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India is a Freak of Nature

Updated: May 20

The eve of Indian independence in 1947 marked the beginning of a remarkable journey for a nascent nation brimming with diverse religions, castes, tribes, and languages, all while grappling with poverty, illiteracy, and internal strife. India, a young republic, seemed destined for failure.

Illustration By Geopolitics Next


Figures like General Claude Auchinleck, the last British Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, predicted that the country would collapse after the British departure. While not a pervasive idea, some colonial officials believed that the so-called “beastly people with a beastly religion” would be unable to sustain a coherent sense of nationhood.

 

Fast forward to the present, and the reality starkly contrasts these dire predictions. Despite facing internal challenges from various secessionist movements, India has not only maintained its territorial integrity but has also grown in both size and stature. Today, India is the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

 

Why do I share this? Because it illustrates a broader trend about India: historically, Indians thrive under doubt and skepticism. This underdog spirit is a core part of the national ethos, worn proudly like a medal. The determination to prove naysayers wrong drives the nation to defy odds and exceed expectations consistently. This resilience is as intrinsic to the Indian identity as the tricolour.

 

Despite India’s achievements and ongoing progress, many outdated and negative stereotypes persist globally. Pay attention to some critics, and you might be led to believe that Indian democracy is perpetually on the brink of collapse and that the population is mired in social issues so debilitating that the nation is locked in a downward spiral.


These stereotypes overlook tangible advancements: a 7.6% year-on-year growth from a base of over $3.6 trillion, lifting 415 million people out of multi-dimensional poverty between 2005 and 2021, significant infrastructure improvements, increasing crime reporting with declining overall crime rates, improving literacy levels, and rising investment inflows.


Of course, India faces major challenges, including rising unemployment, persistent poverty and inequality, deficiencies in healthcare and education, a lack of quality jobs for youth, agrarian distress, increasing cases of rape and kidnapping, and pollution. These pressing issues require urgent attention and policy interventions. However, the point is that India is complex. It isn’t just one thing or the other; it is all of this and then some.

 

India is, when you take into account sheer size and population, the greatest democratic experiment in human history, and binary views hardly do justice to its multifold reality.

 

To demonstrate how far India has come in terms of its sovereignty, let me run you through a quick history lesson: The British conquest of India in the 18th-19th centuries was facilitated by naval dominance, technological superiority, strategic alliances with Indian elites such as rulers and bankers, administrative efficiency, diplomatic manoeuvring, economic policies favoring British interests, and exploiting the declining power of feuding princely states.


However, the balance of power has drastically moved since then. Today, India is a nuclear-armed state with over 1.4 million active military personnel, thousands of tanks and aircraft, and a defense budget higher than Britain’s. India has also overtaken the UK to become the 5th largest economy and is projected by the IMF to potentially become the 4th largest by 2027, ahead of the UK in 6th position.

 

While Britain once leveraged technological superiority to conquer a fragmented India, it now lacks the capability to subjugate a unified, nuclear-capable India that has emerged as a major economic and military power. The current geopolitical landscape precludes the possibility of Britain re-occupying its former colony. India has learned well and worked on its shortcomings.

 

Developing a nation as complex and impoverished as India is inherently a multi-generational project, lacking the immediate appeal of quicker, more visible projects. Yet, it is through slow and steady progress that India’s true potential unfolds. Bravery is not only demonstrated on the battlefield; it is also evident in the reforms enacted throughout India’s modern history.

While some subsidies aimed to make essential goods and services affordable for the underprivileged, others shielded uncompetitive firms from market forces. Rationalizing such subsidies through economic reforms in the 1990s was a bold move, risking disruptions that could lead to public discontent, but the reforms were implemented relatively smoothly through democratic processes. These reforms were necessary, and India repeatedly chose the path of short-term pain for long-term gain.

 

Consider the iconic photographs depicting Indian scientists transporting part of a projectile on a bicycle in the 1960s and a satellite on a bullock cart in the 1980s. These images are quintessentially India. It is hard to imagine many countries with such poverty and underdevelopment prioritizing scientific advancement to such a great degree.


India did this because its leaders understood that progress must occur on multiple fronts simultaneously. This strategic choice was not due to misplaced priorities but a recognition that sequential development would leave India forever catching up, dependent on unreliable external support. Through its history, India learned the hard lessons of technological denial and embraced self-reliance as a national imperative.

 

India’s commitment to democracy is also complex. It is a negotiation based on indigenous values, syncretic democratic traditions, colonial legacies, and adaptation of Western concepts of electoral democracy. Democracy in India acts as a powerful consensus-building mechanism, crucial for managing a diverse and populous nation. It is proof that democracy can flourish even in challenging conditions.


The process of governance in India—electing leaders and removing them—is determined solely by the power of the vote, reflecting the true spirit of a flawed, but robust, democratic system. India’s path has been shaped by negotiating the push-and-pull of contrasting forces rather than any single driving ideology or circumstance.

 

India is loud and engages in vociferous internal debates about its past, present, and future. Some quarters are deeply optimistic about tomorrow, while others are deeply pessimistic. The reality is that perspectives across India’s diverse population are deeply heterogeneous. In its negotiated existence, as many Indians, that many ideas of India. Hence, no single idea of India has absolute supremacy unless supported by most Indians. And we all know, that is a lot. So I understand why the world is perennially confused about India.

 

The complexities and nuances of India’s evolution often escape simplistic binary analyses, leading to persistent misconceptions about its journey and destiny. The world has several legitimate concerns about India, and it should continue raising them as it would with any other country. But often, the global perspective falls short. Sometimes out of malice, but more often from an inability to fully comprehend the great depths of the Indian experience. No society, especially one as vast and varied as India, can be considered a monolith.

 

India’s trajectory over the decades confirms that despite its entrenched flaws and structural inadequacies, India is on a path of incremental progress. Hence, India is indeed a freak of nature. In its challenges and dichotomies, it should not logically exist at all, nor be as strongly poised to become a major growth engine of the future.


But it does, and it is. The world might want to adjust its lens to appreciate the nuances of India’s ascent, recognising that the true strength of a nation lies not only in its ability to overcome past struggles but also in its forward-looking vision and the collective determination of its people.


 

BY GEOPOLITICS NEXT

CURATED BY TEAM GEOSTRATA

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10 comentários


vanshika Kakkar
vanshika Kakkar
19 de mai.

Insightful 🙌🏻

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Satakul
Satakul
19 de mai.

Insightful.

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Kasak Gangwar
Kasak Gangwar
19 de mai.

Interesting take by the author.

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Astitva Gupta
Astitva Gupta
19 de mai.

Amazing essay... This emphasises that social changes have empowered people and rejected the limitations imposed by colonial government

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Nidhi Soni
Nidhi Soni
19 de mai.

Great analysis by the Author! A more rational perspective towards India's progress!

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