International Relations > Specific Countries
India is an extraordinary combination of opportunities and challenges.
The country is "the world's biggest democracy" in terms of population, and has a federal organization. The states composing it have their autonomy and governing institutions, and are generally established along ethnic and linguistic lines. As a matter of fact, India is a mosaic of ethnic groups and languages, which make of it an extremely variegate state. However, there is a certain divide between the Indo-Aryan, Hindi-speacking north and the Dravidian south where many different idioms are spoken. The main religion is Hinduism, but there are many minorities, the most important of them being the Muslim one, concentrated in the north representing about 14% of the total population.
India has many advantages that create for it favorable prospects. Its economy is rapidly expanding, and it has a thriving service sector; but manufacturing is also developing and some Indian firms are important international players. India's population is vast, growing and young; providing the country with a huge pool of workforce. Its education system is capable of producing skilled scientists, even though many decide to work abroad. The country also benefits from its easy access to the Indian Ocean, allowing it to participate to the lucrative trade flow between Europe and East Asia. India also benefits from a positive international image as a peaceful country.
At the same time, the challenges it must face are huge. Despite the economic development, huge portions of the population still live in poverty and illitteracy and live either in the countriside or in the slums surrounding the cities. The primary sector is still too large, with many working just for subsistence. The infrastructure is still lacking, and the differences in regional development are sensible, with the south being richer. This is problematic because the south holds more economic power than the more populated north, thus aggravating the aforementioned ethnic-linguisitc divide between the two zones. More in general, the economic inequality in India is very strong. Another problematic social issue is the complex cast system that characterizes India's society. Such social divides may have important political consequences, to the point of resulting in armed rebellion as in the case of the Maoist-inspired Naxalites. To remain in the domain of politics, the coming to power of Prime Minister Modi in 2014 marks the rise of the Hindu nationalist BJP Party; something that may create domestic tensions with the Muslim minority and with the most problematic of India's neighbors, namely Pakistan, which considers itself the protector of Islam in South Asia.
This raises the security dimension of India's challenge. The country has undertaken significant efforts to modernize its military, and is continuing along this line. In particular, is possesses a quite powerful navy, a vast army and a small but non-negligible nuclear arsenal. Still, much work remains to be done; moreover, the security situation is troublesome. Pakistan is India's traditional rival, with which it has a longstanding territorial dispute over Kashmire that often results in border clashes; with the danger of escalating to a full-out war and even a nuclear exchange.
Another major threat is posed by China. Despite the formidable defense provided by the Himalaya, India remains concerned about a war with the PRC, since the latter is globally superior. Again, the two powers are involved in several territorial disputed, the most important of which revolve around the Aksai Chin (ruled by China) and Arunachal Pradesh (under Indian control). Moreover, China is Pakistan's closest ally, and India is also worried about the former's "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) project, which it considers as an excuse to establish a military presence in South Asia and its seas aimed at encircling India. It is clear that a conflict between India and China would be equally dangerous, and it could again escalate to a nuclear war. India has responded by building up its military and closing ties with other powers, notably the US, which in turn caused China's concern.
In short, India has a huge potential and could become an important great power, but it must also face many obstacles to its rise. Properly understanding this double dimension is therefore central for political and economic actors willing to deal with India.
My interest in India began with a course I followed during the first year of my Master's degree program, and then I deepened my expertise through other courses and personal research.
Below you will find my papers related to India.
Controlling the Heights: Great Power Competition in Nepal
Nepal has firmly been into India's sphere of influence for decades.
However, in the current context of Sino-Indian competition, the electoral triumph of the left coalition and the subsequent reunification of the two main communist parties into a single governing political force are the signal of a shift in Nepal's foreign policy; which means the country will seek closer ties with the PRC to attract much-needed investments and to gain more autonomy from India.
But for New Delhi, this is a another negative geopolitical development, especially considering China's growing presence in its neighborhood.
China-India Geopolitical Competition: First Maldives, Next Sri Lanka?
After exploring the international dimension of the polticial crisis in the Maldives, I returned in the Indian Ocean to examine the situation in Sri Lanka.
A state of emergency was declared on the island following attacks by members of the Sinhalese-Buddhist majority against the Moor-Muslim minority. Considering the country's history (notably the decade-long Tamil uprising), this is not a positive development, as it may lead to another ethno-religious conflict with destabilizing effects on the island and the Indian Ocean.
As a matter of fact, Sri Lanka holds a notable importance for both the major Asian powers, namely India and China. As in the Maldive's case, the former is concerned over the latter's increasing presence, thus making of the "Resplendent Island" another set for the ongoing Sino-Indian geopolitical competition.
New Delhi and Beijing’s Struggle for Influence over the Maldives
In this article I examine the Maldivian political crisis in February 2018.
The islands were shaken by a political turmoil following President's Yameen's decision to declare the state of emergency. While this event may at first seem a move in the context of a domestic struggle with the opposition, in reality the situation is more complex and involves a geopolitical competition between India and China in the region.