India as a potential superpower

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India is considered one of the potential superpowers of the world.[1][2][3][4] This potential is attributed to several indicators, the primary ones being its demographic trends and a rapidly expanding economy and military. In 2015, India became the world's fastest growing economy with a 5% estimated GDP rate (mid year terms).[5] Before it can be considered a superpower, the country must overcome many economic, social, and political problems and it also needs to be as influential on the international stage when compared to the United States, China and the former Soviet Union.

Factors in favour[edit]

View of the Himalaya and Mount Everest as seen from space looking south-south-east from over the Tibetan Plateau. The Himalayas in the north and north-east protect the subcontinent from bitter continental cold, save the monsoon winds from escaping, and replenish the river watersheds and flat arable lands that have spawned the Indian civilisation.
An aerial view of the bustling metropolis of Mumbai (Bombay) at night. Mumbai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in India, its also the country's financial centre and the hub of Bollywood.

India lies in the South Asian portion of the Indian Ocean - a zone with unprecedented potential for growth in the scale of transoceanic commerce, with many Eurasian and increasingly Afro-Asian sea-trade routes passing through or close to Indian territorial waters. The subcontinent's land and water resources, though strained, are still sustaining its massive population.[citation needed] According to George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston of the British Empire:

The central position of India, its magnificent resources, its teeming multitude of men, its great trading harbours, its reserve of military strength, supplying an army always in a high state of efficiency and capable of being hurled at a moment's notice upon any point either of Asia or Africa--all these are assets of precious value. On the West, India must exercise a predominant influence over the destinies of Persia and Afghanistan; on the north, it can veto any rival in Tibet; on the north-east . . . it can exert great pressure upon China, and it is one of the guardians of the autonomous existence of Siam (Kingdom of Thailand). The possession of India gave the British Empire its global reach.[6]

Possible future advantage of location[edit]


In the future, the world is expected to exit the "fossil fuel age") and perhaps the "nuclear energy age", and enter the "renewable-energy age" or even further into the "fusion power age", if and whenever these technologies become economically sustainable.[7][8][9] Being a region in the sunny tropical belt, the Indian subcontinent could greatly benefit from a renewable energy trend, as it has the ideal combination of both - high solar insolation[10] and a big consumer base density.[11][12][13] For example, considering the costs of energy consumed for temperature control (a major factor influencing a region's energy intensity) and the fact that - cooling load requirements, unlike heating, are roughly in phase with the sun's intensity, cooling from the excessive solar radiation could make great energetic (and hence economic) sense in the subcontinent, whenever the required technology becomes competitively cheaper.[14][15][16] India also has 25% of the world's thorium resources.[citation needed]

Demographic factors[edit]

The increased Indian population has prompted the creation of high rise apartment blocks in numerous cities, including relatively minor cities like Gurgaon, where this apartment block was built.

Large population[edit]

India has the world's second largest population.[17] The PGR for the country is 1.1. A very large number of India's population, about 50%, is below the age group of 24. This provides the nation with a large workforce for many decades, helping in its growth.[18]

Young population[edit]

Due to its high birth rate, India has a young population compared to more developed nations. It has approximately 65% of its population below the age of 35. In addition, declining fertility is beginning to reduce the youth dependency rate which may produce a demographic dividend.[19][20][21] In the coming decades, while some of the powerful nations will witness a decrease in workforce numbers, India is expected to have an increase. For example, while Europe is well past its demographic window, the United States entered its own in 1970 (lasting until 2015), China entered its own in 1990 (and will last until 2025), India entered its own in 2010 (and it will last until 2050).[22] In the words of Indian Scholar Rejaul Karim Laskar, "when greying population will be seen inhibiting economic growth of major countries, India will be brimming with youthful energy".[23] Regionally, South Asia is supposed to maintain the youngest demographic profile after Africa and the Middle East, with the window extending up to the 2070s.[24]

Global diaspora[edit]

More than 32 million Indians live across the globe.[25][26] Under fair opportunities, they have become socio-economically successful— especially in the US and the UK where they are the highest earning ethnic demographic.[27]

Foreign language skills[edit]

The importance of the English language in the 21st century is a topic of debate,[28][29][30] nonetheless the growing pool of non-native English speakers makes it the best contender for "Global language" status.[31][32] Incidentally, India has the world's largest English speaking/understanding population.[33] It claims one of the largest workforces of engineers, doctors and other key professionals, all comfortable with English.[34] It has the 2nd largest population of "fluent English" speakers, second only to the United States, with estimates ranging from 150 to 250 million speakers, and is expected to have the largest in coming decades. Indians are also learning Dutch, Italian, French, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, German, and Spanish.[35][36]

Political factors[edit]

The Machinery of the world's largest democracy: Sansad Bhavan, the Parliament of India
The BRICS leaders in 2016. Left to right: Temer, Modi, Xi, Putin and Zuma.

