India’s dream of super power-dom


“Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya’s United Spirits Ltd. became the world’s second largest liquor firm, with sales volumes of 100 million cases in fiscal 2009-10, the company said.” He also owns Kingfisher Airlines, besides several other companies. Top News A rural worker drying cow dung in Bihar, India. Wikipedia

Life has really changed in one decade! In 2000 the then President Bill Clinton, paid a five-hour visit to Pakistan (in an unmarked plane) where he lectured the citizens live on the national TV. In India, he spent five days. This was pre 9/11. Clinton’s visit to South Asia then seemed like Gora Bapa was in the land of Kali Mata, i.e., White Father in the land of (goddess) Mother Kali.

In contrast, what was missing during President Barack Obama’s recent visit was that god-like power, which the US presidents usually exude. What the world saw was a salesman who traveled thousands of miles to create about 50,000 jobs in the US and $10 billion business deals. Not that the US presidents’ visits are without commercial interest—the difference this time is that this was an openly announced business visit. Although the US is still the Super Power, and many Indians were awed by the Obama visit, the fear factor was missing. (This time, Pakistan was not even considered worthy of a few hours.)

Now India wants to be the Super Power with US as its role model. The positive factors for this status include: India’s territorial size, its population, the increasing pace of its technological advances, the entrepreneurship of its people, and the increasing interest of the west in its fashion and movie industry, particularly the Mumbai based Bollywood film industry, India’s dream of being a super power may not be too inaccessible.

However, the realization of that dream is complicated. At least four factors played a role in helping the US to achieve its power:
1. Geography
2. Colonies
3. Different Times
4. Internal control

A look at the map of North America will show that the eastern and western sides of the US have natural barriers in the shape of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, respectively. The north side is entirely covered by Canada which, with one tenth of the US population and considerably less military presence in comparison to the US poses no danger to the US. Russian territory, as Sarah Palin rightly claimed during one of her presidential campaign interviews, can be seen from Alaska (one of the US states), but the area’s tactical importance is nil. The only threat the US faces is from Mexico, and that is in the form of cheap labor.

However, a look at the map of India reveals that it has two nuclear powers, China on the northeast and Pakistan on the northwest. Also, it has many Mexicos surrounding it such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar (or Burma) and Nepal. An added discomfort for India is the fact that Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Russia are within vicinity.

The US, like other imperial powers, had colonies such as Philippines and Cuba. It also exploited Central American and Caribbean countries. The colonies provide raw material, cheap labor, soldiers for its wars, and other natural resources—the necessary ingredients which are a prerequisite in the accumulation of more power. It also helps to alleviate the living standard of the domestic population by distributing a fraction of the looted booty. The US, Australia, and Canada stole native peoples’ land and depended on slave and/or indentured labor. Post Second World War, the colonized countries became independent and so the former colonial powers changed their exploitation strategy and opted for an economic imperialism through world financial institutions such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank; the United Nations; and through overt and/or covert wars.

India has no country colonies, only poverty widespread all over India. Although, India China, South Korea, Kuwait, and a few other countries are acquiring land in Africa, it won’t be as easy to get away with exploitation as it was for the whites.

Different Times
The end of the Second World War (1939-1945) saw the demise of British global hegemony and the rise of the United States as the new Super Power. The Soviet Union was not far behind. Most of the African and Asian countries were under colonial rule (direct, indirect, or as protectorates), whereas the independent countries of Latin America were busy resolving their own domestic problems. Besides, in the words of the 5th US President James Monroe, Latin America was US backyard and was closed to any European power.

Another important fact was that the US was already a developed country with the biggest economy in the world when it became a Super Power. History has not been that kind to India or any other would be super power as it was to the US.

Internal Control
For countries who believe their destiny is to propagate their ideology globally, it is important to keep their own populations under strict control. The domestic unrest by the people (either for their own rights or as a protest against the foreign wars) could affect their leaders’ foreign adventures. In the US, Richard Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson had to bear the consequences. The police and other related agencies have to be ruthless in crushing any group which takes the path of militant resistance for its genuine grievances. The Black Panther Party in the US fighting for people’s rights was crushed by the FBI.

Not that the Indian law agencies and the military are unfamiliar to ruthlessness, it is just that there are too many victims of too many economic and political injustices and this has resulted in many communities resorting to armed opposition such as the Kashmiri militants, Naxalites, Maoists, and other groups. This is where India’s dream can go sour.

Multi-powers world
today, it is very doubtful that any one nation could command the power and influence which the US was able to exert when it was at the height of his super power-dom. The world has changed: the technology is more widespread, and nationalism is an important part of almost every ruling class. The news is spread instantaneously today. This provides the opponents to act without much delay; thus frustrating in some instances the plans of the powerful.

Devoid of the US geographical benefit, surrounded by foes and jihadis, and domestically encumbered by the demands and/or uprisings of the oppressed and neglected minorities, it would be foolish for the leaders of India or for that matter China or any other country to even dream to be the next United States.

What will conceivably emerge is a medley of regional powers such as China, Brazil, Japan, the European community, and India (or South Asia—if Pakistan and India can rise above their foolishness). The US will gradually be reduced to a regional power—the slide has already begun in the shape of declining economy and the military debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia may overcome the internal chaos and could become a regional power.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

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