Call Of Duty: India’s Transformation As A Global Power, Platinum Jubilee

Lt Gen (Retd) Philip Campose discusses how India can transform from its status as an emerging power to that of a major global power so that when we celebrate our centenary year in 2047 our people can look back with pride on what we have achieved to be worthy of this status.

On the completion of 75 years of India’s independence, while we celebrate our achievements of having made progress in various spheres and remained secure as a nation, we should also take note of those areas where we appear to have fallen short and those where we can do even better so that we can plan what to do in the next 25 years.

For most of India’s 75 years of history, it was classified as a Developing country and clubbed with poorer nations of the world. However, thanks to our economic transformation, over the last 25 years or so, we are being seen as a nation emerging out of this status – towards becoming a Developed Nation, a potential major power on the global horizon. So what is it that India needs to do to become a major global power – a ‘rule shaper’ instead of being just a ‘rule follower’ on the global stage?

First and foremost, in multifarious ways, we need to promote universal recognition and acceptance that India is a major power of the future multi-polar world order, worthy of a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Globally, India is recognized as an emerging power – a regional power which has the potential to become a major global power. It is also perceived as a ‘swing state’ which can tilt the balance in global power equations – the US and the West on one side, and China-Russia along with some allies on the other.

India’s geostrategic central location dominating the maritime trade routes in the Indian Ocean, its large size, its three and a half trillion dollar worth of economy, its democratic credentials, its youthful demographic profile, its achievements in space, cyber and nuclear technology, its 500 million strong workforce, its 32 million diaspora, its globalised industries like software and pharmaceuticals, and its credible military capabilities provide it with the justification to claim a pre-eminent status globally in the futuristic context. Towards that end, India must utilize all elements of its comprehensive national power – political, diplomatic, economic and military – to project, claim and achieve its rightful place among the comity of nations. Strong and mutually beneficial relationships/ strategic partnerships need to be established with other countries, and regional and international organisations, including the United Nations.

Second, we need to lay down and achieve high economic growth targets. We need to ensure real economic growth rates of 8 to 10 % over the next few decades to actualize estimations that we become the world’s third-largest economy by 2030, and the world’s second-largest economy by 2047. We also need to achieve a per capita GDP of US $ 3000 at the earliest. In the future, the government must implement the overdue structural changes that have historically hampered India’s economic growth.

India will need to step up planning, financing and execution of infrastructural projects, create employment for India’s growing working-age population, liberalise policy to attract domestic capital investment, foreign direct investment (FDI) and institutional capital, and change rules and procedures to improve India’s ranking in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, enhance India’s tax base well beyond the 1 per cent who are currently paying taxes, wean the country away from the subsidy culture and make it more market-oriented, and leverage the country’s prowess in science and technology in its business and functional practices through ‘Innovation,’ ‘Digitisation’ and ‘Customisation’ (of digital technologies). And, most importantly, India should ensure peace and stability internally and on its borders to ensure that it does not get diverted from the achievement of its economic and developmental goals.

Third, we need to build comprehensive economic wealth for India. Enhance India’s ‘comprehensive wealth’ by adding value to its existing capital in three fields, i.e manufactured capital (infrastructure, buildings, machinery, and so on), human capital (the population, in relation to their numbers, age profile, education and employment-oriented qualifications and skills) and natural capital (including lands, forests, fossil fuels and minerals). As per 2017 estimations of comprehensive wealth, computed by New World Wealth, India stood at 6th position with $ 8.2 trillion wealth, well behind the top three, i.e the US with $ 64.6, China with $ 24.8 trillion and Japan with $ 19.5 trillion.

Fourth, we should transform India’s armed forces into a strong and modern military, which is not only capable of defending the country from external threats but is also capable of projecting power and protecting the nation’s strategic interests. However, keeping in view India’s benign and cooperative approach, rather than a hegemonic approach, to power projection, India must take care to ensure that its military power is seen as an asset, and not as a threat, by other countries of the region. Timely military modernization must be implemented as a priority, backed by the highest levels of collaborative foreign technology and indigenous manufacturing capabilities, which must be also set up in the private sector.

Fifth, we should transform ‘young India’ into a demographic dividend for the country by positively empowering and leveraging India’s estimated ‘youthful workforce’ of the future. It should be noted that India’s current youthful age profile will start changing after a few years. Youth of 25 years of age, currently estimated at 50 per cent of the population is likely to fall to 34 per cent by 2036).

The youth must be empowered through quality education, job-oriented skilling and suitable employment opportunities to transform it into a demographic dividend. Towards that end, creating a network of high-quality educational and skilling institutions, backed by requisite teaching faculty, is the priority need of the hour. It is also important that the Indian youth are empowered by liberal and pluralistic ideas so that they contribute positively to society, in India and abroad, and are not swayed easily by radical thoughts and ideologies. The urban youth in India needs to be encouraged to participate in activities which promote social responsibility and accountability in a positive manner.

