On the Path to the Great Power Status: Modi’s Victory and Opportunities for India

Since 2014, India’s economy has been growing vigorously and steadily. Modi has generated between 6.5% and 9.6% of GDP growth per year in recent years.

Instability in world politics, the transitional nature of international relations, and the gradual destruction of the former unipolar Western-centered world order have a serious impact on many major powers. The growing global confrontation between the United States and China, along with the increasing influence, economies, and military potential of non-Western powers, is leading to profound transformations in the international system. In this conflicting environment, the major powers need cohesion, consolidation, and sometimes a “strong hand”. In this context, Narendra Modi’s electoral victory in India can be seen as a positive development. India has a chance to continue its vigorous growth and struggle for great power.

In India, the parliamentary elections ended and a new Prime Minister was appointed. Narendra Modi was appointed, and following the vote, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide victory and won a majority of seats in the Parliament with its coalition allies.  The party won 240 seats, and in the coalition 293 of 543 of the Lok Sabha, constitutionally the House of the People, the lower house of India’s bicameral Parliament, this is enough to form a government.

Voting has been held in phases since mid-April. India has nearly a billion registered voters. Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014 and has maintained an absolute majority in parliament. Modi’s party won a record 303 seats in the previous election in 2019. The opposition INDIA bloc won more seats than predicted – 234 – and there was a chance it would try to pull Modi’s NDA allies to its side, but that didn’t happen. In all likelihood, Modi’s party will retain four key ministries – foreign affairs, defense, home and finance.

Since 2014, India’s economy has been growing vigorously and steadily. Modi has generated between 6.5% and 9.6% of GDP growth per year in recent years. In 2023, South Asia’s leader became the world’s most populous country, overtaking China. India is the seventh-largest democracy in the world. In recent years, India has become the fastest-growing large economy. According to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, India will be the world’s third-largest economy in 2022, second only to China and the US. India is a member of several international organizations, including G-20, WTO, and BRICS. Delhi is one of the largest consumers of Russian oil and has a neutral stance towards the conflict in Ukraine. The country’s authorities are in favor of peace talks.

Russia and India have historically developed allied and friendly relations. There have never been any problems, thorny issues or unresolved disputes between the two countries. The Soviet Union was one of the few countries that helped India in the process of the anti-colonial struggle against Great Britain. Later, Moscow supported Delhi in wars against Pakistan, which had the support of the US and the West. At the present stage, the relations are also very successful.

Russian President Vladimir Putin became one of the first world leaders and congratulated Narendra Modi on his victory in the elections. On June 5, a telephone conversation between the leaders took place. “The Russian President warmly congratulated Narendra Modi on the success in the parliamentary elections. This is a reflection of support for the Indian leadership’s policy, recognition of the achievements in the socio-economic development of the country, and the strengthening of its international authority,” said the Kremlin press service. “Both sides expressed satisfaction with the current level of the specially privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India, which will continue to expand in all directions,” – stressed the message. It says that “it is agreed to continue constructive personal interaction between the leaders of the two countries”.

In the world press, Modi is often called a “strong man”. The liberal press in the US, Europe, and even India sometimes criticize him for excessive authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism. At the same time, Modi’s main task is to obtain the status of a great power, standing in line with other large and powerful nations. Of particular importance in Modi’s strategy is Asia, where India should, in his view, take a fair and dignified place without giving China the lead. The rise of Beijing’s power has a strong influence on India’s strategy, forcing the largest democracy to stay on track and pursue an active and effective foreign policy, strengthening its position in the region and the world.

The modernization and development of the diplomatic craft of Indian professionals under Modi’s rule is also very visible, it is especially evident in the crisis in Afghanistan. Historically, New Delhi has always opposed the Taliban and considered this radical organization as its enemy and an ally of the Pakistani military. However, after the US defeat in Afghanistan and the reincarnation of the Islamic Emirate, Indian diplomats managed to regroup and start a complex dialog with the Taliban leaders. This process showed the high skill of Indian diplomats and their ability to adapt to complex situations. By now, large enough circles of the Taliban have begun to distrust Pakistan in a way that had not been seen before on this scale.

Narendra Modi, from his first term, has pursued a very active foreign policy, strengthening India’s position in the region. India has many allies and partners in Asia. And under Modi’s rule, New Delhi’s influence in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, Mauritius and Maldives has increased.  At the same time, India continues to have difficulties with the growth of terrorism in the region and some of its states. New Delhi is particularly worried about attempts by the Pakistani military to support and incite various radical groups to become more aggressive. Confrontation with Pakistan remains a challenge for New Delhi. Although the South Asian neighbors’ capabilities can no longer be compared, India has moved far ahead in its development, but Islamabad has some support from regional and world powers seeking to contain India. Pakistan’s military elite continues to actively support various radical Islamist organizations that seek to damage Indian interests and prestige.

Thus, the complex, unstable, and transitional international environment forces the major powers to be alert, not to relax, and to remain united. Modi’s victory gives India a chance to continue its ascent to great power status.

Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatryan, associate professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University and Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.