Democratic republicanism[edit]

India is the world's largest democratic republic, four times bigger than the next largest (the United States). It has so far been successful politically, especially considering its functionality despite its difficult ethnic composition.[37][38] The fact that India is a democracy has improved its relations with other democratic nations and significantly improved its ties with the majority of the nations in the developed world.[39]

Candidacy for Security Council[edit]

India has been pressing for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (as part of the G4 nations[40]) but with a clause that it won't exercise its veto for the next 15 years.[41] It has received backing from United States,[42][43] France,[44] Russia,[45] and the United Kingdom.[46] However, China's stand remains unclear.[47][48]

Foreign relations[edit]

India has developed relationships with the world powers like the United Kingdom, the European Union,[49] Japan, Russia, and the United States.[50] It also developed relationships with the African Union (particularly South Africa), the Arab World, Southeast Asia, Israel and South American nations (particularly Brazil). To make the environment favourable for economic growth, India is investing on its relations with China.[51] It has significantly boosted its image among Western nations and signed a civilian nuclear deal with the United States in March 2006. It is also working for better relationships with Pakistan.[52]

Role in international politics[edit]

Historically, India was one of the founding members of Non-Aligned Movement and had good relationships with Soviet Union and other parts of western world. It played regional roles in South Asian affairs, e.g. its use of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in the Bangladesh Liberation War and in Sri Lanka. It took a leading initiative to improve relations between African and Asian countries. India is an active member of the Commonwealth and the WTO. The evolving economic integration politics in the West and in Asia is influencing the Indian mood to slowly swing in favour of integration with the global economy.[53] Currently, India's political moves are being influenced by economic imperatives. New Delhi is also being observed to slowly, cautiously, and often hesitantly, step into the uncharted role of becoming one of the two major seats of political power in Asia,[54] the other being at Beijing. Some enlightened thinkers from the subcontinent have also envisioned, over the long run, a South Asian version of free trade zone and even a Union, where the South Asian nations relinquish all past animosities and move to make economic growth a pan subcontinental phenomenon.[44][55]


A new and highly controversial geopolitical strategy, being debated in the West, is whether India should be trusted/helped to become an economically strong democratic citizen of the world, and be used to balance the powerful but non-democratic forces, to insure a more stable world.[56] Generally speaking, it is discussed in the context of adopting a policy of offshore balancing on the part of the United States.[57]

Economic growth[edit]

India's current economic growth (as the world's fastest-growing major economy as of 2015) has improved its standing on the world's political stage, even though it is still a developing country, but one that is showing strong development. Many nations are moving to forge better relationships with India.[58][59]

The Mumbai Pune Expressway, part of a series of modern high-traffic roads in India

Economic factors[edit]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the launch of Make in India

Booming economy[edit]

The economy of India is currently the world's third largest in terms of real GDP (PPP) after the United States of America and the People's Republic of China. According to the World Bank, India overtook China to become the fastest-growing major economy in the world as of 2015.[60] Its record growth was in the third quarter of 2003 when it grew higher than any other emerging economy at 10.4%.[61][62] Estimates by the IMF show that in 2011 (see List of countries by future GDP estimates (PPP)), India became the third largest economy in the world, overtaking the Japanese economy and the fifth largest economy by GDP (Nominal). India has grown at 7.5% in 2015.

Primary sector[edit]

India, growing at 9% per year, is the world's second largest producer of food next to China. Food processing accounts for US$69.4 billion as gross income.[63]

Secondary sector[edit]

India is still relatively a small player in manufacturing when compared to many world leaders. Some new trends suggest an improvement in the future, since the manufacturing sector is growing at 11-12%.[64][65][66][67][68][69]

Tertiary and quaternary sector[edit]

India currently has an expanding IT industry which is considered one of the best in the world. Some have begun to describe India as a technology superpower.[70][71] It is considered the World's Office and is leading in the Services Industry. This is mainly due to the availability of a large pool of highly skilled, low cost, English speaking workforce.[72][73]

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle in Shri Harikota. India is one of the few countries in the world that has the capability of launching satellites into geostationary transfer orbits.

