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20 Apr, 2024 04:00

Indians want to see their country catch up with China, US – expert

New Delhi’s geopolitical power has become important factor for Indian voters in the ongoing elections
Indians want to see their country catch up with China, US – expert

India’s international standing will inform many of India’s voters in the coming weeks, as they now want to see their country compete with the likes of the US and China on the global stage, Sreeram Chaulia, professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs at OP Jindal Global University, told RT in New Delhi. 

The first of the seven phases of the election, with almost 970 million Indians eligible to their ballots, kicked off on Friday. 

Commenting on the beginning of polling in the country’s parliamentary election, which runs until June 1, the professor explained that India’s emerging middle class will take note of the country’s international status when they head out to cast their votes. 

Younger and first-time voters and the urban middle class want to see India equal to China and the US as a “great power in the world,” he remarked. “For a lot of them, having a strong and stable government through the elections is the means to achieve that desired dream or outcome,” he explained.

In this election cycle, 18.2 million Indians will vote for the first time. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a goal to turn India into a fully developed nation and a “leading power in the world” by 2047. This will be taken into account when votes are cast, Chaulia noted. He added that prestige, image, and India’s desire to prove its merit have all become a part of the electorate’s calculus.

Last year, 23 countries surveyed by the Wahington-based Pew Research Centre reported a relatively favorable view of India. A median of 46% say they have a favorable view of it, compared with a median of 34% with an unfavorable view. The Modi-led government has set a target of making India the world’s third-largest economy and touch $7 trillion GDP by the end of the decade, after the US and China.

According to Chaulia, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fronted by Modi has positioned itself strongly with claims of having increased India’s prestige on the world stage. This message according to experts, is resonating with a large number of voters.

“International issues, and India’s position on global issues, is going to be scrutinized by the urban middle-class youth voters,” the academic predicted. “A lot of people are going to want a strong state, a stable government, and continuity, so that India’s upward march in the world can continue without any interruption.” 

He also noted that India is much more united” than critics try to present it. “There is this whole narrative that India is divided, polarized; Western liberal news media keeps on harping on that. But if you see the reality, it is quite different. I think the country is getting more unified and mobilized; there is more nationalistic consciousness. People want to be seen as Indian first, and then only the language or religion they belong to.”

Modi’s BJP, which won 303 Lower House seats in the last election, is eyeing an even bigger haul of 370 seats this time around. However, an alliance of a dozen opposition parties, led by India’s oldest party, [Indian National] Congress, which ruled the country for several decades, stands in its way.

The outcome of this election, which will be known on June 4, will be observed closely not only in India but overseas, Chaulia suggested, “because India is a rising power, anything big that happens in this country is naturally of global consequence.”

Describing the ongoing electoral process as “humongous,” he remarked that he expects this massive exercise in democracy will prove “India’s mettle to the world.”