The 2020s will decide if India will be a gazelle or a hippo – tall, slow and aggressive

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Representative image | Rashtrapati Bhavan, South and North Block, New Delhi | FRP

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Ohe thing about the future was certain, at least until recently: that it would happen. However, a global nuclear war could kill most of us and make the planet uninhabitable for humans. Alternatively, climate change and uncontrollable global warming could lead to a similar result: land on which our species might not survive. Either way, there would be little future. This book does not predict such apocalypses, and believes that humans are wise enough to avoid such an end, even though we sometimes seem to be on the very edge of this cliff. He looks to the future with cautious optimism and hope.

Ten years in the life of a nation is just a blink of an eye. For a country like India, whose history dates back some 5,000 years, this is a negligible period. Can we really expect to see a noticeable change in such a short period of a decade? On the other hand, the accelerating pace of change means that the time scales have been telescoped. Lenin said: “There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades come ”. Technological advances seem to have brought us to the stage where decades succeed one another in a few weeks; this, and the rate at which technology penetrates society, means that the extent and rate of change is both high. As technology becomes a part of almost everything we do, its influence and effects are immense. It has a deep and broad impact on our work, our hobbies and our behavior. While the effects on individual behavior and societal norms are generally slow and protracted processes, the timeline in this regard is also changing. The speed at which technology spreads and its ubiquity reduces the time required for social change. It is in this context that there are clear possibilities of seeing tangible and substantial changes over the course of a decade. So this is the premise of what follows: that there will be considerable and visible changes in many aspects of India between 2020 and 2030.

The century has started well, with the first ten years seeing unprecedented growth rates in the economy. Millions of people were lifted out of poverty and the economy grew at an average rate of 7.36% per year from 2003 to 2010. If we exclude the exceptional year of global slowdown (2008), the rate of average growth increases to 7.97%. India was also unique in terms of resilience to the global economic crisis of 2008. This added to its international stature. Politically, relations with China were stable, as the trade boom went beyond suspicion of the past; the United States was a strategic partner; our long-standing friendship with Russia continued (albeit with less intensity); Pakistan was becoming increasingly isolated diplomatically, with no takers for its propaganda against India, and our relations with other neighbors were cordial. Within the country, there was relative harmony. The Indian star was booming.


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in the 2019 elections (bringing him back to power with even more seats in parliament), but did not do India any good in strategic terms. The 2020 border clashes with China set back our decades-long relationship and will require a sharp increase in military spending (at the cost of pressing social and infrastructure needs). The economic and livelihood situation suffered a further setback from March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic and resulting lockdowns. In summary, it looks like the years 2011-12 or so can be considered India’s lost decade.

The 2020s are an opportunity to imitate again the period 2000-2012 approximately. Will we choose the right path at a crossroads? India can either sink deeper into a quagmire of discord, social unrest, low economic growth and poverty, or begin to rebuild itself. If the nation can focus on key areas that affect its future (and not on our “glorious past” or “70 years of maladministration”), we have the opportunity not only to move the country forward in a meaningful way, but also to strengthen the base to shape a glorious future.

Looking to the future, one approach might be to identify and call out the changes that might be observed in a decade, compared to 2020. This would therefore allow examining the results: the real impact on our work, our hobbies, our life and the environment around us. It would sort of present a scenario of life in 2030. Another approach is to look at a stage preceding the results. It would seek to identify the key factors that will lead to the major changes we could see in 2030 and track how each of them would evolve over the decade from 2020 to 2030. This requires, as a first step, an analysis to determine the factors that have the most influence on individuals and society as the country moves towards 2030, and then predict the changes that might be observed in each of them by 2030.

The hope (in fact, the expectation) was that this would be the century of India. Some have even believed that it marked the start of an Indian millennium. However, from around 2012, things started to go downhill. Charges of corruption and scams plagued the government, apparently crippling policy making and affecting governance. This, along with some retrograde (and retrospective) tax laws from the 2012-2013 Union budget, have held back economic growth, compounding the impact of a general global economic slowdown. The change of government in 2014 led to the initial optimism, but soon the downward trajectory resumed (obviously, after the demonetization in November 2016); on the contrary, the growing disharmony between communities and the emphasis on divisive cultural and political issues have created greater problems. The “tough” policies towards Pakistan and Kashmir may have paid off for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2019 elections (bringing it back to power with even more seats in parliament), but no have done India no strategic good. The 2020 border clashes with China set back our decades-long relationship and will require a sharp increase in military spending (at the cost of pressing social and infrastructure needs). The economic and livelihood situation suffered a further setback from March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic and resulting lockdowns. In summary, it looks like the years 2011-12 or so can be considered India’s lost decade.


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The 2020s are an opportunity to imitate again the period 2000-2012 approximately. Will we choose the right path at the crossroads? India can either sink deeper into a quagmire of discord, social unrest, low economic growth and poverty, or begin to rebuild itself. If the nation can focus on key areas that affect its future (and not on our “glorious past” or “70 years of maladministration”), we have the opportunity not only to move the country forward in a meaningful way, but also to strengthen the base to shape a glorious future.

Looking to the future, one approach might be to identify and call out the changes that might be observed in a decade, compared to 2020. This would therefore allow examining the results: the real impact on our work, our hobbies, our life and the environment around us. It would sort of present a scenario of life in 2030. Another approach is to look at a stage preceding the results. It would seek to identify the key factors that will lead to the major changes we could see in 2030 and track how each of them would evolve over the decade 2020-2030. This requires, first, an analysis to determine the factors that have the greatest influence on individuals and society as the country moves towards 2030, and then forecasting the changes that might be observed in each of them. them by 2030.

This decade, the 2020s, will set the course for India, just as the ten years from 1950 onwards marked the country’s course in the 20th century, through the enunciation of values ​​and the creation of key institutions. It is the decisive decade for India, a period of transformation – indeed, the decisive decade. Overall, its size, its leadership and its “positioning” as being independent of the two main power blocs, have propelled it to the head of the “non-aligned” countries. This made India a powerful moral force in the geopolitical world. The years to come, from 2020 to 2030, will be when we go through a reiteration or reset of many vital parameters. With the evolution of power equations and the virtual disappearance of non-alignment, the country will have to reposition itself. Various options exist, but we choose two. To sum them up with an analogy, by 2030 India could be considered a gazelle: sleek, agile, quick and likable. Or he could end up like a hippo: tall, but bulky, slow, and worse yet, aggressive. What will we be?

This excerpt from Kiran Karnik’s Decade Decade was published with the permission of Rupa Publications.

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