Science and technology[edit]

India is attempting to develop a highly skilled workforce with an expert command of the English language to fit into the future knowledge economy.[74][75] India is becoming one of the world's leading producers of computer software; with mushrooming research and development centres, it is experiencing a steady revolution in its science and technology sector.[76][77][78] A typical example of India's accomplished scientific endeavours includes: becoming the third nation to found a National Space Agency called ISRO, after the USSR and the U.S.; the third Asian nation to launch a satellite from an indigenously developed rocket into orbit after China and Japan, starting with Rohini RS-1 in 1979.[79][80] In January 2007, India became the fourth nation to complete atmospheric reentry[81] In October 2008, India launched its first unmanned lunar probe, Chandrayaan 1, which operated until August 2009.[82][83][84] On 14 November 2008, the Moon Impact Probe separated from the Chandrayaan orbiter at 20:06 and was deliberately made to strike the Moon near the south pole, making India the fourth country to reach the Moon's surface. Among its many achievements was the discovery of the widespread presence of water molecules in lunar soil. On 24 September 2014, India became the fourth nation to have a satellite orbiting Mars. India is the first Asian nation to achieve this and the first to do so in a first attempt in the whole world.[85] India and the United States have increased mutual co-operation in space-travel related technologies, such as increasing the interoperability between Indian and US systems, and prospects for a commercial space launch agreement with India that would allow US satellites to be launched on Indian vehicles.[86] India is among the world leaders in remote sensing,[87] a technology coming to great use, among others, to Indian fishermen & farmers.[88] India is also trying to join international R&D projects - e.g. it has recently joined the European Galileo GPS Project[89] and the ITER for fusion energy club.[90] India also holds a world record for placing 104 satellites in orbit by single launch. India recently launched Chandrayaan 2 mission to moon which had included a lander and rover. It also has a planned space mission(Indian Human spaceflight) to send a human to space by 2022. Some Indian educational and research institutions like IIT,[91] IISER,[92] NIT, IIIT, BITS Pilani, IIM, IISc, TIFR and AIIMS are among the world's best.


To reduce the energy crisis, India is presently constructing ~ 9 civilian nuclear power reactors and several hydro-power stations. On 25 January 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin offered to build 4 more reactors on a visit to India, and India is expected to clinch this deal of strategical importance.[93] Recently, it also made a civilian nuclear energy deal with the US[94] and EU.[95] In recent years, India joined China to launch a vigorous campaign to acquire oil fields around the world and now has stake in several oil fields (in the Middle East and Russia).[96][97][98]

Mass transit system[edit]

India is in the process of developing modern mass rapid transit systems to replace its existing system which is seen as inadequate to cater to present and future urban requirements. A modern metro rail system is already in place in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Kochi, Gurgaon, Jaipur and Lucknow . Work is in progress or would be commencing shortly for developing similar mass transit system in cities of Noida, Pune Bhopal, Nagpur, Indore, Kanpur and Ahmedabad. Indore is leading the track by implementing world class GPS enabled low floor buses in a Rapid Transport System. With the growth in economy and technology, India is welcoming modernisation. The Indian rail network traverses the length and breadth of the country, covering a total length of 63,140 km (39,200 miles). It is one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world, transporting over 9 billion passengers and over 350 million tonnes of freight annually.[99] Its operations covers twenty-seven states and three Union territories and also links the neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, other public transport systems, such as buses are often not up to the standards followed in developed countries. India is heading towards the implementation of high-speed rail in the country.

The granite tower of Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur was completed in 1010 CE by Raja Raja Chola I.


