India Day @ Oxford: Why it's not wise to bet against India

Lord Patten, chancellor of Oxford University, one of the speakers at the inaugural India Day @ Oxford, turned the question - of whether India can become a superpower, one of the implications of its matching its economic power with political power - and asked ‘should it?’.

Right now India doesn’t seem to be too keen on asserting its power globally, and gives an impression that it would focus on governing itself, rather than governing the world (in contrast to China, which he said, wants respect than responsibility). India should become a super democracy, and a super country, and it’s not the same as being a super power (invoking Ramachandra Guha who has made similar arguments)

One point of contrast between China and India is around the concept of a soft power. China's soft power, Lord Patten said, is limited. India's is powerful and it hasn't used it as well as it should. Its soft power comes from how it has managed a large and diverse country as a secular democracy. Soft power also comes from other sources its entertainment industry, and also literature.

Khurshid said India's influence was rising in global fora. AFP

Khurshid said India's influence was rising in global fora. AFP

India's Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid, , who spoke immediately after Lord Patten, seemed to agree in principle with Patten about the use of power. India is increasingly playing an important role in global intuitions - in WTO, in UN.

"What we don't do is impose it on others," he said.

The focus instead has been on initiatives that gives dignity and entitlement to citizens - compulsory and universal education, food security bill, health insurance and housing.

Right now, though, there is pessimism even about economic progress. Both Lord Patten and Khurshid were confident about the country's long term prospects. There are issues, there are hiccups, both of them seemed to suggest, but it's wise not to bet against a billion people.

Updated Date: Jun 14, 2013 17:57 PM

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