Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council of Foreign relations, visited the SMU Tower Center to talk about her new book, Our Time Has Come: How India is Making Its Place in the World. India has the third largest military in the world, it has the fifth largest defense budget, and it’s the world’s seventh largest economy.
Ayres argues that even though India still struggles with several social issues domestically, its sky-rocketing growth and newfound commitment to becoming a leading country means that the U.S. and the world at large need to reevaluate how they view India.
India’s Growing Economy
Projections from the Centre for Economics and Business Research predict that India’s economy will outgrow that of the United Kingdom’s and France’s this year. India’s population is expected to outgrow China’s by 2025. And, while Western Europe, Japan, and China are all aging, India’s population is young and is predicted to stay young with an expected median age of 37 in 2050.
India’s size and youthful population both scream of economic opportunity, but challenges remain. India still has the world’s largest poor population. Though 162 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty from 2004 to 2011, 21.9 percent of the population is still in extreme poverty. India’s per-capita income is in the bottom third globally, and in order to create enough jobs for its rapidly growing workforce, India would need to create 1 million jobs a month.
India’s Social Setbacks
On top of its economic challenges India still suffers from several social issues. Gender bias and violence toward women is widespread and, religious strife, caste divisions, and more all hinder the country’s advancement and its international image. Ayres argues that these domestic challenges eclipse what’s happening for the country on a global scale.
Ayres also argues that India has made a conscious effort to change how it approaches foreign policy. It refers to itself as a “leading country” rather than as an “emerging” one. It took a leadership position at the Paris climate agreement talks and made ambitious goals for advancements in solar energy–goals that it’s still on-track to meet. India even began exporting defense equipment, first to Mauritius and is considering exporting to Vietnam as well.
What the U.S. Should Do
Even with all this evidence of India as an outbreak leader, though, it still does not have a seat at the United Nations Security Council, it is not a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and its membership hasn’t been accepted to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). That’s what Ayres argues the U.S. should do–sponsor India’s membership to these groups so that India will have a voice. Even though she said India likely won’t vote for everything the U.S. proposes to the UN Security Council, out of fairness, Ayres argues they deserve a voice.