India, with its diverse and fascinating history, arts, music, culture, spiritual & social models has witnessed the growth of a booming tourism industry.[100] India is a historic place with a diverse history of over five millennia. About 3.9 million tourists travelled to India in 2005, each spending approximately $1,470 per person, higher than that of France (the leading tourist destination in the world).[100] Foreign visitors in 2005 spent more than US$15.4 billion annually in India.[101][102][103] Many travellers find the cultural diversity an enriching experience, despite the hassles inefficiency, pollution and overcrowding.[104][105] Monuments like the Taj Mahal are among the many attractions of this land.[106][107] As of 2006, Conde Nast Traveller ranked India the 4th most preferred travel destination.[100] The Planning Commission expects 5.8 million tourists travelling to India by 2010. The World Travel and Tourism Council believes India's tourism industry will grow at 10% per annum in the next decade, making it lead the world in terms of growth.[100] Tourism contributes 6% of India's GDP and employs 40 million people, making it an important factor in India's economic growth.[100] More than 8 million foreign tourists arrived in the year 2015 against 7.68 million in 2014 recording a growth of 4.4 percent over 2014.[108][109]

Medical tourism in India[edit]

Indian Metros have emerged as the leading destination of medical tourism. Last year, an estimated 150,000 foreigners visited India for medical procedures, and the number is increasing at the rate of about 15 percent a year.[110]

Military factors[edit]

An Indian CRPF trooper.

Total strength[edit]

The Indian Armed Forces, India's main defence organisation, consists of two main branches: the core Military of India and the Indian Paramilitary Forces. The Military of India maintains the largest active duty force in the world as of 2020,[111] while the Indian Paramilitary Forces, over a million strong, is the second largest paramilitary force in the world. Combined, the total armed forces of India are 2,414,700 strong, the world's third largest defence force.[112]


The Army of India, as the Indian army was called under British rule before 1947, played a crucial role in checking the advance of Imperial Japan into South Asia during World War II. It also played a leading role in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Today, the Indian Army is the world's largest army in total numbers of armed personnel.[113]

Air force[edit]

The Indian Air Force is the fourth largest air force in the world.[114][115] India recently inducted its second indigenously manufactured combat aircraft. India is also developing the fifth generation stealth aircraft.


The Indian Navy is the world's fifth largest navy.[116] It is considered to have blue-water capabilities with sophisticated missile-capable warships, aircraft carrier, advanced submarines and the latest aircraft in its inventory, along with a significant use of state of the art technology that is indigenously manufactured.[117] It operates one aircraft carrier and also plans to induct the INS Vikrant by 2020 followed by a larger INS Vishal.

Integrated Guided Missile Development Program[edit]

Agni-II ballistic missile.

India started the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) to be a self-reliant nation in missile development. The IGMDP program includes five missiles like the Prithvi and Agni of ballistic missiles, surface to air missiles Trishul and Akash and also the anti tank Nag missile. Prithvi and Agni missiles are inducted into the armed forces and form the basis of Indian nuclear second strike capability. Trishul missile is declared a technology demonstrator. The Akash (Sky) is in service with the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force. While Nag and Helina missiles are undergoing user trials. Recently, a new weapons system, the beyond visual range air-to-air Astra missile was added to the project. Also India has fielded many modern missiles like the anti ballistic missiles like the AAD and PAD along with submarine launched ballistic missiles for its Arihant class of nuclear ballistic submarines. The expertise in developing these missiles has helped Indian scientists to contribute to joint weapon development programs like the Brahmos and Barak-II. India is also developing long range cruise missiles similar to the Tomahawk class of missiles called Nirbhay. There are reports of India developing an intercontinental ballistic missile beyond the range of ten thousand kilometres.[118] India is self-reliant in missile technology.[119]

Nuclear weapons[edit]

India has possessed nuclear weapons since 1974, when it did the Pokharan I nuclear tests, and the means to deliver them over long distances. However, India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (on grounds of security concerns and that India condemns the NPT as discriminatory).[120][121]

Arms imports[edit]

India is currently the world's 2nd largest arms importer as of the end of 2019, spending an estimated US$16.97 billion in 2004.[citation needed] India has made military technology deals with the Russian Federation, the U.S., Israel and the EU.[122]

Current major roles[edit]

The Indian Armed Forces plays a crucial role in anti-terrorist activities and maintaining law and order in the disputed Kashmir region. India has also participated in several United Nations peace-keeping missions, currently being the largest contributor to UN peace keeping force and is the second-largest contributor to the United Nations Democracy Fund behind the USA.[123]

Cultural factors[edit]


Indians invented the numbering system (introduced into the West by Arabic mathematicians, Arabic numerals), the concept of zero, logic, geometry, basic algebra, calculus, probability, astronomy etc.[124][125][126][127][128][129][130][131] India has a long history of cultural dialogue with many regions of the world, especially within Asia, where its cultural influence has spread through the philosophy of religions like Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, etc. - particularly in East and Southeast Asia. Many religions with origins outside the Indian subcontinent - Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Baháʼí Faith - have found followers in India. Indian culture has spread to foreign lands through wandering traders, philosophers, migration and not through conquest. According to Chinese ambassador to the United States, Hu Shih:

