India Will Not and Must Not Become a Superpower

Indian historian and environmentalist Ramachandra Guha speaks of why India will not and must not become a superpower.

I broadly agree with Guha’s analysis about India’s last 60+ years since 1947, especially in the arena of inclusion/exclusion of communities in development process (e.g. tribals being mostly excluded), also the growing Maoism factor, and the polarization of religious communities who, unfortunately can have a foothold in mainstream politics with their religious agenda (e.g. Sangh Parivar via the BJP or the Muslim Parties such as the recently launched one by Akbaruddin Owaisi in Hyderabad).

But Guha is cautious not to completely belittle India’s progress in the last 7 decades and is in fact very hopeful of India’s future. This comes across in most of his writings.

India Flag As for Guha’s reasons why India should not become a superpower his talk mentions something to that effect. He is suspicious of superpowers because the 20th century’s experience with political/economic superpowers (Britain, USA, Russia mainly) is by and large not a good one when you see the record of colonial and post-colonial 20th century. Africa and all parts of Asia were left in tatters and the effects are still unfolding especially in the Middle East and South Asia (Indo-Pakistan conflict/ Hindu-Muslim communal rivalry).

However is it possible to define a superpower differently? Can India become a superpower of a different kind? There is no answer to this question since the model does not exist for the 21st century of such a superpower (EU is a close alternative but EU is historically unique and cannot be replicated). But the model being pursued by India since the last 20 years or a little more does not lend itself to an interpretation that India, even if it became a superpower, will be different from China or USA. And hence my opinion would be in agreement with Guha that India is better off not being a superpower but taking care of its internal issues as best as possible. This does not mean that we cannot unleash Indian potential. The day we unleash Indian potential by and for Indians will actually be the day India might actually claim “superpower” status. (There you go! a new understanding of what it means to be a superpower!)

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