By Karl F. Inderfurth
Editor’s Note: The CSIS Asia Team is writing a series of analyses that forecasts key issues and challenges in the Asia-Pacific for 2013. Here Ambassador Karl Inderfurth discusses whether India can achieve the economic prosperity and dynamism that observers project. Want more analysis? Plan to attend the CSIS Asia-Pacific Forecast 2013 event on January 29 in Washington D.C. or watch the webcast live online.
To paraphrase an expression often used by former President Ronald Reagan, “there they go again.” But in this case, it’s not the political opposition being referred to – it’s the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) in its latest global predictions report.
In 2004 the NIC released “Mapping the Global Future,” forecasting what the world order would look like by 2020. In one of its boldest assertions – and historically most audacious – it stated, “The likely emergence of China and India as new major global players – similar to the rise of Germany in the 19th century and the United States in the early 20th century – will transform the geopolitical landscape,” of the 21st century.
Last month the NIC came out with its latest long-range global forecast, “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.” Perhaps to modest India’s discomfort, the NIC again raised the bar for what can be expected from the soon-to-be world’s most populous nation: “In 2030 India could be the rising economic powerhouse that China is seen to be today.”
In support of this bullish prediction, the NIC called attention to the World Bank’s assessment that India will join China as an “emerging economy growth pole” by 2025 and that India’s contribution to global growth in coming years will surpass that of any individual advanced economy except the United States.
Talk about Dickens’ Great Expectations. Now we know what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been drawing on when she says it is in America’s national interest to make a “strategic bet” on India’s rise as a global power, and to pursue our bilateral relations accordingly.
But for India today and its more immediate future, a reference to the opening line in another Dickens’ novel — A Tale of Two Cities — is a cautionary tale, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” As the NIC report and other publications (including by CSIS) point out, for India to maximize its advantages (including a demographic with a youthful population) it will need “to boost its educational system; make substantial governance improvements, particularly in countering corruption; and undertake large-scale infrastructure programs to keep pace with rapid urbanization.”
How India addresses these three major challenges in 2013 – education, corruption and infrastructure — will say a lot about whether India will be able to achieve the ‘Great Expectations’ many have for it in this century or find itself facing the title of yet another book by the great English novelist, Hard Times.
Ambassador Karl F. Inderfurth is senior adviser and holds the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at CSIS. To learn more you can RSVP for the CSIS Asia Pacific Forecast 2013 event on January 29 or plan to watch the live webcast online at CSIS.org and keep an eye out for #Asiapalooza on twitter.