India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border. - Hu Shih[132][133]


India's film industry produces more feature films than any other.[134] In a year, it sold 3.6 billion tickets, more than any other film industry in the world (In comparison, Hollywood sold 2.6 billion tickets).[135] The cinemas play a major role in spreading Indian culture worldwide. Indian cinema transcended its boundaries from the days of film Awara, a great hit in Russia. Bollywood films are seen in central and west Asia.[136][137][138][139] Indian films have also found audience in eastern societies.[140] India's film industry is now becoming increasingly popular in Western society, with Bollywood festivals occurring numerous cities[141][142] and Bollywood dance groups performing in New Year's Eve celebrations, treatment which other non-English film industries generally do not receive.[143]

Golden temple

Unity in diversity of world view[edit]

India has a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society living together. The subcontinent's long and diverse history has given it a unique eclectic culture. It is often associated with spirituality. Thanks to its history of both indigenous and foreign influences - like the ancient Indian religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism) and the ancient Middle East Asian schools of thought (Abrahamic - Islam, Christianity, Judaism etc.) - the current Indian civilizational psyche is evolving into a complex mix of them - sometimes a superposition of religious philosophies with acceptance of the conflicting cosmologies, sometimes striking a middle ground, and sometimes taking the practical attitude - popular with the young - of "filtering the common best, and leaving the rest", thus leading to the creation of many syncretic mix of faiths (such as Sai Baba of Shirdi). Since Independence, India has regained its more progressive schools of thought, like - democracy, secularism, rule of law, esteem for human rights, rational deductive reasoning, development of Science and Technology, etc. - are making slow but steady inroads into the collective modern Indian psyche. India's diversity forces it to evolve strong foundations of tolerance and pluralism, or face break-up. The Indian public is now also accepting modern western influences in their society and media - and what is emerging is a confluence of its past local culture with the new western culture ("Social Globalisation"). For some futuristic social thinkers, the miscegenation of diverse ancient culture with modernity, spirituality with science/technology, Eastern with Western world-view is potentially making India a social laboratory for the evolution of futuristic global-unity consciousness.[144][145][146]

Points against the rise of India as a superpower[edit]

Political obstacles[edit]

India has had border disputes with both China and Pakistan. This has led to 3 wars with Pakistan and a war with China. Mapped is the location of the 1999 Kargil Conflict, which is the most recent of India's direct military encounters with the Pakistani military.

Cost of democratic republicanism[edit]

Democratic republicanism has its value, more so in a multi-ethnic country like India.[147] However, the applicability of the "theoretical" virtues of republicanism on a country like India is sometimes questioned.[148][149][150] Some thinkers consider India's diverse democracy to levy a huge tax on its economy.[151] The Indian government has to consider many interest groups before decision making. However, India is relatively a much younger republic when compared to other major democracies. Moreover, it is predicted that in the long run, India being a democracy will provide it an edge over non-democratic[citation needed] competitors like China.[152][153]


India has had significant successes with quelling many insurgencies, most prominently the Punjab insurgency (Khalistan) and the surrender of large sections of insurgent outfits like the United Liberation Front of Asom in 1992 and National Liberation Front of Tripura in 2000–2001. However, the Indian government has acknowledged that there has been a dramatic increase in support for the Maoists (Naxalite) insurgency in the last decade.[154] Maoist rebels have increased their influence over the last 10 years, especially in regions near Nepal, particularly by targeting and gaining support from poor villages in India. The boom in support appears to have been also boosted by the successes of the nearly 10-year-old Maoist rebellion in Nepal. India's government has recently taken a new stance on the Maoist insurgency, pulling the affected states together to co-ordinate their response. It says it will combine improved policing with socio-economic measures to defuse grievances that fuel the Maoist cause.[155]


India's growth is impeded by disputes with its neighbouring China and Pakistan (over historical border and ideological issues) and disputes with Bangladesh (over water availability) and hence, India's neighbours such as China and Pakistan remain distrustful towards India. It is also occasionally burdened with instability issues within some localised-regions of the subcontinent. In an effort to reduce political tension and increase economic co-operation, in recent years, India has improved its relations with its neighbours.[156]

