A look at the history of India in last 500 years gives a sense of gloom with multiple invasions, religious oppressions, colonial plunder and a largely deprived society. It makes a rather depressing picture of a huge country, just not able to manage itself and make the ends meet. Worse still the blame has been put on the nation itself for the misery it has gone through. Historically Indian landmass has been a reasonably prosperous and peaceful, in whatever form it existed. This simple characteristics, which otherwise should be a nation’s strength turned out to be its worst nightmare. Invaders of all shades from Asia to Europe were hugely attracted to India’s natural wealth and splendour. India was like a treasure chest unguarded. Its own rulers, barring few brave warriors held a completely self-serving myopic vision. It’s sarcastically observed that – ‘door of the forts has always been opened from inside’. What a travesty of time, for a nation with immense resources of its own has to suffer the tragedy of subjugation for a very long period of its history.
India achieved its Independence after monumental sacrifices from our great freedom fighters. But this Independence came amidst extremely difficult circumstances, most of it deliberately created by then rulers. It was a huge psychological pain for British Masters to have been forced out of their most valued territory. Rather than getting sense of their folly, for making a prosperous land an object of exploitation and just leave the place with grace, he rulers did exactly opposite, as if to express their vengeance for an assumed insult of being shown the door. While Mohammad Ali Jinnah is said to have popped ‘Two Nations Theory’ the fact has been he was given active push and ‘motivation’ from the arbitrators of our Independence.
Partition was the idea of Muslim elite and not the Muslims masses. That Jinnah remained adamant had less to do with his faith over necessity and viability of yet to born Pakistan, it was rather due to over assurances he was being given from the crown. It was a distinct proof of this meddling that someone like Jinnah, never a mass leader himself, was getting rewarded with a territory of his own to rule. Pakistan with its Eastern & Western territory was way too unreal and harrowingly impractical, without a precedent anywhere in the world.
The end of original Pakistan was a forgone conclusion and their creators knew this very well; it was a question of – not if, but when. There weren’t any freedom fighters for Pakistan, irony has been everyone fought for an Independent India! Pakistan’s abrupt birth out of nowhere was like an unplanned baby, without any one giving a thought to its future or how will it be managed.
If the deep communal divide which was sown by arbitrators of our Independence that led to horrific massacre across Punjab wasn’t bad enough, within months a war was imposed on probably most impoverished people of Asia. Other British advisors were busy strategizing Pakistani military actions in J&K. It was vengeance of worst kind first you rule, then loot and then poison the whole nation when forced to leave. India was made to fight with a regressive intent to force it on its knees and beg it’s rulers for bailout.
That India survived the conspiracy and carnage at its most vulnerable time in history is a story worth a folklore. India struggled to feed its people, the agriculture output was approximately 5.5 crore tonnes for a population of 36 crore as against 308 crore tonnes for 138 crore population today. Figuratively, two tonnes of food was yearly available for about 13 persons which is the same quantity available for every citizen today, although we have grown almost four times since then. India had lost around 40 million people in pandemics of Cholera, Plague, Influenza by 1920 which devastated the national resilience. India didn’t have enough medical care, doctors or medicines to cure its citizens. India didn’t had infrastructure as the likes of Europe and was called out as country of Bullock carts. India was despised by ‘superior West’ for just about everything and precisely it was same people who were reasons why it was so.
India continued with its sufferings, growing under very challenging and almost hostile international environment. India’s non-aligned approach was liked by none, but it knew there were very few from whom one can pick friends from. India was walking on a narrow alley over burning coal but it still faced the heat none the less. Looking at the developed nations and India makes for a remarkable observation; Post Mughal and British rule India has been independent only for about a quarter of period as compared to America. Europe especially France, Britain and Germany had come out of World War 2 in 1945 and were frantically rebuilding themselves with grand American help; while India was going through bloody partition and unethically imposed wars. A nation trying to take baby steps when it was born, had to hurriedly go to war to save it’s motherland and by within three decades of independence, India had already endured four major wars.
