Print Friendly, PDF & Email

India’s great power ambitions and dilemmas

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: International Relations


Source: TH

 Context: The article discusses the dilemmas India faces in pursuing its great power ambitions. Some argue that India should prioritize uplifting its people above the poverty line and improving governance before venturing into global power politics. However, the article emphasizes that India’s rise as a great power will have global consequences and should not be ignored.


Options available before India:

  • To become a great power asserting its growing power internationally to address global issues, or
  • To focus on its people – eliminating poverty, improving governance, etc. – before venturing into making a better world.


Tracking India’s journey:

  • India of 1991:
    • A weak, poor country with a foreign exchange reserve of $5.8 billion and a nominal GDP of $270.11 billion.
    • The collapse of India’s trusted partner (the Soviet Union) and strained relations with the US.
    • The likelihood of an India-Pakistan conflict persisted despite efforts to diffuse nuclear war concerns, and violence in Kashmir was at an all-time high.
  • India of 2023:
    • The reforms (LPG) initiated after the 1991 economic crisis led to higher GDP growth (the world’s 5th largest economy and its nominal GDP could soon touch $4 trillion), forex ~$600 billion and a significant reduction in poverty.
    • India has one of the largest militaries in the world with over a hundred nuclear weapons.
    • Conflict with China (not Pakistan) worries India.
    • There is a general sense of foreign policy optimism. The US is now one of India’s closest friends, and New Delhi enjoys strong relationships with several powerful states around the world.


The role played by India in world politics:

  • India is one of the pivotal swing powers of the contemporary international system, strategically located and often playing both sides with great skills.
    • For example, in the ongoing Ukraine war, both the West (US) and Russian Federation want India to be on their side.
    • However, India, without taking any sides, is mediating between Ukraine and Russia to bring an end to the war.
  • It’s a bridge between the north and south and east and west, indirectly indicating that it is a major ‘pole’ in world politics.


Strength of India:

  • It uses the language of mediation in global crises.
  • The country’s national power has increased dramatically, making it a force with system-shaping capabilities and intentions.


Challenges faced by India (domestic):

  • Poverty
  • GDP per capita was $1,947 in 2021 (Bangladesh – $2,227 – 40th largest military in the world)
  • Infrastructural and governance issues. For example, a few days of rain brings the national capital to a standstill.
  • Regional, caste, ethnic and religious divisions.


The argument:

  • GDP and military strength do not equal the well-being of a country’s citizens.
  • The gross material power that a state can exert in its foreign and security policy is not comparable to the standard of living of its citizens.

Case of India: India’s domestic challenges will continue to distract the attention of its political leaders from attending to global problems – debt restructuring, climate change, global trade or non-proliferation.


Way ahead for India:

  • Even while India’s domestic shortcomings will continue to limit its capacity to affect the world order, it must engage and shape the world order.
  • It will help India to meet its foreign policy objectives which would have a significant impact on its economic growth, security environment and geopolitical and geo-economic interests.

Conclusion: India’s capacity to influence world politics must also be a reflection of its domestic situation, and its participation in international affairs must also be motivated by the needs of its citizens.


Insta Links:

Perspective- India’s Defence Prowess


Mains Links:

What are the parameters that define great power? Can India be considered an emerging great power? Discuss.