Human resource is our greatest asset
I do believe that India has a potential to become a superpower. We are a nuclear power; we are a military power and we certainly can become an economic power. Our greatest asset to become a superpower is our human resource.
The Indian mind is most enterprising. However, the policies we pursued after Independence shackled the enterprise and initiative of Indians. Why is it that Indians who had not excelled in India are doing extensively well abroad? It is obvious that the environment for achieving excellence has been more conducive outside India.
Let us just analyse how far we have come in the last 12 years since the opening up of the economy. The queues for every essential commodity have disappeared. We are surplus in foodgrains; surplus in steel, cement, textiles, etc. Sectors such as automobiles, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals have been revolutionised in the past seven years. If we are today in a position to supply telephony at the cheapest rates in the world why canít we use our technology and enterprise and allow our corporates to enter the telecom market in the African continent where it is untapped? Why canít we today provide Indian MNCs as our answer to the global MNCs? We produce today the cheapest and amongst the best life-saving drugs in the world. Even the USA had to depend on our research and development to counter the scare created by anthrax. In just four years of undertaking the highway projects, our national highways are well laid. The opening up of the higher education sector in the last decade is already resulting in a surplus capacity in the engineering, management and information technology courses. Where then are we lacking, before we become a superpower?
The biggest threat to India comes from a growing cynicism amongst a section of the Indian intelligentsia. Even a section of the media behaves as the mother of all cynicism. We need to develop positive mindsets. We need to develop a confident Indian. I also find that the decision-making process is influenced by Indian politics. Cutting across party lines, a large number of political workers and leaders are still using the jargon of the past. We have to get the socialist bug out of our system. We must realise that the government has to be a facilitator which creates an environment where people contribute to growth.
The government must be a policy-framer. The key to growth is going to be education. Our concentration on expanding the base of the social sector, particularly in the fields of healthcare and education, must increase. The National resource must concentrate on these areas. We are well on our way to a quality infrastructure. The infrastructure is lacking only in power sector. A national consensus to develop a formidable power sector is a pre-requisite. The hand of history can touch us unless we squander this opportunity.
Growth, justice & harmony must
to be a superpower
A country like India, with one billion people, should aim for the status of a superpower. If nothing else, we account for nearly a sixth of humanity. Apart from the population, there are other factors that favour India.
We are a full-fledged democracy. Whatís more, we have been a vibrant, modern democracy for more than 50 years which is not the case with any other
developing country in the history of modern world.
These two factors make us not only a huge nation, but also a modern polity.
Besides these two vital factors, the development model adopted by Jawaharlal Nehru gave us two huge gifts.
One is the vast industrial and technological base which enabled us not merely to build big industries in the public sector but also to go for the Antartica expedition and atomic energy capabilities. The second is that we are the largest pool of skilled technical personnel after the USA because of which we have a burgeoning and prospering Indian professional diaspora in the West. To illustrate these points, I need only to state that Nehru became provisional Prime Minister in 1946 and he got the Atomic Energy Commission started in the same year with Homi Bhabha as Chairman. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur (modelled on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was started as early as 1950.
These two great achievements of India have opened untold possibilities of progress. We now need to build on these achievements which no other developing country, other than China, can lay a claim to. In the 21st century, the status of a nation does not depend so much on military strength as on economic strength or standard of living of people.
If military strength or nuclear weapons were to determine the status of a nation, Russia would be equal to the USA in the world today. The USA has been able to overtake its principal rival - Russia - because of its economic strength and because of the purchasing power that Americans possess.
India today does not have serious problems of external security because the country could indigenously develop both nuclear weapons and effective delivery systems. The weakness of our country lies in its sluggish growth rates
and in miserable human development indicators.
If India is to gain a rightful place in the comity of nations, we need to focus on accelerating our growth rates.
If India can grow at 10 per cent per annum, it will become the third biggest economy in the next 10 years. While we need to concentrate on growth rates, we can simultaneously attend to such basic tasks as liquidating mass illiteracy and improving public health indices.
Amartya Sen has proved that the basic problem of poverty and ill-health can be successfully tackled without waiting for dramatic improvement in the growth rates. In other words, economic growth and social justice do not operate against each other even in the immediate run.
India has no option but to bend all energies towards the twin targets of accelerating growth rates and rendering social justice. No amount of focus on these two goals is feasible without having social harmony, which inevitably includes communal concord. Growth, justice and harmony are the three pillars on which India can be built as a superpower.
lopsided to talk of superpower status
POSING the question whether India can be a superpower or not is by itself wrong and unproductive. Instead it is better to ask: how do we make India a truly democratic and just society? It is only by following such an agenda that prosperity and progress can be brought within the reach of all Indian citizens. It is possible to register a narrow type of economic growth accompanied by heightened inequalities. In other words, the talk of making India a superpower could be the cover for a highly unequal society and an authoritarian state. Aspiring to be a superpower is a luxury indulged in by those who are benefiting from the highly skewed economic policies of liberalisation. In a country where millions go hungry, where unemployment is rampant and basic services like health and education unavailable to a large section of people, it is lopsided to talk of superpower status.
It is a commentary on the mindset of Indiaís rulers that they aspire to superpower status unmindful of the fact that there is starvation among people in the tribal and drought-affected regions while 60 million tonnes of foodgrains lie rotting in the godowns. Further, the talk of making India a superpower has militaristic connotations. The quest for a military status concomitant with the role of a superpower means India would have to divert its scarce resources to building up military might. Neither the problems of security nor terrorism can be countered solely by such an approach. The basic foundations for national security requires the well-being of all citizens and the meeting of their material and social needs.
The example of China, much cited in the ruling circles today, forgets to present the basic fact that China underwent a major social transformation from the 1950s onwards with radical land reforms, removal of illiteracy, raising the living standards of the rural people and a strong base of public education and health systems. It is on these foundations that China embarked on its economic reforms which has led to sustained and rapid growth.
The target of achieving 8 per cent growth of the GDP in the tenth plan is bound to fail, given the pursuance of the policies of the "Washington consensus" dictated by the IMF and the World Bank. If India is truly to be set on a course of sustained and equitable growth, it is essential that the Indian State does not abandon its basic responsibility towards providing adequate public investment in agriculture, infrastructure and the social sector. This requires sacrifices from the rich and the elite sections and not pandering to their desire for a superpower status for India.