Reports of India’s emergence as a great power are bogus

The National Interest had an article by Rajan Menon called the Indian Myth. The India Myth is that the ubiquitous reports of India’s emergence as a great power are bogus. The road is long, the advance slow and the arrival date uncertain.

Rajan Menon is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of Political Science at the Colin Powell School, City College of New York/City University of New York, and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Over the last two decades, numerous books, articles and press commentaries have hailed India as the next global power. This flush of enthusiasm results partly from the marked acceleration in India’s economic growth rate following reforms initiated in 1991. India’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 6 percent per year for most of the 1990s, 5.5 percent from 1998 to 2002, and soared to nearly 9 percent from 2003 to 2007, before settling at an average of 6.5 percent until 2012. The upswing offered a contrast to what the Indian economist Raj Krishna dubbed “the Hindu rate of growth”: an average of 2.5 percent for the first twenty-five years following India’s independence in 1947. The brisker pace pulled millions from poverty, put Indian companies (such as Indian Oil, Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Infosys, Mahindra, Reliance Industries and Wipro) even more prominently on the global map, and spawned giddy headlines about India’s prowess in IT, even though that sector accounts for a tiny proportion of the country’s output and workforce. India also beckoned as a market for exports and a site for foreign investment.

Since 1977, China has surpassed India’s GDP growth for every year except 1982, 1989, 1990, 1997

The attention to India has endured even though its economic boom has been stymied, partly by the 2008 global financial crisis, with growth remaining below 5 percent for eight consecutive quarters from early 2012 to early 2014. In the quarter lasting from April to June 2014, growth ticked back up to 5.7 percent, but it is too soon to tell whether or not this represents the beginning of a more sustained expansion. The persistent interest also stems from analyses that portray India’s and China’s resurgence as part of a shift that is ineluctably returning the center of global economic power to Asia, its home for centuries before the West’s economic and military ascent some five hundred years ago. Yet even those who dismiss the proponents of this perspective as “declinists” are drawn to the “India rising” thesis, in part because of the transformation in U.S.-Indian relations during the last two decades and the allure of democratic India as a counterweight to authoritarian China. For much of the Cold War, the relationship between Washington and New Delhi ranged from “correct” to “chilly.” Nowadays, in contrast, predictions that China’s ascendency will produce an Indo-American entente, if not an alliance, are commonplace.

Greatness Potential

India has the potential for greatness. India has many of the prerequisites for becoming a center of global power, and, assuming China’s continued and unhindered ascent, it will play a part in transforming a world in which American power is peerless into one marked by multipolarity. India has a vast landmass and coastline and a population of more than one billion, faces East Asia, China and the Persian Gulf, and has a wealth of scientific and technological talent along with a prosperous and well-placed diaspora.

Poverty, corruption and inadequate educational system persist and block rapid reform

But the elemental problems produced by poverty, an inadequate educational system and pervasive corruption remain, and India’s mix of cultural diversity and democracy hampers rapid reform. For now, therefore, the ubiquitous reports of India’s emergence as a great power are premature at best. There’s no denying India’s ambition and potential, but as for its quest to join the club of great powers, the road is long, the advance slow and the arrival date uncertain. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may seek to be a reformer, and he enjoys a reputation as a charismatic leader and skilled manager. He is also a proponent of improving ties with the United States and Israel. But he will face daunting obstacles in his bid to push India into the front rank of nations.

The countries that are already front-rank economic powers achieved near-universal literacy long ago, while in China, Indonesia and Malaysia more than 90 percent of the population is literate. In India, the figure is 74 percent. While that’s a massive increase compared to the proportion in 1947, the quality of Indian schools is uneven because problems such as moribund curricula, substandard classrooms and widespread absenteeism among teachers abound. The success of states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh contrasts starkly with the failures of the educational system in others, such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. What might be called the “effective literacy rate” is thus lower than suggested by the national average, especially in rural areas (where about 70 percent of the population still lives) and among females. Moreover, India’s schools are not producing the skilled labor needed by local and foreign firms at anywhere near the required rate, and too many of those with degrees in science and engineering are not readily employable on account of the poor quality of their training. Indian higher education has a proud history that spans centuries and boasts some venerable institutions, but according to economists Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya, even its elite engineering and management schools don’t make the “top 200” list in global surveys; by contrast, the best universities of other major Asian economic powers have cracked the top 100.

Infrastructure problem but China can help build it

Fixing India’s infrastructure by building more rail and air networks, bridges and ports won’t be cheap: the price tag is estimated to be $1 trillion. But absent a colossal effort, the drag on India’s growth could amount to 2 percent a year.

Nextbigfuture notes that China’s plans to build and help finance infrastructure construction almost everywhere in the next 10-20 years. So India can avoid the lost of 2% GDP growth each year by mostly relying upon and allowing Chinese companies to build and finance needed infrastructure. India Prime Minister Modi would still have the challenge of clearing away the corruption and bureaucracy to enable the infrastructure to be built.

India also has to fix its cities. India has too many slumns and shantytowns. This is part of the issue of bad infrastructure.

Quora also looked at why India is not a superpower or global leader

Quora has proposed some answers as well to the question of India

The questions is also asked how could India become a superpower

Nextbigfuture has noted the stunting and wasting from malnutrition that still plagues India Stunting is a problem that makes children sickly and prevents healthy brain development so 40-50% of adults still suffer the effects of childhood malnutrition.

Stunting was defined as the proportion of children below two standard deviations from the WHO length- or height-for-age standards median. Linear mixed-effects modelling was used to estimate rates and numbers of affected children from 1990 to 2010, and projections to 2020.In 2010, it is estimated that 171 million children (167 million in developing countries) were stunted. Globally, childhood stunting decreased from 39.7 in 1990 to 26.7% in 2010. This trend is expected to reach 21.8 or 142 million, in 2020.

Globally, one quarter of under-five children are stunted or an estimated 162 million in 2012. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have particularly high prevalence, at about 38 per cent in both. This indicates an urgent need to accelerate integrated programmes addressing nutrition during the mother’s pregnancy and before the child reaches two years of age, the period of children’s most rapid physical and mental growth and development.

Children who suffer from wasting face a markedly increased risk of death. In 2012, nearly 70 per cent of the world’s wasted children lived in Asia. These children are at substantial increased risk of severe acute malnutrition and death. In 19 out of 80 countries with recent estimates, wasting prevalence is 10 per cent or higher, requiring immediate intervention, such as emergency feeding programmes. In South Asia, prevalence of wasting is at an alarmingly high level of 16 per cent.

SOURCE – National Interest with a couple of observations from Nextbigfuture, Quora, WHO on stunting