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10 reasons why India will not become a superpower

Last updated on: July 14, 2009 

Image: A copy of a newspaper showing photographs of PM Singh burnt by the BJP activists in Mumbai.
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
'Will India become a superpower?' This is a question that nags every Indian.  With the nature of problems that plague India, the chances of the country becoming a superpower are remote.

"India needs to be, not a powerful or dominant country, but a country which is less discontented from within", says Ramachadra Guha writer, historian and biographer who spoke on the topic 'Ten Reasons Why India Will Not and Should Not Become a Superpower' in a meeting organised by Aspen Institute India in New Delhi.

Guha pointed out that in 1948, there was a mood of despair and gloom about India's prospects, the government was seen as the only agent that could bring about change.

10 reasons why India will not become a superpower

Image: Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pose for a photo at the BRIC summit in Yekaterinburg
Photographs: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Today, however, there is a sense of optimism about India's prospects, although the government is seen as the major impediment in the country's progress.

Tarun Das, president, Aspen Institute India, said India needed more debates such as this to provide a more balanced view of the country's growth and development.

Of the 10 reasons he listed, Guha suggested that environmental degradation is likely to remain the most pressing challenge facing India. Primary education also remains a significant challenge that needs to be overcome.

He went on to elucidate the ten points that he thought would objectively prevent India from becoming a superpower:

10 reasons why India will not become a superpower

Image: Women naxalites wait before their performance during a protest rally.
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters
1.Religious extremism: Long term trends indicate that liberals and moderates in every religious community in India are on the defensive.

2. Left wing extremism: Extremism in the form of the Naxalite movement, which is a result of geographical reasons and also social and political forces, owing to the continued dispossession and deprivation of tribal people in India.

10 reasons why India will not become a superpower

Image: A view of Indian Parliament building.
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters

3. Corruption: The corruption and corrosion of the power center in India, as a result of political parties functioning as family firms rather than open, transparent political systems.

4. Decline of public institutions: This includes universities, police, civil services, the judiciary (except for higher judiciary) etc.

10 reasons why India will not become a superpower

Image: Children eat in their his make-shift home in an unused waterpipe in Mumbai.
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
5. Rich-poor divide: The increasing gap between the rich and the poor which is particularly manifested through farmer suicides in India, a phenomenon that has become pervasive only in the last 10-15 years, perhaps because there is now the expectation of a 'good life' that did not exist before.

6. Environmental degradation: The degradation at a local level, which is impacting people's lives in very real ways, whether in the form of massive depletion of underground aquifers, chemical contamination of soil, death of rivers, loss of species etc.



10 reasons why India will not become a superpower

Image: Children sit on a horse cart while coming back from school near New Delhi.
Photographs: Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters
7. Apathy of the media: Apathy in covering issues of rising income inequality, environmental degradation.

8. Political chaos: The political fragmentation manifests as coalition governments at both the central and regional levels, which makes it very difficult to forge sustainable long term policies in the realm of health, education, etc.

10 reasons why India will not become a superpower

Image: A Kashmiri boatman waits for customers on the banks of Srinagar's famous Dal lake in Kashmir.
9. Border disputes: India's unresolved border disputes, especially in Kashmir and the North East (Nagaland and Manipur) which indicates that there are parts of India that are not comfortable with being part of India.

10. Unstable neighbour: India's increasingly unstable neighbourhood is another serious impediment to our superpower ambitions.