Here is the full text and summary of Abhijit Chavda’s talk titled “India’s Rise to Global Geopolitics” at TEDxDAVV conference.
Listen to the audio version here:
Abhijit Chavda – YouTuber
Good evening everybody. It’s great to be in this wonderful city. So, today I’m going to speak about India’s rise on the geopolitical stage at which nation is going to be the next superpower.
So, if we want to understand India’s rise, current rise in the geopolitical stage, we have to understand that it is actually India’s revival on the geopolitical stage. And for to understand that we have to go back a little bit in history.
So, if we look at the historical record of India, you go back five, six thousand years, then you would find that there was something called the Saraswati Sindhu phase of Indian history, which is also known as the Harappan phase or the Indus Valley phase.
And the geographical area of this geography was greater than the ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia put together. And it was a completely urbanized civilization, a fully industrialized civilization, and extremely scientifically advanced, technologically advanced, the most technologically advanced civilization of that type. And clearly, the GDP, which was produced by this region was greater than anything else that was produced anywhere in the world.
Now, if you look at the economic history of India of the past two thousand years, you can study the work of Angus Maddison, the great economist, and it is very clear that India’s GDP was at least one third of the entire world’s GDP for about 1500 years out of the last two thousand years.
So, that tells you that India was once the most prosperous and most advanced civilization in the world. Then you have the British colonization. India was occupied by the British. And between the 18th century and 1947, India’s GDP fell to about 2% of the world’s GDP. And in 1947, India’s life expectancy was approximately 32 years. So, you can imagine what they did to India.
And now India is rising geopolitically and economically. So, after 1947, there was a significant period where India’s growth stagnated. It was called the Nehruvian rate of growth 2%, 3%, 4% per year. So, India could not achieve its potential for a very long time.
Then in 1992, India instituted certain economic reforms. India was forced to do that. And the economy was opened up. And that’s when India’s growth story started. So, it took about 60 years, roughly, for India’s GDP to reach $1 trillion.
Then it took another seven years for India’s GDP to reach $2 trillion. As of today, India’s GDP is about $3.5 trillion. India has overtaken lots of countries and is now number 5 in the entire world when it comes to the rankings of the nation by GDP. So, that’s where India stands today.
Now, if India grows at 6% per year, then by 2047, India will have reached $12 or $13 trillion of GDP, which is nearly where China is today, roughly, give or take.
And if India grows at 8% per year, then by 2047, India will have reached or surpassed the $20 trillion mark. So, India’s GDP is the only GDP — India’s economy is the only economy that is projected to keep growing in the coming years and decades. Every other economy is currently going into a recession.
So, if we look at India’s geopolitical heft on the global stage, it is largely dependent on the economy and the military might also. So, in geopolitics, it’s all about your hard power. And hard power depends on the economy and military and the kind of relationships you have with other nations.
So, currently, there is one superpower in the world. People like to say that China is also a superpower. So, how do we define the term ‘superpower’? From my perspective, a superpower is a nation that can intervene militarily anywhere in the globe at 60 minutes notice. That is my definition of a superpower. And currently, only one nation fits that bill, which is the United States.
So, the US is the only superpower. And as of today, there are three great powers and other powers as well. The three great powers today are China, Russia, and India is now emerging as a great power.
So, why is India emerging as a great power? It’s because of the choices that India is making and the foreign policy that India has adopted over the past decade or so. So, historically, India’s foreign policy was based on idealism. It was based on the non-alignment and India essentially refused to pursue its own national interests.
In the 1950s, India was offered a permanent seat on the UN Security Council three times, and India refused that. In the early 1960s, India was offered nuclear weapons technology by President Kennedy of the US and the Indian government, the leadership rejected that offer.
And India shunned many such opportunities in the 1950s, 60s, and onwards to become a great power. And India’s government refused to unleash the true potential of the nation and help the nation grow at a rapid pace.
Understand this, in 1947, Japan was completely destroyed at the end of the Second World War. India was also not in good shape, but India had a functioning government. India was not destroyed by war. And yet, if you look at the trajectories of the two nations, they are very divergent.
So, Japan was able to grow very fast and India did not grow to its full potential. So, after the 1990s, India’s growth started. Then after essentially the 2010s, India started pursuing a foreign policy that is aligned with its market interest.
So, these are the reasons why India is now becoming a relevant global power, a great power in the geopolitical stage, because India is aligning itself with other nations. So, India is a member of multiple coalitions, so to say, groupings of nations. There is BRICS, which is Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
There is the SCO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which has Russia, China, India and certain Central Asian nations. There is also the Quad Grouping, which is four nations, India, the US, Japan and Australia.