India in spite of opinion of ‘blocks’ is successfully treading its own independent path. There are characteristics which defines a nation like individuals. A 2017 ResearchGate paper defined India as a nation of – Tolerance, Unity in Diversity, Spirituality and Longevity. These national characteristics amplifies how India has been able to sustain itself in face of extreme challenges
Japan after World War 2 and South Korea post Korean war came under US nuclear umbrella which put them at complete ease from security challenges all they have to do is focus their national energy on development, India was not so lucky. At one hand US was pumping dollars and sending security assurances to its allies in Europe, Japan and South Korea on the other hand it was dangerously threatening India. US has infamously moved its seventh fleet into India’s backyard during 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. It was only due to prompt Soviet response of despatching nuclear armed ships and atomic submarines that saved the day for India. In a famous recorded communication intercept from the commander of the British Carrier Battle Group, Admiral Dimon Gordon, to the US’s Seventh Fleet commander he mentioned: “Sir, we are too late. There are the Russian atomic submarines here, and a big collection of battleships.” India would have been under seize from multiple direction if US-UK plan were to succeed. West held a love hate relationship with India; they would love India to be their ally but if not, it was complete disgruntlement.
Creating Own Space
India was among very few which saw the West in their worst avatar. Indian leaders who endured the sacrifices and struggle nation had made to earn its Independence didn’t want it to become an economic slave later. They had India’s glorious history and trove of belief on nation’s inherent strength to bank upon. They knew immediate challenges may be overwhelming but it will not last forever. It was a testimony of national vision that India choose to be non-aligned and not neutral.
It was a path of an independent choice, expressing strong opinions and exploring without getting over shadowed by world Powers. India’s national perspective has since remained unshaken. Fast forward to present times, the ongoing Ukraine conflict has resonated absolutely same approach. India in spite of opinion of ‘blocks’ is successfully treading its own independent path. There are characteristics which defines a nation like individuals. A 2017 ResearchGate paper defined India as a nation of – Tolerance, Unity in Diversity, Spirituality and Longevity. These national characteristics amplifies how India has been able to sustain itself in face of extreme challenges. India has this strange capacity to not only stand firm but also harness its power for the larger good.
Each of India’s national characteristics is perhaps unique, but the combination of this all is definitely unparalleled. In a very expansive description of national identity, India has defined itself – as a democratic republic, a secular state with equality for all as fundamental right. Democracy with all its known ills has proved to be the most formidable strength for India. It’s like a pressure cooker vent, which allows the boiling pot to ease and remain stable. Each section, howsoever small and by whatever distinction it identifies itself can speak, get represented and be heard. It’s a monumental achievement for almost one fifth of humanity. These aren’t just facts from India but India is a lesson by itself.
A Power to Reckon
PWC in its recent report titled ‘Future of India – The Winning Leap’ has projected; that for India opportunities both at home and abroad are limitless. It’s a fair assessment from a more than a century old organization. Most critical parameters for gauging a nation’s strength is its economy, population, geography and military not in that specific order necessarily. IMF has identified India to be ‘World’s fastest growing large economy’. India will surpass a USD 5 Trillion economy benchmark by 2026-27. India is slated to become world’s third largest economy by 2030 next only to China and US. For population, UN has projected India to be most populous country in the world by 2023.
This will give India a major demographic dividend, huge pool of young population and vibrant middle class. As geography goes, India sits perfect overlooking key international maritime trade routes with its inherent capacity to influence the same. India’s geography has offered it a major geopolitical advantage. It’s only major country apart from Russia with land boundary to China and capacity to alter world’s supply chain, a key universal concern today. As a military power, India is world’s 4th strongest military next only to US, Russia and China.
India’s 75 years since it achieved independence seems to have brought it full circle when it started as a prosperous, educated and a proud society. There’s long way ahead and country is just stepping into adolescent period. It’s perfectly placed to accelerate into next stage of development and national prosperity
Barring China other two are India’s close partners. India possess massive military strength which continues to grow with a strong indigenous push. Couple it with India being a major nuclear and space power, India already holds an awesome military strength which by all means will continue to get further strengthened. India is also perhaps the most important nation with soft power. India’s talented young generation have been leading global multi-billion industries, it’s vibrant diaspora holds the merit of being a highly cohesive and competitive group for the home nations and not the least Indian cinema which constitutes largest worldwide following next only to Hollywood.
It’s not that challenges are not there but even accounting them, where does it all leaves India. India’s 75 years since it achieved independence seems to have brought it full circle when it started as a prosperous, educated and a proud society. There’s long way ahead and country is just stepping into adolescent period. It’s perfectly placed to accelerate into next stage of development and national prosperity. It’s an acknowledged fact in geopolitics, that only strength begets respect. The world fully understands that India has arrived and must be respected for the journey it has endured. It’s not in the distant future, India’s time is here and now!
–The writer has varied experience in security paradigm and is a keen follower of international geopolitics. He is also the author of popular blog site (geostrat.in) on geo-strategic affairs. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda