It’s a confident India that has walked into 2023. Defying prophets of doom, the economy is doing well, the two hostile neighbours – Pakistan and China are in difficulties, mostly of their own making , and India’s stature in the comity of nations is on the ascend.
The current Year will be marked by India’s most important international assignment in three decades – the presidency of the G 20 – which will provide India with yet another opportunity to play an important role in global affairs when the world is faced with unpredictable turns on the Eurasian battlefield, and their ripple effect on global supply chains and energy markets.
It’s indeed a crucial year for India. The United Nations (UN) estimates that India may surpass China as the most populous country on April 14, with a population of 1.42 billion. India has the youngest population in the world, with more than 50 percent of the population below the age of 25 . And over 65 percent – estimated at 808 million- is below the age of 35. It’s the time for India to encash its demographic dividend.
Young people are a great asset, to any economy, for they are quick learners. They are open to new ideas, and willing to take risks – essential prerequisites for successful entrepreneurs. Fresh industrial enterprises too need young hands who can easily adept to new technologies or production processes. An aging workforce, with fossilised mindset is difficult to train for anything new.
The present global economic situation is befuddled because of a variety of reasons. China is buckling under COVID and real estate crisis. The deadly virus is playing havoc in China and the authoritarian Communist regime is busy covering the enormity of the situation. A statement by World Health Organisation said, “we believe that the current numbers being published from China under-represent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, particularly in terms of death “.
The US is grappling with inflation. Europe is struggling with various issues because of the ripple effects of ongoing Russia- Ukrainian war, including an unprecedented energy crisis. Indian economy is relatively stable and has emerged as a favourite investment destination for major global players.
Speaking to the media at the start of the new year, Kristalina Georgieva, IMF managing director said “we expect one – third of the world economy to be in recession. Why? Because three economies- the US, EU and China – are all slowing down simultaneously “. She further added, “for the first time in 40 years , China’s growth is likely to be at or below global growth “.
While China continues to be in grip of soaring infections, the risk of another major outbreak in India remains low – a fact that underlines the success and efficacy of its indigenous vaccines, and provides the country with an opportunity to continue with its ambitious development agenda. However, India will have to be on constant alert, because of China’s designs on Indian territory and an unpredictable hostile Pakistan, an epicentre of terror in this part of the world, carrying an overt and covert war against India, since its birth.
Pakistan is in a real mess. Its economy is in shambles and the terror factories, it had created to hurt India, are ironically signing it now. It’s western neighbour, Taliban ruled Afghanistan is flexing its muscles and has emerged as serious threat to Pak’s territorial integrity. A sizeable section of radicalised Afghanistan feels Pakistan isn’t Islamic enough, and needs to be purged off its unislamic features. Competitive fundamentalism and bigotry are a deadly cocktail, and spare none.
The Pakistan National Security Committee, headed by Prime Mininster Shehbaz Sharif is meeting repeatedly to plan a military offensive against the Tehrik – I – Taliban ( TTP ) to control the new wave of militancy unleashed by the group in several parts of the country. It’s poetic justice- the creator of terror in South Asia is a terror victim !
In contrast , India is likely to remain the world’s fastest growing major economy with a growth forecast of almost eight per cent in FY2023. India continues to draw investors from the world over. Some of the major global Companies that have already invested , or are in the process of doing so; include – Goggle, Blackstone , Airbus, Boeing, Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, Petronas Hydrogen and Continental Automotive. Indian Stock markets are soaring , real estate is upswing , airline seats are oversold, car buyers are wait listed and Government tax collections are bouyant. All these indicators read like Indian economy’s health bulletin, giving positive vibes.
Gross GST revenue receipts in December totalled nearly Rs 1.5 lakh crores, up 15 percent year-on- year , signaling that demand remains robust . The car industry wrapped up 2022 with its biggest ever year in terms of sales – 3.8 million units compared to 3.1 million in 2021. According to reports, demand for blue- collar and grey collar workers jumped many times over in 2022, compared to the preceding year .The number of job vacancies in these two categories increased by 301 percent in the past year to 10,542,820 in 2022, from 2, 626,637 in 2021.
Unicorn is a legendary creature that has been described since antiquity as a beast with a single , pointed spiralling horn projecting from its forehead. However, in modern parlance, the aphorism stands for a privately held start- up company with a value of over US $ 1 billion . India , home to 85 unicorns , is third in global reckoning, with China and the US in the lead.
This year will also witness Indian Parliament , moving from its 90 odd years old building into a new one , completed in a record time. One hopes, with this transition, politicians of various hues too will change for better and strive to make this forum more deliberative and serious. Under our Constitution, in an emergency situation, Government of the day can legislate by promulgating ordinances .
Irrespective of party in power, the governments have often misused this power, enforced laws , and by- passed the legislature. Here’s a piece of good news. After 1963, it was for the first time in 2022, that the government did not promulgate a single ordinance In the last 20 years, on an average, governments promulgated eight ordinances yearly.
What are the roadblocks India faces in its march to emerge as a developed nation ? Divisive forces – Jehadies, communists and evangelical groups , that have a vested interests in balkanising the country. In pursuit of their respective agendas , these elements, funded from abroad, fan discontent on the basis of a manufactured narrative and seek to deepen social cleavages.
Total lies , mixed with half- truths are used to build prejudices among various sections of society, that fast turn into perversities, create social unrest and block development. No nation can realise its full potential , with such internecine bush- fires breaking out intermittently in various parts of the country.
Assembly elections in nine states will set the mood for the general elections in 2024. What are the issues on which 2023 and 2024 polls would be contested ? Prior to 2019 Lok Sabha polls , the opposition had unsuccessfully tried to build a narrative based on the perceived persecution of Dalits , tribals and minorities, particularly Muslims. Going by Rahul Gandhi’s rants, it appears , opposition hasn’t learnt anything.
The world will experience a worsening food and edible oil crisis if the war between Russia and Ukraine does not end. We are a major importer of fossil fuels, pulses and edible oils. So far, we have managed a skillful balance between our economic interests and geopolitical realities. Our main concern was to ensure that the Russian pipeline for defence equipment remained uninterrupted. We have succeeded to that extent.
Thanks to India’s tactful diplomacy, India has managed to get cheap oil, and fertilisers, from Russia, with crude supplies briefly overtaking traditional suppliers from the Gulf. While frequently abstaining on anti-Russia resolutions at the United Nations, India has continued a meaningful dialogue with the US and Europe. A careful diplomatic hedging on India’s part has helped It to remain relevant during this global crisis.
There are no easy choices for India , given the fact that it’s a fast developing nation , with ever growing energy needs and imports 86 per cent of its crude oil and most of its natural gas requirements. For the present , Indian- Russian ties are on an even kneel. But India can’t close its eyes to the fact that Russia is now unequivocally a Chinese ally and has become Beijing’s third – largest crude supplier.
India has started 2023 on an optimistic note . The political atmosphere within the country will continue to be on predictable lines – full of chaos and confusion- with warring political groups and foreign lobbies obfuscating the real issues . As in the past , Pakistan will be brazenly hostile to India, and China, as is its wont , will blow hot or cold, depending on its strategic interests. India’s soft power , coupled with its growing economic stature, however, will help the country to improve its profile further in the global pecking order.
Author – Mr. Balbir Punj (He is a Former Member of Parliament and a Columnist)
This article has been published on OneIndia.com