Lack of international representation[edit]

India is not a permanent member of the UNSC, although currently, it is one of the four-nations group actively seeking a permanent seat in the council. Thus India lacks the ability to extend its influence or ideas on international events in the way superpowers do.[157]

Economic obstacles[edit]

Subsistence Farming[edit]

As of 2020, according to the World Bank, approximately 41.49% of India's total workforce are employed in the agricultural sector. Compared with most developed economies such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany, the percentage is around 1%.[158] This figure is gradually declining. However, it will still require decades until the percentage matches the figures of other leading economies. According to the National Institute of Open Schooling, a majority of farmers in India practises subsistence farming. This means farming for own consumption. In other words, the entire production is largely consumed by the farmers and their family and they do not have any surplus to sell in the market. In this type of farming, landholdings are small and fragmented. Cultivation techniques are primitive and simple. In other words, there is a total absence of modern equipments like tractors and farm inputs like chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. In this farming, farmers mostly cultivate cereals along with oil seeds, pulses, vegetables and sugarcane.[159]


As of 2011, approximately 21.9% of India's population lived below poverty line.[160][161] Poverty also begets child labour.[162] Various reforms, including mass employment schemes have been undertaken by the government to tackle this problem,[163] and India has been quite successful in reducing its share of poverty. The number of people living on $1 a day is expected to fall in South Asia from 41.5 per cent in 1990 to 16.4 per cent until 2015.[needs update][164] However, the issue of poverty in India is far from resolved. There is consensus among economists that overall poverty in India has declined, the extent of poverty reduction is often debated.[165] The economic reforms of the early 1990s were followed by rates of high economic growth. Its effect on poverty remain controversial, and the official numbers published by the Government of India, showing a reduction of poverty from 36% (1993–94) to 26% (1999 – 00), to 22% (2004–05), have been challenged both for allegedly showing too little and too much poverty reduction.[166] As of 2011, 86.8% of Indians live on less than $5.50 a day by purchasing power parity.[167] While there is a consensus on the fact that liberalisation has led to a reduction of income poverty, the picture is not so clear if one considers other non-pecuniary dimensions (such as health, education, crime and access to infrastructure). With the rapid economic growth that India is experiencing, it is likely that a significant fraction of the rural population will continue to migrate toward cities, making the issue of urban poverty more significant in the long run.[168] Economist Pravin Visaria has defended the validity of many of the statistics that demonstrated the reduction in overall poverty in India. He insisted that the 1999-2000 survey was well designed and supervised, and he further defended that just because the numbers did not appear to fit preconceived notions about poverty in India, they should not be dismissed outright.[169] Nicholas Stern, vice-president of the World Bank, has published defences of the poverty reduction statistics. He argues that increasing globalisation and investment opportunities have contributed significantly to the reduction of poverty in the country. India, has shown one of the clearest co-relation trends of globalisation with the accelerated rise in per-capita income.[170][171]


Basic infrastructure in India[172] such as roads, power grid, water, communications infrastructure, and housing are often below standards, and not catching up with the tune of its economic progress.[173] Continued poor infrastructure might serve as a bottleneck to further economic development. The 2012 India blackouts, which affected millions, was a result of such problems. The government is, however, improving the infrastructure, such as expanding the freeway and highway system and bringing it up to global standards. As of 2005, India only had 8,811.5 km of expressways,[174] while the U.S. and China have 95,932 km and 149,600 km of expressways, respectively. Even so, India has more than 151,000 km of National Highways and the world's second largest road network, being only behind the US.[175]

Inflation and overheating[edit]

Despite India's growth spurt of 8% p.a. in recent years, its sustainable pace is still much lower than China's, which puts its economy more at risk of overheating and rising inflation.[176] The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has acknowledged the risk of overheating and has been tightening monetary policy steadily. It is debatable whether this alone will be sufficient to ease inflationary pressures. The economy is running near or above capacity, and the RBI has noted that production must rise at a pace sufficient to match overall GDP growth if further inflationary pressures are to be avoided. The Indian government has said that much of the rise in inflation recently can be attributed to short-term supply constraints, such as a shortage of key foodstuffs thanks to an erratic summer monsoon.[177]

Dams like the Kolkewadi Dam have mitigated India's power needs.

