As India celebrates its 74th Independence Day on 15th August 2020, the country’s political, economic as well as socio cultural standing has enormously grown on the world stage. From a nascent democracy which liberated itself from the colonial yokes after two centuries of freedom struggle, India has come a long way in asserting its presence across geographies and through its compelling influence on diverse range of issues thus playing a significant role in world politics.
As India aspires to reclaim its global leadership (vishwa guru) position in the international arena, a chronology of events which shaped India’s journey in the post independent era merits attention.
LIBERATION OF BANGLADESH:
The Indo Pakistan war of 1971 was perhaps the first big test of India’s image on the international platform. When Pakistan attacked on Indian airbases on the western frontiers, the then Indira Gandhi led Congress government was quick to launch an offensive. It was the only war in which all three wings of Indian armed forces, ie. Army, Navy and Airforce fought in unison.
Within just 13 days, Indian Army brought to its knee a Pakistani army of 93,000 soldiers and gave 75 million people of East Bengal a new nationhood and conferred on them their legitimate cultural and ethnic rights which were trampled by Pakistan.
A new nation Bangladesh was born and Indian state gave its recognition to Bangladesh, liberating Bengali minorities from the atrocities of Pakistan. This was a watershed moment in the history of India and South Asia alike and with this, the frames of spectacles with which India was viewed by the superpowers entangled in cold war rivalries altered for all time to come.
Once again, India proved itself as a responsible actor who is not an aggressor but a mediator. We gave Bangladesh its due and we got an enduring friend in our neighbourhood which is our immediate sphere of influence.
1990 began with a huge political and economic churning in the world. Cold war ended and with the disintegration of USSR, the legitimacy and credibility of socialist ideology came under scanner. India was passing through a turbulent phase as our foreign reserves were drying up and this economic crisis further escalated with the start of the Gulf War.
However, unlike post Soviet states which witnessed ‘’shock therapy’’ with the collapse of communism, India withstood the transition by its prudent domestic economic decision by inaugurating a new wave of economic reforms popularly known as Liberalisation Privatisation Globalisation (LPG).
The chief architects of this reform were the then PM Narasimha Rao and then Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. India opened up its economy to private players learning that dogmatic state led economic model command control approach has become redundant. This policy ushered in new age economic and technological transformations and massive infrastructural developments and investment prospects.
This policy also enabled us to forge new ties through policies like LOOK EAST by connecting with East Asian tiger economies, former allies of West.
LPG magnified the economic status of India as an emerging market as well as showcased India’s adaptability to co – opt with emerging politico economic realities by abandoning the redundancy of the past. Despite liberalising its economy, India continued to uphold its character as a welfare state, thus striking an equilibrium between private sector inevitability and social sector commitments in reducing inequalities and promoting inclusive growth.
This was a paradigm shift in the approach of India with regard to its national security. The Pokhran-II tests were a series of five nuclear bomb explosions conducted by India at the Indian Army’s Pokharan testing range.
In May 1998. It was the second instance of nuclear testing conducted by India; the first test, code-named Smiling Buddha was conducted in May 1974. The Indian tests were a deliberate response to the provocative behavior by the Peoples’ Republic of China and the Clinton administration with regard to their nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament policies as they related to the strategic situation in the Indian subcontinent.
The discriminatory nuclear disarmament policies hitherto dictated by the superpowers like US, USSR and China were deliberate attempts to monopolize nuclear weapon policies and not let third world countries to acquire weapons.
India was firmly against this selective approach since the beginning and the geopolitical compulsions of that time led to India conduct its nuclear tests. This created a huge international resentment and as pressure mounted on India, India remained unfazed. India’s Nuclear Doctrine clearly states ‘’No First Use’’ and projected itself as a responsible nuclear power and will not use nuclear weapons as a provocative tool to kickstart a war.
India took a pragmatic step by acquiring nuclear weapons since it is surrounded by hostile nuclear armed countries like Pakistan and China. Once again, India asserted its position and made it clear that it would not compromise on its core national interests and would not like to be a pawn in the hands of powerful countries and would resist any attempt to neo imperial policies of these elite group of countries.
India’s Scientific Prowess:
If economy is the wheel of progress for any nation, then science and technology is definitely the engine which keeps the vehicle of development running. Recognising the importance of Science and Technology, former PM Vajpayee had said, ‘’Jai Jawan Jai Kisan Jai Vigyaan’’. India is among the topmost countries in the world in the field of scientific research. ISRO, India’s premier space research organisation has carved a niche for itself in the field of numerous space exploration missions.
Some significant scientific breakthroughs achieved by India are worth mentioning.
Magalyaan – 1, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission made India the only nation in the world to reach Mars in its first attempt. India has developed Brahmos which is the world’s fastest and most formidable anti – ship cruise missile.
Chandrayaan – 1, india’s first lunal exploration mission, made it possible for ISRO to go beyond the Geostationary Orbit and with this mission, India emerged as the fourth country in the world to hoist its flag on a lunar surface.
The successful demonstration of GSLV – D5, the cryogenic engine technology has gained for the India the capability to launch heavy satellites without foreign assistance.
PARAM – India’s first ever indigenous supercomputer was a major milestone in India’s technological journey.
India’s INSAT system is one of the largest communication satellite systems owned by any country in the Asia – Pacific region and at present, it is serving several crucial sectors of our economy, including telecommunication, education and meteorology.
Apart from this, India is also at the forefront of nurturing a robust scientific ecosystem of innovation, research and development of cutting edge technologies which are the key drivers of Industrialisation 4.0 like Bio Technology, Nano Technology, 3D, Edge Computing, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, etc. As we are celebrating our 74th Independence Day, a cheers for our hard working and intelligent scientific fraternity.
