Understanding India’s Rise

by Abbas Adil

These days, I am watching WION, a relatively new Indian English language international TV channel. Although its content does not rival Al-Jazeera, it is a commendable initiative, where the learning curve is showing steep acceleration.

WION aired coverage of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to European capitals. Modi, who has turned India into a fascist apartheid regime, was welcomed with open arms. This was preceded by the Russian foreign minister’s visit to India. The Russian FM was desperately seeking deeper economic cooperation during the Russia-Ukraine war.

PM Modi’s charisma is not the reason behind the red carpet being rolled out for him and India receiving requests for assistance from a global power like Russia.

PM Modi is reaping the harvest of the decades-old crop sown by former heads of state, state planners, public intellectuals, business tycoons, activists, academics, dedicated state functionaries and talented Indian professionals.

Plenty is going on in India at the moment, which is the raison detre of India being courted by the world. In this op-ed, I will attempt to encapsulate the trajectory of the Indian economy. India has garnered goodwill globally due to its exceptional techno-managerial talent. Credit goes to Jawaharlal Nehru who founded various Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in 1951. India is primarily reaping that harvest. India has also fascinated the world due to its rich cultural heritage. The Taj Mahal was a tourist in Mecca, even when India had a poor image in the world. Bollywood has popularized Indian culture in the world. The Indian diaspora holds key positions in western capitals. The Vice President of the US Kamila Haris was born to an Indian mother. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, Pepsi’s former CEO Indra Nooyie, and Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella are all Indian immigrants and the list goes on. Indian CEOs dominate Silicon Valley. Indian academics are prominent in US academia.

India has garnered goodwill globally due to its exceptional techno-managerial talent.

India, home to 1.5 billion people, is still a poor country. Dewy eyed tourists arriving in India, hoping to see the land of Bollywood are met with disappointment. As President Trump pointed out, India has issues with cleanliness. This affects their global image and subverts the tourism industry.

Things are now changing on this front.

There is an ongoing campaign of Swachh Bharat or Clean India. Indore in Madhya Pradesh is a city that has consistently ranked number one in India in cleanliness. It is all thanks to a shift in attitudes where citizens do not litter and the state has greatly enhanced the municipal cleaning service. Beyond the visual impact, it has reduced pollution as per Manish Singh, Indore district collector who has also served as the city’s municipal commissioner. He said: “The quality of life has improved in Indore as the dust has reduced. The 150 RSPM (Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter) level has come down to 70-80.” RSPM is particulate matter produced from vehicles and industrial sources.

This surprising and tenable change has happened in less than a decade. India is also making strides in agriculture. The 1960s Green Revolution led to water scarcity and soil erosion, which forced many farmers to walk away from agriculture. They were perennially buried under a vicious debt cycle, and this led to an alarmingly high rate of suicide, which is still a huge issue. Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) beginning in Karnataka state, has spread to various southern Indian states. Andhra Pradesh is set to become India’s first 100 per cent organic farming state. Bollywood is India’s greatest goodwill Ambassador. Hollywood and Bollywood signed a historic cooperation pact at the Paramount Pictures Studios, way back in 2010. There have been many collaborations ever since. In the manufacturing sector, the Indian automotive industry is the fourth-largest in the world-worth more than US$ 100 billion. MG, Hyundai, Renault, Nissan, Datsun, Citroën, Jeep, Honda, Toyota, KIA, Volkswagen, Škoda, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and MINI are the foreign automotive companies that manufacture and market their products in India.

India practised protectionism in the automobile industry, allowing only locally made cars. In 1991 it allowed liberalization and has come a long way in three decades.

The $66 billion Indian pharmaceutical industry is the world’s third-largest. It is the largest producer of generic medicines and supplies up to 50% of global vaccine demand. PM Modi boasted about Indian largesse in donating vaccines in his recent European visit.

The US’s strategy undertaken in the year 2000, to position India as a counterweight to China, greatly aided the Indian economy with increased co-operation. In the twenty years since India has made rapid progress and has grand plans for its future. India’s Information technology (IT) industry concentrated in Telangana, Tamil Naidu and Maharashtra received a major boost from US patronage, initiated during President Bill Clinton’s presidency. Thanks to an enriched treasury from all the business opportunities, the Indian government now has grand plans for India. Firstly, India has set up a National Infrastructure Pipeline to provide world-class infrastructure to its citizens. This initiative is expected to make India a USD 5-trillion economy by 2030 when the number of metropolitan cities is expected to increase from 46 to 68. Secondly, there is the Gati Shakti scheme, which aims to undo the colonial relic of bureaucratic red tape, which impedes progress. This scheme will also fix the issue of uneven growth across India. Gati, meaning speed, is aimed at accelerating the Indian economy through seven engines of progress: roads; railways; airports; ports; waterways; mass transportation; and logistical infrastructure. It aims to establish multimodal connectivity for more than 1,200 industrial clusters.

Thirdly, there is the Bharatmala Pariyojana, a network of economic corridors with feeder routes for facilitating freight traffic. This would greatly boost exports. Finally, India has set up the National Hydrogen Mission, which has threefold objectives: Managing climate-related goals; shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy and becoming a global hub for Hydrogen technologies manufacturing.

India is positioning itself as a potential superpower by becoming the clean energy supplier of the world.

The developed nations grapple with sustainability which is often economically non-viable as their mammoth infrastructure requires considerable investment to shift from coal and fossil fuels to the greener sources of wind, solar and hydrogen power. India is only now beginning to develop its systems and infrastructure and can hence easily aim for green energy. These high aspirations are not far-fetched as India already has a strong presence of western corporations in the hi-tech manufacturing sector which has led to the development of human capital. This trajectory is very similar to that of Singapore, which is also a former British colony, that is now a high-tech manufacturing country Larsen & Toubro Ltd (L&T), is an Indian multinational conglomerate company established in 1938. It has business interests in engineering, construction, manufacturing, technology and financial services. The company is counted among the world’s top five construction companies.

The Indian state’s infrastructure projects are being eyed by L&T, which has the required expertise in engineering and project management experience-particularly for large and complex projects. L&T has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2040 and achieving water neutrality by 2035. This is a world-class company geared toward sustainability.

Another Indian company ReNew Power is one of the largest renewable energy companies in India. It has formed a partnership with L&T to tap the emerging green hydrogen business in India. ReNew will provide green power, which comes from wind and solar, and the two companies will work together to develop and operate green hydrogen projects in India. Their plans include providing integrated “design to build” solutions to large and complex offshore and onshore hydrocarbon projects both domestically and internationally. This is how India aims to become a global power, by becoming a dominant player in clean energy. India is aiming for this audacious goal, relying on the core competencies of companies like L&T which has been around since 1938. Headed by CEO S.N. Subrahmanyan, this company is matching and possibly even exceeding Japanese techno-managerial prowess. L&T was awarded a turnkey EPC contract to design and build Saudi Arabia’s 1.5 gigawatts largest solar plant, Sudair Solar PV. This plant is expected to generate enough electricity for 185,000 homes and offset up to 2.9 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year. L&T is working across industries as its projects include a Singapore-based refinery, an oil field compression plant for Algeria, and a huge water project in Madhya Pradesh.

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