Energy dependence and costs[edit]

India heavily depends on foreign oil - a phenomenon likely to continue until non-fossil/renewable energy technology becomes economically viable in the country.[178] To avert an energy crisis, India is desperately seeking alternate means of energy. India can sustain its growth to higher trajectories only by the co-operation of other countries. As for now, India is energetically expensive since India has to import over 70% of its energy,[179] thus making costs of comforts - like personal car or even air conditioning - extremely high. It is however, steadily combating its energy issues.


Unless India finds a quick way to generate jobs, its population of unemployed youths could be a reason for instability.[180] India's growth in the services sector and Information Technology sector has not been matched by growth in manufacturing which can provide more jobs.[181] Some claim that this sector may lose importance in the future.[182] India is leveraging on new sectors like the KPO (Knowledge Process Outsourcing).[183][184]

The unemployment rate in February 2017 was claimed to be around halved to 4.8% against 9.5% estimates at August 2016.[185]


India's health scenario is dismal with diseases and malnutrition constantly affecting the poorest quarter of the populace.[186][187] Mortality is still relatively high and the bane of AIDS is spreading quickly.[188] According to a report of United Nations Development Programme, India has the 3rd highest population living with AIDS/HIV and its economy might suffer a setback if it does not check the problem of the virus' spread. It is estimated that India's economic growth will decline by 0.86 percentage annually if the AIDS problem is not properly dealt with. To improve the situation, a number of projects such as the building of hospital chains (like the Apollo Hospitals, amongst others) has laid the foundation for a health system that matches global standards. However, these hospitals are sometimes used by foreigners as a cheap yet effective source of health services and much remains to be done for India's very poor.

Literacy in India grew very slowly until independence in 1947. An acceleration in the rate of literacy growth occurred in the 1991–2001 period.

Low literacy[edit]

As per the 2011 India census, India's national literacy is only 74.04% (2011).[189][190] Literacy drive is spreading slowly to other states.[191] India's youth (age 15 to 24) literacy rate was 76.4% between 2000 and 2004.[192] At current rates India will take no less than 20 years for a literacy of 95%.[193] Literacy in India is not homogeneous, some states in India have higher literacy rates than others. Kerala, a south-Indian state widely recognised as the most well-educated state in India, recorded a literacy rate of 93.9% in 2011.[194] On the other hand, the north-Indian state of Bihar lags behind with 63.8%.[195] India's adult literacy rates (61.3% in 2002), is just a little better compared to other nations in South Asia except Sri Lanka's 91.7%,[196] with Nepal next at 44%, Pakistan at 41.5% and Bangladesh the lowest at 41.1%.

Climate and environmental problems[edit]

The majority of India lies in the tropical climate zone, which may have a negative impact on its agricultural and overall economic development. The climate thesis of economic development was first argued by Adam Smith and recently by David Landes in his The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Tropical areas generally average enough rainfall, but the timing is often irregular and unpredictable. The rain drops are large and the rate of fall often torrential. One answer to irregular moisture is storage and irrigation, but this is countered in these regions by incredibly high rates of evaporation. In the Agra region of India, for example, rainfall exceeds the needs of local agriculture for only two months in the year, and the excess held in the soil in those wet months dries up in only three weeks.[197] Tropical zones are also more prone to endemic water-borne and parasitic diseases such as cholera and malaria.[198] As a result of climate change, the Gangotri Glacier, among others, is receding.[199][200] Also, of the 3 million premature deaths in the world that occur each year due to outdoor and indoor air pollution, the highest number are assessed to occur in India.[201]

Social issues[edit]

Communal violence[edit]

India has a diverse mix of various religions and races. The majority are Hindus by religion, followed by Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Baháʼís and many more. Though most religions in India have been practising religious tolerance in their histories, the partition and subsequent terrorism had created some degree of uneasiness among some.[202][203][204] The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom downgraded India to the lowest ranking - 'Countries of particular concern' - in its 2020 list.[205]

Social divide[edit]

The problem of India's social divide is often linked to its centuries-old caste system.[206] In an attempt to eliminate the caste system, the Indian government has introduced special quotas for low-caste Indians in educational institutions and jobs. The measure is with the motive of helping lower-caste Indians to pursue higher education and thereby elevate their standard of life. However, the system is often criticised about its effectiveness as so called creamy layer (rich among the lower caste) get non-needed advantage & leave other lower caste groups poor.[207][208] The Government of India has mandated "non-creamy layer" certificate in at least some cases.

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]