Alice Lyman Millar defines a superpower as “a country that has the capacity to project dominating power and influence anywhere in the world, and sometimes, in more than one region of the globe at a time, and so may plausibly attain the status of global hegemony”. Superpower status is achieved by combining means of technological, cultural, military and economic strength as well as diplomatic and soft power influence. Currently, only the United States fulfills the criteria to be called a superpower. However, thanks to the great changes in the social, economic, scientific and military aspects of the country, political experts have placed India in the league of the possible emerging superpowers of the world, namely China, Brazil, Russia and European Union.
International Monetary Fund reports rank India 7th in the list of world’s biggest economies and expect it to grow at 7.3% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2018. India is projected to move to the fifth place by overtaking United Kingdom and France will be on third spot by 2032 according to annual rankings of Centre of Economics and Business Research, a London based consultancy. Physical Quality of Life Index that measures the quality of life of a country depends on three factors basic literacy rate, infant mortality and life expectancy. Life expectancy at birth has increased substantially in India in the past three decades from 68 to 68.3—69.9 for women and 66.9 for men. Infant Mortality Rate in India has shown a gradual decline from an average 110/1000 live births in the year 1981 to 55/1000 live births.
When it comes to telecom sector, India is currently the world’s second-largest telecommunications market with a subscriber base of 1.20 billion. It has high tech cities like Bengaluru and Hyderabad that have given rise to top IT companies like Infosys and Wipro. India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony and data services around the world with prices having reached rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. Voice services have become practically costless and data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. It has brought the internet within the reach of the masses of the Indian population allowing lower segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. It helps to spread information wider and faster and makes communication easier. Due to the availability of the Internet at such a low price more and more businesses are advertising their products online and are able to reach a much bigger customer base. Online education has made revolutionary changes in the traditional education system. Indian Air Force is ranked number 4 in the list of strongest air forces of the world.
Indian Air Force has approximately 170,000 personnel and 1500 aircrafts. Indian Navy is ranked number 7 in the list of strongest naval forces of the world. Indian Army is ranked number 4 in the list of strongest armies in the world. India has built a sizeable army of 3.5 million, where 1.325 million is active military. However, despite so many advantages, India has some basic problems that can hinder its anointment as a superpower.
The rapid growth of population in India is one of the major reasons for poverty in the country. Population growth has led to high illiteracy rate, poor health facilities and financial crises. The growth of the population exceeds the rate of growth in country’s overall income. India has the largest number of malnourished children in the world, and 28.5 percent of its population lives below the poverty line.
It is an issue that adversely affects the economy of the country. According to Corruption Perception Index Report 2017 released by Transparency International, India ranks 81st among the most corrupt countries in the world. Corruption of all forms including bribery, evasion of tax, fraud and cheating refuses to abate.
The poor infrastructure of India is a big hurdle in the development of the country. There are thousands of villages in India without proper electricity and the areas where electricity is available, power cuts are a major concern. India is the second most populated country in the world. Growth rate of Indian real estate has been at par with its population. Yet, having a house to live remains a dream for millions in India.
Out of 1.3 billion people, only 1 percent of India’s population is rich. They own around 73 percent of the wealth generated in 2017-2018; but, the wealth of the poorest half of Indians around 70 crore rose only by one per cent, according to a report given by Oxfam.
According to the Election Commission of India, almost one-third of the Lok Sabha consists of politicians who have charge sheets filed against them. There are several politicians who have a criminal record but have come in power by blatant misuse of loopholes in the law. Such lawmakers are likely to undermine good governance and affect the society adversely.
In the World Happiness Index Report by United Nations, India was ranked 122 in 2017 which dropped to 133 in 2018. World Happiness Index Report ranked 156 countries based on GDP, per capita income, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity and absence of corruption.
Unreformed Farming Sector
India’s farming sector employs more than 50 per cent of the total workforce in India and contributes around 17-18 percent to the country’s GDP. Yet, farmers in India are a distressed lot. The Economic Survey 2017-18 has estimated that percentage of agricultural workers of total work force would drop to 25.7 per cent by 2050 from 58.2 per cent in 2001. The farming sector is afflicted with poor soil fertility, low agricultural mechanization, excessive ground water withdrawal, low productivity and declining agro-biodiversity. Government interventions fail to offer desirable incentives to the farmers and end up sustaining, rather than reducing, rural poverty.
India vis-à-vis China
India finds itself poised against China as both are major contenders for the superpower throne. India’s GDP at 7.6% on 2015-2016 is the highest whereas China’s, at 6.9%, is second. But the economy of China is four times higher. Both China and India are nuclear states. As per Global Firepower Index 2018, China is ranked third in the list of biggest militaries in the world, whereas India is ranked fourth after the USA and Russia. However, China has a large debt estimated by Forbes at 245% of its GDP which is much higher than India’s 61% of its GDP which is quite manageable.
India is a leading power in many sectors but it still has a long way to go to become a superpower. The need of the hour is a clear strategic plan and a strong political agenda. Elimination of poverty and illiteracy, and self destructive ills like corruption should be national priorities. There is an urgent need for change in the mindset of both citizens and decision makers. Independent India overcame several hurdles to come thus far, and it has the wherewithal to overcome any challenge, given the will, to emerge as a super power.