In the past, India was one of the most prosperous countries on the planet, making it the prime target of many foreign invaders, such as Britain. After more than two centuries of British colonial rule, it turned into one of the poorest countries in the world at the time of its independence in 1947.
With a population of 340 million, its GDP was less than US$30 billion. Only 12 percent of people knew how to read and write. Many wondered if India would ever return to its former glory.
On Jan. 26, 2022, India showcased its military might and cultural diversity in a spectacular way to mark its 73rd Republic Day. The event was part of the grand celebrations to commemorate India’s 75years of independence, which is also known as Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (Festival of Freedom).
As many as 75 aircrafts/helicopters, including Rafael, SU-30, and Jaguar fighter jets, staged a flypast during the celebrations. There was also a drone show using 1,000 indigenously developed drones. At least 480 dancers from various states performed a cultural show during the Republic Day Parade.
India became an independent country on Aug. 15, 1947, and a republic on Jan. 26, 1950. In the last three decades, it has made tremendous progress in various fields. It is the world’s largest democracy with 1.40 billion people. With a nominal GDP worth $3.04 trillion, it is now the world’s sixth largest economy, although its per capita GDP is still low at $2,180 in 2021.
India was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1991 with just $1.2 billion in foreign exchange reserves due to its licence raj system and a failed economy. However, thanks to its Look East policy, India embarked on a revolutionary path of economic reforms and liberalization.
On Jan. 14, 2022, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced that India’s forex reserves had reached $634.96 billion. It was a brilliant achievement made in just 31 years.
According to the Global Fire Power 2022 report, India is the fourth biggest military power in the world after the US, Russia and China. It has 1.45 million active military personnel, the second biggest military force after China in terms of men and women in uniform.
This is a proof that India is moving forward and taking its rightful place in the world. In recent years, its arc of influence has also expanded and encompassed the larger part of the world.
Since 2019, Indian diplomacy under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become more innovative, courageous, and nimble footed, enabling India to navigate its emergence on its own terms.
India hosted the first India-Central Asia Virtual Summit on Jan. 27 to boost its relations with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. As a responsible nuclear power and trustworthy nation, it is also a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. In October 2022, India will take over the presidency of G20 from Indonesia.
India also has the world’s largest skilled workforce. Many talented Indian doctors, IT specialists, scientists, professors, economists, journalists, engineers, and managers are currently working all around the globe. According to the United Nations’ International Migration 2020 Highlights, India has the largest diaspora in the world, with 18 million Indians living outside the motherland. China’s diaspora constitutes only 10 million people. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), US, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia host the largest number of migrants from India.
The diaspora is a powerful driver for India’s sustainable development. For example, Indians living abroad sent a record $87 billion back to India last year, with 20 percent of the amount coming from the US alone. In 2021, global remittance from migrant workers reached $470 billion.
Like most nations, India was severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 40 million cases and 493,218 deaths. Yet, it came forward to help other countries by providing large quantities of vaccines, medicines and medical equipment.
“Today, India is being rightly called the ‘pharmacy of the world’ as we are supplying medicines and other healthcare items to several countries to alleviate people’s suffering and contain the pandemic across the globe. Now, we also provide vaccines to other countries,” President Ram Nath Kovind said recently.
India is the third biggest producer of medicines and has helped more than 100 countries during the pandemic.
“Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and growing vaccine requirements globally, the Indian pharma and medical devices sector has played an indispensable role. India ranks 3rd worldwide for pharmaceutical production by volume and 14th by value. We are looking to strengthen the partnership with international communities to sustain the momentum in 2022,” Indian Ambassador to Indonesia Manoj Kumar Bharti said during the Republic Day celebrations in Jakarta on Jan. 26.
In an effort to protect the environment, India unveiled its ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2070 at the COP 26 Summit last year in Glasgow, Scotland. Today, India contributes five percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is sincere in reducing the use of fossil fuels to meet the target of the Paris Accord. Now, 40 percent of India’s energy comes from non-fossil fuel sources.
During Modi’s period, the government is taking several drastic measures to create a business-friendly environment by promoting ease of business and reducing government interference.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows surged dramatically during the last seven years. According to RBI, India received more than $440 billion FDI since 2014. FDI flows into India surged from $36.31 billion in 2016-2017 to a record $81.72 billion in the 2020-2021 financial year. Singapore is the biggest foreign investor in India.
Currently, India has more than 60,000 start-ups, and this figure continues to grow each week. Unicorns in India are emerging at a fast pace. As of December 2021, India has four decacorns – Flapcart, Paytm, Byju’s and Oyo Rooms – and 90 unicorns. It is the third biggest hub for unicorns in the world after the US (487) and China (301). The combined valuation of these 90 unicorns, of which more than 40 were formed in 2021 alone, is more than $300 billion.
Based on all economic indicators, India’s National Statistical Office predicts that the Indian economic may grow by 9.2 percent in 2021-2022. This is much better than the 7.3 percent contraction in 2020-2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic recovery is in full swing due to improvements in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
Though India has two unfriendly neighbors, China and Pakistan, New Delhi is fully committed to world peace, a rules-based order and a multipolar world.
Modi unveiled India’s strategic vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region in June 2018 in Singapore during the Shangri-La Dialogue. He emphasized the centrality of ASEAN to the new Indo-Pacific and rejected any attempts to portray the Indo-Pacific Region as a club of limited members.
India fully supports ASEAN unity and integrity. It wants freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and fully supports the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
India also joined two Quad groups, one in Indo-Pacific and another in West Asia. Its participation along with Japan, the US and Australia is expected to boost security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. The West Asian Quad, whose main focus is to foster economic cooperation, consists of India, Israel, the UAE and the US.
India is on the path to becoming a great power in the future. It is only a matter of time before it reaches the same standing as the US and China.