Sixth, we must promote and support value-based universal principles of global governance and functioning like democracy, freedom, human rights, social equality and gender equality. While maintaining ‘realism’ in protecting its national interests, India must develop a sound moral position on all important global issues – supporting universal principles and values like democracy, human rights, religious freedom, and social and gender equality. India’s own record on policies and actions on such value-based practices must be impeccable. At the same time, India must work concertedly towards the improvement of value-based global indices.

Seventh, we must assume a non-hegemonic leadership role in Asia and the Indian Ocean Region with a view to support pan-Asian interests and play a more influential role in global affairs. India must employ its relative advantages like its geostrategic location, domination of IOR trade routes, possession of a strong and modern military, the spread of enterprising diaspora as well as its non-hegemonic approach, soft power, cultural commonalities with other Asian nations, historically validated peaceful intent, democratic credentials, linguistic advantage and strengths in science & technology.

India must improve connectivity and leverage its traditional and historic relations with various nations, like Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and South Korea as well as sub-regions of Asia like West Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, South East Asia and the IOR all of which have their specific attributes and strengths, in pursuit of this quest. India must develop security partnerships with support from countries as also organizations like the QUAD, the UN, IORA, SAARC, ARF, SCO, AUKUS as well as extra-regional powers like the US, UK, France, Germany and Russia.

Eighth, we must build and leverage strategic partnerships with leading global players and other nations of India’s global strategic interest, while also developing multi-lateral relationships as part of international organizations and groupings. India must build strategic partnerships with leading global players as well as with other major players like Israel, Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran in pursuit of its national interests. It must also build mutually cooperative relationships with international/ multi-lateral/ regional groupings worldwide.

India must use multilateral forums to promote its views, interests and concerns, including collective security, economic growth, fair trade practices, sound ecological practices and mutual security issues like intelligence sharing on threats like terrorism, cyber crimes, piracy, drug trafficking, counterfeit currency tracking, money laundering and other common threats.

Ninth, we must progressively transform from being only a ‘rule follower’ to becoming a ‘rule-shaper’ on the global stage. Today, India gives as much aid as it receives, makes more foreign direct investment than it gets and is seen by other countries as a source of assistance, guidance and even security. Consequently, as India is increasingly recognized globally as a more influential economic player, India should be able to play a more significant role in global affairs, much beyond its enhanced comprehensive national power and status.

To become a ‘rule shaper’, India must seek and bear global responsibilities commensurate with its rising economic and political means. In an enhanced role on the global stage, India would be expected to contribute more towards addressing global concerns such as protection of the global commons, the war against global terror, restoration of peace and security in conflict situations, provision of humanitarian assistance and mitigation of effects of climate change and environmental degradation.

Tenth, we must leverage India’s prowess in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), especially information technology and space prowess, to promote technological awareness and progress among the Indian people, build up a scientific temper, leap across technologies, generate employment as well as achieve economic wealth for the country. Indian scientists and engineers have successfully garnered technology for space research and satellite launch, ballistic and cruise missile systems as well as a host of other military technologies related to weapons, equipment and ammunition.

Concurrently, Indian engineers and companies have been at the forefront of research and development in information technology and new fields like nano-technology, drones, robotics, 3D printing, artificial intelligence and the internet of things (IOT). All of these need to be leveraged appropriately towards enhancing our economic and scientific prowess.

Eleventh, we need to leverage the knowledge and influence of members of the Indian diaspora to promote India’s national interests. Concurrently, the government must be able to intercede on their behalf, whenever possible, and support them when they need help and assistance. One of India’s major strengths on the global stage is its 32 million-strong diaspora, essentially consisting of people of Indian origin (PIOs) and non-resident Indians (NRIs), who have spread out to all parts of the world, over a long period of time, in search of employment and in pursuit of their livelihood and dreams.

And last, but not least, we need to identify and thwart the challenges that can negatively impact India’s big power ambitions. Despite India having the potential to transform into a major power within the next two to three decades, a number of challenges can come in the way. These include possibilities like a drop in economic growth rate, the manifestation of external and internal security challenges, lack of improvement in human development/ poverty alleviation index, drop in scientific culture, and drop in military power, and calamitous disasters – economic, natural or man-made, and lack of cooperative support from influential countries and groupings. This entails monitoring important parameters of India’s rise and to take timely corrective actions whenever there is a need.

As we celebrate 75 years of our country’s independence, we need to ensure that we use the lessons of the past to guide our path to the future. Undoubtedly, transformation as a global power would enable us to find our rightful place in the global comity of nations.