Saturday, January 16, 2016

How to make India a super-power?

Every patriotic Indian dreams of it - a day when India will count in the world fora as a mighty superpower that has made it big on all fronts. We also understand that despite all our progress, there are problems, and this article is an attempt to understand the same.
First, what do we mean by a super-power?
Concept 1. To me, a nation that claims super-power status in the modern urban technological era must have (a) a top-notch economic output, (b) excellent living standards for the average citizens (not just names in the Forbes Richest tally), (c) a strong defense mechanism powered by local R&D, (d) strong national identity and culture (including native languages), and (e) an ability to project power globally, and peacefully (otherwise you're a bully).
That means we have work on Hard Power as well as Soft Power (in which we are very strong historically).
Concept 2. The idea of a "nation-state" is a recent one, barely 500 years old. We had cultures, or empires, or civilisational societies before that.
Concept 3. Super-powers too can have their lows, defeats, down-times.

So, if I begin from 1 AD (the beginning of so-called modern history timeline), India rocked for the first 1700 years. Dr Angus Maddison proved it with facts (this is a good, neutral, third-party proof).
Hey, that's our India, right at the top!
GDP India Superpower China Blog Sandeep Manudhane SM sir PT education Indore

Now, back to 21st century. As an honest patriotic Indian, I find we are in quite a miserable situation. Let's see how.
Strategic Problem 1. Our Numbers are uncontrollably huge. We are already 131 crores, and growing. We won't start reducing perhaps until we cross the 165 crore milestone. Our public services are in no condition to cope with the gigantic size we're headed for. A massive scaling-up, sans corruption, is needed.
Sabse zyada honge Hindustani ...
Population GDP India Superpower China Blog Sandeep Manudhane SM sir PT education Indore
Strategic Problem 2. Our Priorities are muddled-up, confused, vacillating, and unsteady. Call it the democracy tax, or whatever, but we tend to take self-defeating decisions regularly. On the most important "social indicators" we are way backward (as compared to another emerging power shown below), but there seems to be little serious mainstream debate on evolving a national consensus on these. It's unfortunate I have to make a comparison like this, but it's eye-opening. So it'll be at least 30 years before we catch up with this neighbour, who is nowhere close to becoming a Super-power itself.
Emerging, since 1947.
India China comparison
Strategic Problem 3. State of education is not what the knowledge economy driven by patents/ royalties/ proprietary technology demands. Minor tinkering apart, no fundamental rethinking was done to remodel the 1947 education model for a high-growth, patents-IPR driven economy of the 21st century. We are woefully out of sync with what today's technological leadership demands. For any cutting-edge technical work, products coming out of our schools and Universities are largely useless, and most of the excellence is self-created (auto-didactic as some Quorans say!) or corporate-sponsored. I don't think our youth are really inspired by how and what they are being shaped. We are great users of all American Internet consumer technology brands, and are owners of none! Isn't that scary?
We love Facebook. We don't have one.
Strategic Problem 4. Very tough environment to do business because the legal systems do not respond quick enough to IPR thefts and violations, because even the most mundane of brand battles take years to settle, because the day-to-day logistical struggles sap the energy of all but the most resourceful of companies, because most of the successes we see are despite the system rather then due to it, our local entrepreneurs pay a hefty premium staying and doing business here. The Ease of Doing Business index is not representative of entire nation's business environment at all as it covers just Delhi and Mumbai.
Way too easy to work in some foreign land.
Strategic Problem 5. Hostile neighbours who consume all our positive energy. Pakistan and China are succeeding in forcing us to devote substantial bandwidth in critical areas - foreign service, military, national debate, political mindspace - to just maintaining our position in south Asia. The current leadership of China not only wants India to give up its natural claim to the Indian Ocean Region, but the Chinese One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative will create a long-lasting disadvantage for India that only a strong national discourse-debate-action plan can counter. And we are not responding fast enough to scale up our resources. As an example - it is time that the Indian Foreign Service is considered strategic enough to have a separate selection process altogether, with much greater numbers taken in each year. Even then it'll take a decade to build the bandwidth to reach out to all areas with opportunities.
Keeping India throttled.

Phew, that was not quite positive! Time to rev up the engine.
  • Great strides in missile technology and ICBMs like Agni - Gives us room tokeep Pakistan and China in check. Indicates high level of excellence in ISRO and DRDO
  • Developed centres of excellence like IITs and IIMs that produce some of the finest talents - no doubt about it
  • Reduction in infant-mortality, improvement (reduce) in fertility rates across the population, and increase longevity has happened (not enough though)
  • Many internet brands that were just startups a few years ago have come to dominate local space (that most of them are majority-owned by foreigners is a different matter altogether!)

