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The Rise of India as a World Power

Since the turn of the century, the chatter about India as an emerging global power has become louder and louder. The drivers of this perception are the steady growth in India’s defense budget; the recognition of the talent of its engineers, doctors, scientists, and managers; the success of the Indian diaspora; and India’s rapid GDP growth. The fact that India is a democracy also adds to its international appeal. Western nations saw very early on that India was not only a natural ally of the West because of its democratic ethos but was also a preferred rival to China, where authoritarianism remains entrenched. This geostrategic difference adds to India’s importance. The U.S., India’s biggest trading partner, sees U.S.-India relations as the “most consequential relationship of this century.” And U.S. officials now routinely parrot the refrain that India, the world’s biggest democracy, and the U.S., the world’s oldest democracy, are natural allies and partners in advancing a global order that defends democracy and the rule of law.

Since the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. has been facilitating the rise of India, as it enabled the rise of China in the 1990s. The sanctions imposed on India for testing nuclear weapons were eased and efforts have since been made to groom India as a potential partner in containing the rise of China as a challenger to U.S. hegemony and to the liberal international order. India is eager to gain a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. It feels that this achievement will not only underscore India’s status as a major power but also give it the protection it seeks from international criticism as it pursues its ideological goals in the domestic arena. India has witnessed how the U.S. has used its power at the U.N. not only to advance its own interests but also to safeguard the interests of its allies. From the day it gained independence, India has felt that it was destined to be a great power and will one day achieve its “rightful place” on the global stage. Becoming part of the global governing elite, meaning a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and having more say in the management of multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, would be the pathway to this “rightful place.”