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Aspirational India and changing narratives

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I think this is the perfect time to discuss this topic, especially at a time when we are hosting the G20 presidency this year. The last decade has been a dream run for India as far as its foreign policy vis a vis other countries are concerned. We have considerably improved our might as a military, geo-politically and economic superpower before the world. No countries take India lightly as they used to during the start of this century. It is a great honour for us as a Nation that we didn’t have an IMF bailout for the last 3 decades while our neighbours, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Srilanka are once again approaching the IMF for monetary relief.

You can clearly see the narrative changing in global diplomacy. Even the U.S. doesn’t want to bully India for buying Russian Oil at cheaper rates because they can’t afford the cost of estranging an ally like India. We are one of the rare countries who can mediate between Russia and Ukraine during this unfortunate war with a clear and resounding message of ‘it is not the time for war’. We have surpassed our former coloniser to emerge as the fifth-largest economy in the world.

In times of unprecedented recession and economic instability, India is the only large economy showing signs of economic growth. We have gone away from the position of accepting foreign aid to providing monetary relief to countries like Afghanistan and Srilanka.

We have shown the world how to be global leaders in the health sector by offering vaccines to other developed and developing countries through our vaccine diplomacy. We are a power to reckon with in the Quad grouping, with countries like Japan, Australia and the U.S. openly supporting our pursuit to counter belligerent China.

While we are an ally of the U.S. and Russia, the middle east is still friendly with India and considers us a significant business partner. The data shows that Saudi Arabia invests more in India than in their natural ally, Pakistan. This is where we are placed globally, and with the G20 presidency, our superiority will only improve in the coming days.

It is not my intent that we should be aggressive towards other countries and prove our mettle as an economic power. But I think the time has come for Indians to be confident of our own narratives. We can no longer allow the Western Neo-Colonial media to shape our narratives. The same Western media that stereotypes us as a country of snake charmers, and we are more interested in global ranking reports coming from these same organizations.

I think it is time not to be self-deprecating but honestly be self-critical of where we stand as a Nation after attaining Independence in 1947. We cannot be in an eco-chamber where we tell ourselves we are the best and we shall continue to be the best.

At the same time, we cannot simply allow some vested interests to undermine India’s growth story. The course correction should come from the citizens themselves, and we should be more forward-looking to pure data rather than this political propaganda by either the left or right parties. The Mandal politics that began in the late 20th Century is finally losing its steam with development works more concentrated on creating visible physical infrastructure in the forms of highways and other logistical constructions.

The trend of offering freebies at the cost of capital expenditure is still a dominant narrative in some state politics, but the nation as a whole has tried to move away from this vote-bank politics. While there are religious pressure groups to satisfy in terms of allocating funds, the overall story of investing in real hard infrastructure to provide employment has picked up momentum in the last decade.

Nowadays, the most prominent debates in our news channels have zeroed in on Indian youth migrating to other countries in pursuit of better jobs and living conditions. We have become some sort of a global hub in exporting talent to other developed countries where there is a scarcity of skilled human resources. This has been happening right under our nose for such a long time, and we are ignorant about it like it is a natural phenomenon in a globalised world. This happens because we have the skill and expertise, but we don’t have the conviction or confidence in our own abilities.

It is a reality that the government can only provide employment to a fraction of the population, but the attitude towards entrepreneurship should change. Indian families are usually more or less comfortable with their children aiming for a permanent government or highly salaried private jobs with employment benefits. With the weakening of the Chinese economy, we have immense opportunities in the manufacturing sector.

This can only happen if this whole negative attitude about India changes in a matter of perception. We cannot allow foreign or domestic media to cloud our minds with this endless negativity. They have rating obligations and targets to meet, but for us, we have a bright future to accomplish. While we course correct whatever that is going wrong on our part, it is also important to look at the brighter side and be happy about it. There is always a hidden picture in all the narratives.

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