India’s rise in the last 20 years has been phenomenal. With confident steps, it is moving forward into the future

by Sidharth Shekhar

New Delhi: India’s rise over the past decade in a multi-polar world had its moments. Powered by a rapidly expanding economy and favourable demographic trends, India charted its own course to success with confident steps towards the future.

Be it the revocation of Article 370 or the Ram Mandir verdict, the national landscape has changed a lot over the years. These changing dynamics with shifting of the political narrative from liberal to the right also meant that the latter would be decisive in action and would not hesitate from taking radical steps in the national interest. The imposition of the GST, demonetisation and abrogation of Article 370 were those radical steps taken by the government. 

Foreign Policy – From Act East To Neighbour First Approach

In the past 19 years, the foreign policy of India has carried the stamp of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. 

India’s vulnerability in the nuclear arena was a key concern for Vajpayee due to which highest priority was accorded to this sector. India saw nuclear power as a deterrent to counter China and successful 1998 nuclear tests marked the entry of India in the big league. While India crossed the nuclear Rubicon it faced international pressure with calls for sanctions to conduct a nuclear test. However, the NDA regime at the Centre, with diplomatic heft, crossed this impediment easily.

During Manmohan Singh’s tenure, India and the US came close and the historic Indo-US nuclear deal was signed. Apart from the US, India maintained balanced ties with Russia and China.

Southeast Asia is also on PM Modi's radar and India's engagement with all the countries of the region has only increased. If India's Look East Policy was meant to help India cultivate and add muscle to economic and strategic ties with the southeast Asian nation's, Act East Policy sought economic integration of India's economy with the global supply chains that are concentrated in Southeast Asia and East Asia. India's Act East Policy is an ambitious project to develop Northeast India as a gateway to Southeast Asia.

Under Prime Minister Modi, apart from nurturing close ties with its neighbours, India is deeply engaged with Russia, the US, Japan and China on multiple fronts. 

Soon after taking office, Modi issued a challenge to his senior diplomats to help India position itself in a leading role, rather than playing second fiddle as a global balancing force.

Under Modi, Indian diplomacy has not only been hyperactive but has also aligned the nation’s soft power attributes with itself to seek a larger global footprint.

Rising Diplomatic Heft

With economic heft came diplomatic clout. After signing the nuclear deal with the United States India entered the elite nuclear club.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi India’s diplomatic clout reached to a level which was unprecedented. Looping-in the international community post-abrogation of Article 370 showed it was ready to engage with the international community on key issues. The result of this diplomatic outreach was such that Pakistan was isolated over Kashmir with key countries from the Middle east backing India over the issue.

Terrorism, India And Balakot

India’s approach towards counter terrorism cannot be compared to that of Russia or Israel. The failure of the government to thwart the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 by terrorists from Harkat-ul-Mujahideen remains a blot on the nation’s conscience. India’s decision to release three terrorists also returned to haunt it in the future as the men released later planned and executed 9/11 attacks, kidnapped and murdered journalist Daniel Pearl and orchestrated 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

A strict response was required to thwart future attacks and in 2016 the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes across terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and inflicted "significant casualties" after four armed JeM terrorists carried out a Fidayeen attack on an army base near Uri which left nineteen soldiers martyred.

After the ghastly Pulwama terror attack, the Indian Air Force carried out a pre-emptive high-precision bombing in Pakistan’s Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province destroying terror launch pads.

India received full backing from the United States and other countries after ordering these retaliatory strikes against terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

India also cornered Pakistan on all the major global platforms with PM Modi repeatedly pointing out that all the countries in the world needed to take strong action against terrorism and countries actively sponsoring it.

ISRO: Above & Beyond

Since its formation in 1969, ISRO has many credits to its name and glorious achievements under its belt. From transporting rocket parts and payloads to the launch pad on bullock carts and bicycle to being one of the only four countries to have reached Mars, India has achieved a lot in the past 19 years. India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) aka Mangalyaan is the not only artificial satellite that can click the full disc of Mars in a single frame but also the most cost-effective Mars mission at Rs 4.5 crore.

After the successful launch of Chandrayaan-1, ISRO went ahead with Chandrayaan-2 – India’s second mission to the Moon. Launched on GSLV-MKIII this July, it was the first mission planned to explore the Lunar South Pole region, however, the Vikram lander deviated from its intended trajectory and crash-landed on the lunar surface.

India surprised the world this year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India had become the fourth country to conduct an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test after the United States, Russia, and China.

DRDO' ASAT shooting not only brought down a low-orbital satellite (that belonged to India and had lived out its purpose and life) but also showed that India now possessed the capability to thwart any misadventure in space directed against it.

Another historic achievement was the launch of GSLV MKIII-D1, the heaviest Indian rocket ever made, giving ISRO the capability of sending astronauts into space.

In 2017, ISRO successfully launched 104 satellites in a single mission. Earlier, ROSCOSMOS, the Russian space agency, held a record of launching 37 satellites in a single launch. 

Article 370 & Kashmir

The BJP has been opposing Article 370 and J&K’s special status since its nascent Jana Sangh days. So, this time, when the BJP secured a comfortable majority in the second term it went ahead with its bold plan to revoke the Article (said to have been temporary in nature) followed by bifurcation of the state into Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.

To thwart any untoward incident heavy security forces where deployed in the Valley and telephone and internet services were suspended briefly to stop terrorists from using social media as a tool to mobilise people.

The BJP has been pushing the development narrative in the Valley to counter parties and the opposition who have termed the government’s decision as an injustice to Kashmiris.

Rise of Brand Modi

The historic 2014 election victory for Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata party altered India’s political landscape. This massive victory, just eight months after the saffron party named Modi as the prime ministerial candidate, marked the arrival of one of the most powerful PMs after Indira Gandhi.

The 2014 elections also changed the way elections were fought in India. Social media became the new king and reaching out to the public was just a post or a tweet away.

Modi’s ascension to the top post also marked the arrival of India at the world stage. Modi’s diplomatic outreach was unprecedented and he ensured that the voice of India was heard in every nook and corner.

He made the Indian diaspora a force to reckon with by reaching out to them directly. No other PM had redefined public engagement the way Modi did and it was the Modi factor which was instrumental in uniting the Indian diaspora abroad.

From countering Pakistan’s nefarious propaganda over Kashmir in foreign countries to punishing UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for his anti-India stance, the affluent Indian community showed that they were not to be messed with.

To conclude, India has still a long way to go before it is recognised as a global power and it is important to not forget the past and all the lessons learned from it

A robust economy with a clearly defined national agenda is something which India needs to look into if it is serious about its role as a world power with the potential to alter the course of history.