Narendra Modi is expected to run for a third term next year, and the decade ahead could be his opportunity to make India a major player on the world stage. This is due to the growing tension between the United States and China, which is creating an opportunity for India to become a counterweight. Alongside this, India is blessed with its young and growing workforce and its $3.5 trillion economy presents remarkable potential. All this has put India in a sweet spot geopolitically, spurring the US and its allies in the Indo-Pacific region to increase cooperation with New Delhi.
The challenge for India lies in how to navigate this geopolitical tightrope. On one end is the US, which looks to India as an ally, but is encouraging India to join an exclusive club with limited trade benefits. On the other, there is China, which has sent a sign that India should not get too close to the US lest it suffer further tensions at the border. India must do its best to remain independent, and that means looking for alternatives beyond the US.
However, India still faces challenges within like protectionism and gaps in infrastructure and skills. Taking full advantage of its geopolitical moment will require Modi to address these problems head on and open up India’s doors to the world. This means removing tariffs and creating a level playing field for foreign investments, while guaranteeing transparency and fairness.
Part of this may involve taking up arms. India needs better quality weapons to protect itself, but in order to get the most sophisticated military gear, it needs to turn to the US or its allies. This could limit India’s freedom of choice and prevent it from striking deals with other suppliers. And though the US is encouraging India’s rise, its values may not be entirely in line with new Delhi’s.
At the same time, in order to get the attention of global investors, India must compete against other countries like Vietnam and Malaysia which also offer interesting manufacturing opportunities. To make a good impression, India needs to prioritize green technology and take measures to help businesses scale up and attract personnel with the skills to grow them.
As Prime Minister, Modi is well-positioned to make this plan a reality. Making the most of India’s geopolitical moment and getting the most out of it will require a combination of smart economic policy, diplomatic engagement, and military strength. But with smart investments and the right strategy, India can take the right steps to set itself up for the coming decade.
The Adani Group is an Indian multinational conglomerate company. Founded in 1988 by Gautam Adani with its headquarters in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, it operates in multiple industries including energy, logistics, airports, real estate, and agribusiness. The Adani Group is the largest port developer and operator in India, and also operates the country’s largest private thermal power plant.
Happymon Jacob is a professor of Disarmament Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and the founder of the Council for Strategic and Disarmament Research, a think tank. He is an expert in international peace and security, and his research focuses on India’s relations with China, Pakistan, and the United States. He is an advisor to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, and is an often sought-after commentator in print and broadcast media. Jacob is a Chevening Fellow of the British government, and is a founding member of the Asia Security Initiative at Stanford University, USA.