So what is to be done, if India wishes to be a developed nation by 2050?
  1. Declare a "National Mission for Achieving Superpower Status" : It may have sounded funny, right? But without this big, hairy, audacious goal that can shake up out of our self-imposed national stupor, we won't make it even in a century. We need total political consensus on this, and clear deadlines to achieve the many smaller milestones that'll add up to this big one. We need to tell our countrymen that this is what we are gunning for, and this generation of Indians alive today owes it to the one that'll arrive by 2050. Do suggest alternative names for this goal, if you find this one silly.
  2. Comprehensively redesign the entire education system : Delink the job market from degrees officially, make the majority of our people get into specific 3 / 4 vocational skills (+ minimum learning ability training to pick new skills over time), set specific numerical goals for research work across areas, discourage plagiarism and third-rate Ph.D. work by naming-and-shaming-and-punishing, and make scientists the rockstars of India by instituting super high monetary rewards to be given annually. Identify 5 or 10 or 50 institutions that'll be the foundation of all our deep research and throw resources at them bountifully, and expect a lot from them. Don't spread thin after that- it murders brands as we are now seeing with the new IITs and IIMs. Make a law to that effect it need be.
  3. Create specific funds and teams for technology space : Since the emerging internet & technology space will determine the winners and losers over the next few decades, create strategic teams comprising, say 5000 of the brightest young disruptive talent, give them targets, fund them mercilessly, and hope that the gamble pays off. Yes, I am suggesting nothing less than, say, a team that's created to beat Google, another to beat Facebook, and another to beat Tesla.
  4. Realise that our huge population is NOT our asset, but our biggest liability : The political discourse (across all party lines) reminds us daily that because we are largely a nation of crores of youngsters, we are about to crack it in a few years (you see, China / Japan / Europe are about to die down as they grey). My natural response always has been - these multitudes of young souls entering the world of work each month (more than 1 million each month) are mostly untrained, unskilled, raw, and practically useless for themselves and for the nation (as far as being economically productive in a rapidly changing technology landscape is concerned). We urgently need a population policy, a skilling policy (that actually works unlike everything seen since 2008 - what a letdown), and a policy to create a pool of teachers - mentors - trainers that can make this happen.
  5. Finally, patriotism! No nation ever became great by aping others, by a lack of self-assurance and by meekly submitting to the paradigms that others established. Our glorious history - dotted with the most complicated of divisions but economically a marvel - is an indicator of the fact that we can still pick the threads and sew together a story of unbelievable human achievement. We need to be the Meiji Restoration (to learn the best from the West), the PRC of Deng (to stand tall and look into the eyes of others) and the melting pot of USA (to submerge our differences before this singularly important national goal).
When these things happen, our self-confidence, discipline and ethics will all fall in place. These won't anyway happen without those.
Jai Hind!
Rights acknowledged. All images taken from internet.

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Ajulkumar Pandya said...

In the era of Globalisation, to be Super-Power is an Ambiguous and Foolish aim.

Because if Might is a pre-requisite to be a super power than, it better to understand MIGHT has always distorted HUMAN Rights.
if Economy is a pre-requisite to be a super power than, no economy can remain on TOP forever, best example is INDIA itself. Our richness attracted EVIL, and left us in poor condition.
if Political model is a pre-requisite to be a super power than, Democracy is best because all other political models are worse, proved time to time in history.

India is currently SUPER-POWER of CULTURE & TOLERANCE, we should aim to make
India "HARD POWER" and "SOFT POWER" for any/every situation domestic/international arising in keeping our National interests safe.

tarun tripathi said...

Nice Article sir..but please elaborate some more on the point no. 'd' of concept no. 1, that how does native languages would help us in becoming a Super-power especially in the current era of Globalization?

Sunil said...

Dear Sandeep sir, I have been a regular follower of your content. It is extremely lucid, helpful and power-packed! Keep posting … thanks again

Anup Upadhyay said...

i believe sir we need to change mindset sir..your question is very simple but no precise answer is there in my mind(what does super power mean?). Nature gifted us with such an extreme diverse and prosper natural resources for tourism, different seasons as it is backbone of cloth market,culture of rishi munis, the erudites and philosphers, the place from where thinking about nature and spirituality begins...i believe we are facing our constitutional accountabilty. it may sound shocking but it is. i would like to quote bhishma pitamah words when lying on bed of arrows he said to yudhistir that he is facing the aftermath of his over committedness to his principles and monarch rule to continue the administration of blind and egoistic kaurav family. he said he must have brought changes he must have nit sticked to his promises. it is related to our secular and other minority promises. we are not facing only 20 cr pakistan and uncounted chinese but also 15 cr around indians of minority and jammu kashmir muslims who are anti indian. we need to put a hard step to change mindset and use human resource in better way.

Anup Upadhyay said...


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Suraj pal said...

To became a super power India must rise it's nationalism, proper political direction needed,India needs to have initiatives on skilling the youth,reforms in present education system must be taken, India has to increase its ranking on ease of doing business index and other index's also,India have to increase its hard power globally,and many regional changes must be taken like scientists are encouraged for new R&D are given more rewards,our diplomacy must be strong with other countries,we need to be Miji restoration, and several other factors are also needed to come at a time to become India a superpower upto2050

Narayan Harjani said...

Being a superpower is a journey of 30-40 years if we start from today. The first step should be REFORMS IN EDUCATION. Being a student, I have seen that quality of education is not enough to skill the students instead they are just the long theories of old things(In Engineering).And there is great academic and industrial disconnection. So, 60-70 percent problems will be solved by reframing the education from lower to higher education and "Being a superpower" dream will become true.