Is India really the world’s fifth most powerful country?
India is the world’s fifth most powerful country, according to a New Delhi-authored national security document, the Times of India reported on Wednesday, as Indian analysts placed the emerging nation above major European powers.
Outranking traditional global powers such as the UK, France and Germany, India’s ballooning population, defense capabilities and economic clout were cited as reasons for its position behind only the U.S., China, Japan and Russia in India’s National Security Annual Review 2010, which will be officially released by the country’s foreign ministry next week.
Its statistical foundations in terms of population numbers and GDP aside — in terms of purchasing power parity, it should be noted — India’s experience of wielding power on the global stage of late, boosted by its temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, has been less encouraging.
India has failed to cultivate a wholly reciprocal relationship with the United States, despite warm rhetoric in recent years between New Delhi and Washington and a number of big-ticket diplomatic and industrial agreements.
New Delhi appears to struggle to assert itself in the face of growing Chinese influence in south Asia, has dithered on formulating a firm approach to states such as Iran, and risked appearing naive and out of its depth during the lead-up to international efforts to protect civilians in Libya.
Indeed, an apparent united front from Beijing, Moscow and New Delhi, representing three of the top five most powerful nations according to the report, against the no-fly zone in the North African country has had no discernible effect on the ongoing military action against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
Furthermore, India still appears more concerned and engaged with, and distracted by, its long-standing rival Pakistan than wider geopolitical issues.
A booming economy and a soaring population are undeniably a source of power for the emerging power, but a nominal GDP to challenge the major European powerhouses, at least, will require a number of years of shrewd policymaking and careful economic management.
Recent troubles such as falling FDI inflows, rampant corruption and high inflation must be curbed, and the millions of young people reaching working age each year need to be provided jobs if the demographic dividend is not to become a demographic disaster.
Military imports by New Delhi recently became the world’s largest, and a strong military presence was cited in the report as a factor in India’s high overall position, but it remains to be seen how long a reliance on American, British, Russian and French firepower can last.
India still receives billions of dollars of aid from countries deemed less powerful by New Delhi than itself, and praise from David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, the premiers of Britain and France during high-profile visits last year, was met with an outpouring of thanks from Indian policymakers.
India is certainly a emerging power with huge potential, but could New Delhi’s economic and political analysts be patting themselves on the back a little prematurely?