite ghastly predictions when it gained independence, the Republic of India has survived, and in one piece, unlike many other post-colonial democracies. We’ve managed to hold onto the basic democratic structure of free and fair elections, and our voters are intricately aware that no leader can survive without their support. Economically, we have done well overall and are now a rising global power with the world’s fifth-largest economy.

To the question, ‘Where will India be in 25 years?’, the reply will depend on who we are asking. Those in top positions of big business and banking declare that we are en route to great success and that this will be an ‘Indian century’. Those who are part of and support the current government declare emphatically that even doubting this amounts to anti-national activity. Even still, if we ask marginalised groups such as Dalits, tribals, migrant workers and the poor, it is astounding to hear the challenges they still face. And if we ask the middle classes, whose life has changed the most, we will be told to stop indulging in self-doubt and celebrate our accomplishments.

Politically, we are heading toward the centralisation of power. Our top institutions have all been, slowly and steadily, compromised in favour of incumbent governments. The Centre has progressively become more powerful and arbitrary, especially over the last decade.

By 2047, perhaps the global world order may itself have changed in favour of a more centralised and authoritarian China-like model of governance. Even in India, where authoritarianism is rising under the cover of nationalism, governmental culture and structure may become similar to that of the erstwhile USSR, albeit with an open economy.

The world economy has been badly shaken by Covid-19, and life for most Indians, who have had to suffer the added ‘side-effects’ of demonetisation, GST, and the migrant labour crisis, has been challenging. Although leaders of Indian business are projecting tremendous economic progress by 2047, the transfer of macroeconomic gains in India is far from ideal. That is why despite ranking 5th in global GDP, we are still ranked beyond 140th in GDP per capita.

Besides a huge population, we have significant disparities in development status and productivity between different states. The IT sector employs 0.8% of labour but contributes 8% to GDP. These and other such disparities indicate a poor HDI ranking, where we were at the 131st position in 2020. Even though health and education are not exorbitantly priced, lousy management and laxity by the administrative machinery have made it such that the poor and marginalised do not reap the benefits of economic development as the wealthier do. Unless we take drastic measures to overhaul the foundational systems that promote equity and a decent living standard for all, we will not truly emerge as a global economic leader by 2047.

Sociologically, caste hinders our ability to interact, mate and work freely. This is a potential problem even for the Hindutva movement, whose goal is to unite all Hindus under one banner, when, in fact, Hindu society is deeply divided by caste. Exposure from a young age to cultures and nations where such differences do not exist, which is occurring through the Internet, might help India grow into a more cohesive society by 2047 and maybe even arrest communalism.

Due to inherent economic potential and geo-political advantages, we are on the way to having more soft power, like today’s Japan and South Korea, and the growing Indian diaspora contributes to this. India’s cultural output has always been high, and even if the content of artistic endeavour turns bleak, communal or violent, the magnitude of art will only increase by 2047, making us culturally more influential globally.

While celebrating our achievements and boasting to the world, we must also analyse and accept our failures. PM Narendra Modi says we should take pride in our green development goals, but we still have some of the most polluted cities on the planet. Only by acknowledging our paradoxes and difficulties along with our progress can we collectively make India a great nation.

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Published 14 August 2022, 19:00 IST

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