When controversial Indian academic Ramachandra Guha discussed his book India After Gandhi at Nyenrode Business Universiteit in 2010, he claimed that there are ten reasons why India will not become an economic superpower, despite its tremendous economic growth.
The theme across all of Guha’s ten reasons is that India’s challenges as a democratic state are unique. The Indian state has a huge diversity of languages, religions and cultures. It isn’t built according to the classic European recipe of “one language, one religion and a common enemy”.
Gandhi built the modern democratic Indian state, but he did it by overlooking deep-rooted divisions among Indians.
So, here are the ten reasons why India will not become a superpower:
Extremism, both 1. Leftwing and 2. Rightwing
The political elite, which has transformed India’s political parties into family organizations. Because of this, 3. Public institutions such as universities, the police and the judiciary have deteriorated and 4. Democratic openness is victim to corruption.
5. The increasing gap between rich and poor. Witness Mukesh Ambani's 27-floor house for his five-member family in Mumbai
6. Disastrous damage to the environment. Lack of regulation or corporate responsibility means water supplies are at risk, people are breathing poisonous air. Irretrievable damage to health and resources continues and no one is accountable.
7. The apathy of the media. The media has essentially been co-opted by the government and corporations. Many journalists even re-trained as financial analysts in the 19990s.
8. No long-term policy. The political chaos that accompanies a pluralist system makes it difficult to form stable long-term policy.
Territorial instability in 9. The northeast and 10. The northwest of the country. Three of India’s 28 states are struggling for independence.
In the words of Ramachandra Guha: "There are too many fault lines in our society to be a superpower. As a historian I say: ‘We are not prepared’, as an Indian citizen I say: ‘We should not even attempt to’.”
If it’s any consolation, Guha argues that India shouldn’t even want to be a superpower. Instead of throwing its weight around like other superpowers it should try to put its pluralistic values into action at the international level.
This article was originally published in August 2010.
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