India's Struggle to Become a Global Power Player
New Delhi needs to understand the strength it possesses and begin acting like a world power. India isn’t a member of the UN Security Council or the G-7. That needs to change. One way India can achieve that goal is if the Modi government and diplomatic corps press for a larger role in world affairs to balance China and Pakistan. China, in particular, “has increasingly asserted its regional posture,” which is a threat to India and upsets the balance of power in Southeast Asia and Central Asia. Also, India should shed its emerging power title and become a “major global player.”
India has resources and strength it doesn’t seem to understand. It currently has “the world’s third-largest military personnel, fifth-largest defense budget, and seventh-largest economy.” Furthermore, in the not-so-distant-future, India will overtake China and have the largest population in the world—that is young, intelligent and motivated to shed religious and caste systems—which have held the country back from advancing upwards for decades.
But daunting obstacles to overcome have hindered India’s growth and allowed the country’s ambitions to be put on the backburner of geopolitical influence and stability for the region. Over 270 million Indian’s live in crippling poverty. Infrastructure needs keep India at third-world status according to India’s finance minister by stating, “$1.5 trillion of major investments (infrastructure) are needed in the next decade.” Still, discrimination between India’s complicated social structure and diverse population that perpetuates hate based on “gender, caste, religion, or region” is a deep hindrance to overcome. Until the Modi government solves the duel issues of hate and discrimination in its societal structure, India will continue muddling in the trenches of irrelevancy rather than spend its time becoming a country that is ready to shape global agendas.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh long chafed at the fact that the world never saw India as a world power and Prime Minister Modi has been asserting that India’s place in the world is that of a “leading power because of its size and being the largest democracy in the world.” However, India covets a seat on the UN Security Council that growing rival China occupies. Singh led the charge for that seat when he pushed for India’s “due place in global councils.” Modi’s power over India has allowed him to promote their interests into “laying overt claim to a new, more central place in the world.” India’s growing military clout, economic prowess and focus on warm relations with countries like the United States and Iran means Singh and now Modi are correct asserting their emerging status.
India’s long-overdue status as a player on the international stage coincides with warmer relations with the United States. Former diplomat and historian Dennis Kux described the pre-existing relationship as “estranged democracies,” but now each country speaks of “a strategic partnership,” and this cooperation aids India in leaving “behind some of its old defensiveness on the world stage, a vestige of its nonaligned worldview.” President Trump remarked in June 2017 that the Indian-American partnership, “never looked brighter.” Trump also “asked India to do more on economic development in Afghanistan.” A drastic change from his predecessors, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who never explicitly asked for this level of help with Afghanistan. Trump’s request elevated India’s status in Central Asia.
One of the largest overhauls India needs to begin its journey towards becoming a world power is by making its country easier to diplomatically deal with, which will further enable it to join formal alliances. India has always been fiercely independent, and it is known to break formal trade negotiations and agreements to suit its policy needs. This behavior has hampered its ability to forge trade agreements with the United States and other nations eager to build military and trade alliances with India. While New Delhi wants closer trade and economic ties along with a defense partner, it will need to open market access in keeping with the U.S.-led order that India has shunned for decades. This access will allow India to forge tighter relationships with Japan, South Korea, and other Asian nations betting on prosperity and stability within India’s sphere of influence.