Elections of 2014 and 2019:
The general elections of 2014 changed the dynamics of Indian politics after two decades of coalition era dominating the electoral mandates. For the first time, a non Congress party, ie. BJP was voted to power with absolute majority and Narendra Modi became the first non Congress PM in the office with a full majority. If 2014 was the onset of a new political epoch, 2019 cemented this continuity of change even further when India re elected Modi with a even bigger mandate than 2014.
This is not simply an exception, neither an aberration. Two successive electoral victories with stupendous majorities reveal the unification of a complex sociological matrix of caste, class, religion, region and gender in an otherwise polarized nation with Indians cutting across identities and rising above personal considerations overwhelmingly voting for a ‘strong leader’ which they saw in Modi.
Modi’s domestic performance as PM coupled with his radical governance reforms along with a reinvigorated spirit informing the Foreign Policy, all worked in his favour consolidating his position as statesman whose statecraft is unparalleled.
His ability to take tough decisions regardless of political costs involved bolstered his image as a nationalist whose appeal resonated with the sentiments of majority of Indians. A strong leadership is very essential for taking strong decisions – exemplified by Modi’s predecessors Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Indira Gandhi.
SURGICAL STRIKES AND AIR STRIKES AGAINST PAKISTAN:
On 29 September 2016, India announced that it conducted surgical strikes against militant launch pads across the LOC in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). On 18 September 2016, a fedayeen attack was made by four armed militants on an army base near the town of Uri. 19 Indian Army soldiers were killed.
Jaish e Mohammed, a Pakistan based terror group was behind the attacks. Coming close on the heels of Pathankot and Gurudaspur attacks, this deadly Pakistan sponsored attacks raised a security concern in India. The surgical strikes were a stern response by India to teach its rogue enemy lesson a befitting lesson.
The surgical strikes were hailed across establishments in the country. The Guardian said that Indian patience had run out due to Pakistan’s inaction in curbing the activities of terrorist organisations such as LeT and JeM.
Again, on On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu – Srinagar national was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber at in Pulwama district of Jammu & Kashmir. The attack resulted in the deaths of 46 CRPF personnel and the attacker. The perpetrator of the attack was from Kashmir.
The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Pakistan -based Islamist militant group Jaish e Mohammad. Indian government, once again showed the grit to confront its enemy head on. India mounted an offensive by conducting what came to be known as Balakot airstrikes on 26th February 2019 in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan, inflicting significant damage on the terror camps of Pakistan.
Both these instances shattered the smoke screen which trivialised the status of India as a ‘’soft target’’ for cross border terrorism. India’s leadership established the decisiveness of India against terrorism and that we would never compromise on our territorial sovereignty and national integrity, come what may. The enemy countries must stop waging proxy wars against India and testing India’s resilience time and again would invite befitting response from Indian forces. Now, enough is enough!
Abrogation of Article 370:
Article 370 of Indian constitution which conferred special status on Jammu & Kashmir was like a thorn in the flesh for India. Almost all major political parties that ruled New Delhi had vouched to find a solution to Kashmir issue but lacked political will to do so.
An issue which seemed too complex to be resolved finally saw the light of the day on 5th August 2020 when the Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced in the Parliament the scrapping of Article 370 which was temporary in nature.
This was a historic moment as no one had ever imagined a day when any politician of India could find solution to this thorny issue. Article 370 was a major impediment in the way of full integration of J&K with India and fuelled extremism in the valley by radicalising the local youths of J&K and recruiting them into terror camps funded and supported by Pakistan.
Article 370 was also the reason behind economic backwardness and lack of employment opportunities for the youths of valley and this financial despair further aided militancy in the region. With Article 370 done away, it is expected that a new era of lasting peace and economic prosperity would emerge in Jammu & Kashmir which would incorporate the genuine interests and aspirations of citizens belonging to this region by weeding out terrorism and Islamic extremism permanently in the years to come.
This would mean that laws under Indian constitution applicable to other states would henceforth come into effect in the valley too, including the benefit of reservation which was previously denied to the weaker sections. The division of J&K and Ladakh into two separate union territories is also significant because the aspirations and ethnic identities of Ladakhis have been addressed and unity and stability of Ladakh is very critical to contain the expansionist zeal of China, another hostile and unpredictable nation.
The revocation of special status ruffled many feathers in Pakistan, as expected. Rattled by this unprecedented change in status quo in Kashmir, it sought to pressurise on Indian government through various platforms but in vain. Even UN refused to comment on this issue and almost all major players admitted that it is India’s internal matter and doesn’t merit any external interference.
This also points out to the diplomatic finesse of Indian state and personal camaraderie of Indian PM Modi with other leaders of the world. This decision signals the apex of India’s graduation into a significant player and a legitimate voice in the contemporary global affairs.
Apart from these achievements, there are several other developments which have guided the onward march of world’s largest and most vibrant democracy.
Reduction of voting age from 21 to 18, Information Technology revolution, rights based legislations like RTI, RTE, MGNREGA, Food Security Act, Digital India Mission, Jan Dhan Yojana, Ayushman Bharat, etc have nourished and nurtured the evolving needs and aspirations of a New India which has broke the shackles of a former colonial nation which is making rapid strides on each and every domain and is determined to locate its legitimate position in the league of nations.
As patriotic Indian citizens, each of us have a share of responsibility in contributing to the overall progress and prosperity our great country,ie. Bharat as we enter into the 74th year of our independence. Let the noble ideals that inform our civilizational glory be the bequest for our future endeavours.