By Girish Linganna
As India celebrates its 75th year of freedom under the Narendra Modi government, it is evident that significant progress has been made since 1947. India’s industrialisation, infrastructure growth, and military modernisation have enabled it to become the fifth-largest economy in the world. India exports goods and services to 75 countries worldwide and has established a robust domestic consumer demand base. It has grown its global impact over time, as evidenced by the fact that the prime minister has travelled to 68 nations in the last eight years. Regarding India’s geopolitical significance and rise as a world power over the next three decades, it is crucial to comprehend its future trajectory.
Recognising National Power
To completely comprehend India’s expanding significance, it is necessary to comprehend the precise meaning of “national power.” It expresses a nation’s military might, economic power, and diplomatic influence. These elements are interconnected with a nation’s strategic location, economic expansion, infrastructure development, technological prowess, leadership, and political stability before we can draw any significant conclusions about India’s rising prowess as an emerging power.
India’s Economic Development
Since independence, India’s economic growth has been tremendous. In terms of PPP, India’s share of the global economy is 7.5%. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that India’s economy will expand by 7% in 2018, making it the fifth largest in the world. It was the eleventh-largest economy in the world a decade ago. The IMF expects India’s GDP to rank fourth globally by 2027.
Due to its young population and low dependency ratio, robust savings and investment rates, increasing globalisation in India, and integration into the global economy, India’s long-term growth outlook remains optimistic. Domestic private consumption accounts for over 70% of India’s GDP. The country remains the sixth-largest consumer market in the globe. In addition to individual consumption, government expenditure, investments, and exports fuel India’s GDP. India was the world’s fourteenth-largest importer and twenty-first-largest exporter in the year 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic on international trade. The country is now ranked 37th on the Ease of Doing Business index and 28th on the Global Competitiveness Report.
Production & Industry
The industrial sector contributes 26% of the gross domestic product and employs 22% of the total labour force. Industry 4.0 and the government’s emphasis on manufacturing through initiatives such as “Make in India” and laws such as the “National Policy for Advanced Manufacturing” have been instrumental in increasing the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP to 15%. This must increase to approximately 25% in the next years.
In terms of current US dollars, India’s industrial manufacturing GDP output in 2022 ranked fifth in the world, according to the World Bank. From 2011 to 2022, the average GDP from Manufacturing in India was 4938.56 INR Billion, with a high of 6778.59 INR Billion in the first quarter of 2021 and a low of 3331.04 INR Billion in the third quarter of 2011.
Today, we must acknowledge that a nation that controls commodities may rule the world. Therefore, achieving self-sufficiency in natural gas, oil, coal, iron, steel, petroleum products, and food grains will significantly impact our international standing.
Military Modernisation In India
The major drivers of India’s military modernisation were the lessons learnt from past conflicts, the shifting regional and international environment, and the views and aspirations of key decision-makers. During the Bangladesh crisis, the United States and China threatened India. The presence of the US aircraft carrier Enterprise in the Indian Ocean during the war had alarmed the Indian commanders and therefore influenced their strategic perception and perspective. This resulted in a huge modernisation effort to protect ours over 7500-kilometre-long marine borders.
Over the years, the Indian Armed Forces have undergone significant modernisation. Our armament systems and platforms have been progressively upgraded in response to our threat perceptions.
Modernisation of the armed forces is a complex process encompassing all conceivable modifications to the material capability required to achieve the strategic objective. Modernisation represents the expansion of national ambition. India is a responsible force in a world with multiple polarities. Currently a major force in the Indian Ocean and south Asian region, Price Waterhouse Cooper projects that by 2050 it will be the world’s second-largest economy. India has a designated role based on these perceptions.
How The Military Influences The Geopolitical Landscape
After discussing our military power and modernisation goals, it is essential to comprehend how our military power can influence the current geopolitical climate.
When examining the total national power (CNP) of a nation, military might is a crucial component. This must be evaluated based on the strength of its armed forces, its firepower, land, sea, and air-based systems, modern air defence systems, technology, and surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. It is not sufficient for a nation to be able to protect itself; it must also be able to strike into enemy territory if necessary.
