May the force be with India - Hindustan Times
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May the force be with India

ByHT Editorial
Aug 14, 2022 07:10 PM IST

India has achieved a lot in the last 25 years. However, to flourish further, the country must nurture its ability to deal with diversity

The Indian economy’s size in 1997 was around $425 billion. It is expected to be around $2.4 trillion this year. The country’s per capita income has increased from $425 then to around $1,800 now; India became a lower middle-income economy in 2009. It pulled millions out of poverty in these 25 years. It has become one of the most preferred investment destinations in the world. India today has more unicorns than any country except the United States (US) and China. India managed to de-hyphenate itself from Pakistan in this period — moving far ahead in several spheres. And it managed to hold its own against China, although economically, India’s northern neighbour remains the success story of the century. And it did all this while remaining whole — and remaining a democracy. The transfer of power — no matter how bitterly contested the election — in states and the Union has traditionally been smooth. Even after the Emergency, we had a peaceful transition of power. That sets India apart from China, and, based on that country’s most recent experience, makes it different even from the US.

A girl walks carrying Indian flag along with army soldiers during a ceremony to celebrate 75 years of India's Independence in Mumbai, August 14, 2022 (AP) PREMIUM
A girl walks carrying Indian flag along with army soldiers during a ceremony to celebrate 75 years of India's Independence in Mumbai, August 14, 2022 (AP)

As India turns 75 today, the journey of the past 25 years — a period when India saw four regimes, but became richer, more powerful, more self-reliant in terms of science and technology, and globally more relevant strategically and economically — may well indicate what could follow in the coming 25 years. India’s huge and diverse population, ranged widely across the temporal, regional, religious, caste, income and development spectrum, is a strength, a challenge, and a threat. They are a strength because of the benefits of diversity (barring those related to class and development). They are a challenge because the State has to solve first-generation problems, such as the provision of piped drinking water for millions, even as it addresses second-generation problems (such as the creation of jobs), and third-generation ones (such as preparing the country for the climate crisis, or leveraging new technologies to our advantage). And they are a threat because divisive forces — majoritarian or minoritarian, those powered by class or caste, or even those evident in sharp differences between the Union government and the states — can exploit this diversity to their short-term benefit (usually political), affecting the country’s long-term prospects.

At 75, India, an ancient civilisation, is still a young country — one that is replete with opportunities but also beset by threats and challenges, internal and external. There is no doubt that at 100, India will be richer and more powerful than it is today — but whether it will be more egalitarian, progressive, and inclusive will depend on its ability to deal with its diversity. Happy Independence Day to us all, and may the force always be with India.

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