Rising India Falling States: The new Indian Challenges

The Indian history is replete with the tides of rise and fall and since independence it has witnessed a gradual rise from a poor economy and weak state to a status of mammoth power. While the planned economy helped it achieve the objectives systematically, the retrogressive nationalization measures of early seventies hindered the 1993 LPG outburst that left it miles behind China, which was having almost equal GDP to India in the early seventies. Today, India has become the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), with a share of 7 per cent of global GDP [after China (18 per cent) and the US (16 per cent)].

Although, the pre-2014 governments remained mild over asserting India as a major world power, the post-2014 period has registered a significant shift in its foreign and security policy that has helped India rise quite potently at the world stage and develop a ‘strategic autonomy’ in its global dealings. Immediately after the end of cold war politics India recalibrated its foreign policy balancing the ties with the west while maintaining it strategic autonomy by going for Pokharan II, subsiding Pakistan at Kargil, launching anti-terror moves, airstrikes and thwarting China’s border ‘salami slicing’ quite convincingly. The way Dokhlam, Galwan and Tawang China suffered recently has raised the eyebrows of many and the chemistry US president Donald Trump and Modi showed during Trump’s tenure in United States didn’t go well with many and invites some new hats in the cauldron of diplomacy. The role that India has played during the pandemic as the world pharmacy and the largest supplier of vaccines has given it a position of tremendous importance.

The Single Challenge and Multiple Threads

Recently a spate of reports, declarations, documentaries and revelations have flooded the media space that has an overarching influence over the social and political domains of our society and as a consequence, a determining impact on the building of public opinion. While India’s stand in Ukraine worries west as it hasn’t betrayed its traditional ally Russia, it is facing a lot of pinches on different fronts, of which the current spate of multiple threads appears to be a part. India has earned the position of a ‘swing state’, the presence of which determines the balance of power in favour of a particular side. Now India has become imminent for US as a member of QUAD against China in the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific and for Russia and China against US and NATO dominance and for execution of China’s BRI project.

The Ukraine crisis has drawn new lines of strategic engagements which have made it quite clear that what could be the world scenario in time of a long drawn war. The world has been polarized on the basis of stands of states on Ukraine and UN voting. The post Ukraine war state may alter the old and witness a new ‘world order’. “India’s response to the conflict has been unique for a global power. Although it abstained from voting for a United Nations Security Council resolution that condemning Russia’s military action against Ukraine, it went on to highlight its deep concern over the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and expressed unease over Moscow’s actions (Chatuvedi, Priyanka, 2022).

Although Prime Minister Modi also counseled President Putin that ‘now was not the time for war’ India’s continuous oil and trade engagements with Moscow has turned many against it. While Hidenberg report has caused millions of dollars loss to Adani (though the latter’s pitfalls couldn’t be ignored) and the Indian economy, George Soros and BBC have launched anti-Indian tirades from different pedestals with the same motives. The timing of the rise of Khalistani voices since the ‘Framers Agitation’ of last year, the rise of AAP in Punjab, the release of documentaries and reports deliberately to harm Indian economy unravel the common string behind all these developments.

The Khalistan is being internationalized with the clandestine approval of United States and Canada. On September 19 on the call of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) over 100,000 Canadian Sikhs took part in a referendum for Khalistan in Brampton, Ontario Canada. This is to be followed by another referendum at Mississauga on November 6. It’s in continuation to the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Tredeau’s pro-Khalistan position when he attended a Khalsa Day event in Toronto where Khalistan flags were hoisted together with the portrait of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala during his term after 2015. The Indian protests with Canadian High Commissioner Cameron MacKay, have fall flat as for them its expression of right to liberty.

Should it call for same liberties against these perpetrators? These are the questions to be observed by South Block. Deep Sidhu’s successor Amritpal, who is the new leader of ‘Waris Punjab de’, an organization found in 2021 to unleash the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ programme of Sikhs has been active in creating an emotional hiatus among Punjabis against India. He has been engaged in hate speeches against Jesus and Indian Gods and spreading the word of Khalistan that challenges Indian rise from the inside. Kashmir and Punjab have proved to be the soft bellies of Indian state. The recent spurt in missionary conversions and rehabilitations has turned the social environment hot. Of course these developments have foreign connections, from where the philanthropists like George Soros dole out huge funds on the name of freedom and democracy. The foreign policy has domestic implications and complexities and the Indian diversity has, from the very beginning, fallen a prey to external designs on account of the diverging voices.

The raking up of the Godhra case by BBC that has been closed by Supreme Court of India also smacks of this connection. ‘India: The Modi Question’ a two-part documentary aired by BBC in 2023 focuses on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his relationship with the Muslim minority. The aim is to further distance the minority from the BJP government in view of 2024 General Election. George Soros, a Billionaire philanthropist, believes that bringing down of Gautam Adani may weaken Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hold on the government. His keen interest in Indian government and politics and opposition to Modi and Trump, whose return he despises in 2024, unravels a larger conspiracy, ‘the project India 2024’, behind. Might be that a good number of toolkits are running or about to be launch operations on this.

The developments reminisces one of the words of Stephan P. Cohen (2000), “India is not a great power in the classic sense; it cannot challenge American military or economic strength. But in a transformed international order, its assets and resources are more relevant to a wide range of American interests than they have been for 50 years. They cannot be safely ignored in the future, as they have been in the past”. The Indian challenge might be small, but not the one that could be easily hoodwinked and herein lays the strength of its existence. The government needs to articulate its power, institutional, democratic and diplomatic in view of all these threads and their threats that pose a great challenge to Indian prominence and proliferation in the world politics.

Prof. Harish K. Thakur
Prof. Harish K. Thakur
Department of Political Science HP University, Shimla, 171005