Warfare has seen a profound shift in recent years. The conventional systems have been supplanted by a hybrid paradigm in which cyber, space, and information will be the primary components. The utilisation of non-state players will also be utilised to shape the war. Armed with supersonic and hypersonic missile armament, an excellent air defence system, stealth aircraft, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, and nuclear weapons, a nation will be a formidable adversary. In addition, it would be vital to spread this military strength beyond your seashores, necessitating the establishment of military bases close to friendly nations from which help can be anticipated.
Once a nation’s military gains these skills, it can alter the geopolitical environment and play a significant role in the newly emerging multipolar world.
The marine power component of this military capability will be the most crucial. The dominance of the sea will determine the geopolitical landscape of tomorrow. China has proved this potential through its dominance in the South China Sea, while the United States has done the same through its hegemony in the Indo-Pacific. Therefore, in our current setting, control and dominance over the Indian Ocean are of paramount importance.
In the maritime sector, India’s geographic reach into the Indian Ocean is vast. This guarantees naval superiority over the Sea Lanes of Communication, which transport 80 per cent of China’s oil imports. Since 2008, the PLAN has sent warships into the Indian Ocean for anti-piracy missions. In recent years, the PLAN has deployed an average of seven to eight warships annually in the Indian Ocean Region. The presence of a Chinese military station in Djibouti and the construction of ports in Gwadar, Pakistan, Hambantota, Sri Lanka, Payra, Bangladesh, and Kyaukpyu, Myanmar, have increased Indian fears. Nevertheless, despite the growing presence of PLAN in the Indian Ocean, it is generally considered that “neither China nor Pakistan can pose a substantial danger to India’s principal maritime approaches” at this moment.
To increase cooperation in maritime security, trade connectivity, infrastructure, and economic development, India and Indonesia are jointly developing the important Sabang deep sea port, which is located close to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India’s southernmost region.
The port will improve India’s access to South East Asian markets and provide a strategic buffer against China’s growing position in the Malacca Strait (as also the larger Indian Ocean). India also maintains an airbase in Tajikistan at the Gissar Military Aerodrome (GMA). This is India’s first overseas base operated jointly with Tajikistan and is intended to provide its military activities and to train greater strategic weight. The GMA, also known as the Ayni airbase after the settlement of Ayni, is located just west of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. India and Tajikistan have jointly governed it for about two decades.
India’s Foreign Policy Excessiveness
India has recently established a very mature and realistic foreign policy based only on its national interests. It has refrained from identifying itself with any major power grouping. Despite the Ukraine conflict, we have maintained great diplomatic and commercial connections with the United States and Russia. Recent engagements with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have enhanced our connections with the West. Strategic modifications have been made in the Indo-Pacific region, and QUAD has been reactivated. We have also formed many memorandums of understanding and strategic agreements with Australia and Japan, giving our combined might the required heft.
India has also made a significant push to the Gulf states by regularly engaging the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain.
Relations between India and Africa have experienced a paradigm shift. These pertain to pre-colonial times. Recently, 18 new Indian missions have been established in Africa. In IT, education, and infrastructure, we have announced a line of credit for African nations. With the shipment of Brahmos and Akash missiles, our military commerce with the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam is on the ascent. India has also established a “Neighborhood First Policy” and has been generous in distributing help, most recently to Sri Lanka.
India faces the difficulty of revising and reorienting its strategic vision of multilateralism. India has accepted the challenge of redefining multilateralism by adopting a strategic approach to encourage active involvement in multilateral forums, especially regional groupings, for economic and security reasons.
In addition, it has taken a prominent role in regional organisations in its neighbourhood, such as the SCO, SAARC, and BIMSTEC, as well as in the East Asia summit and other groups centred on ASEAN. Yet, the Modi administration has effectively balanced politico-strategic objectives with economic benefits.
In addition, India’s military strength and nuclear capacity will play a crucial part in shaping our role in a multipolar world. We face enormous challenges in the future.
Girish Linganna is an Aerospace and Defence Analyst & Director ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd.