Context: Countries from around the world like the US, Israel, Iran, etc. are trying to build good relations with India. However, India is still not free to make strategic choices.
How economic development determines freedom to make choices for countries?
In 2010, Professor Michael Beckley analyzed the relationship between military effectiveness and economic development. In the study, he analyzed hundreds of battles over a nearly 100-year period (between 1898 and 1987).
His study found that military effectiveness is primarily a function of economic development. Other political and social factors are marginal in effect.
The reason is simple, economically developed states have a greater surplus of wealth. Thus, they could sustain larger investments in technology, production techniques, and military development without draining the economy of resources.
For example; China has used its spectacular economic growth to fund the fastest military expansion seen since World War II. In 2011.
How India has fared in this domain?
After the 1991 reforms, India’s economy was in a high growth orbit till 2008. During this period, India entered into the landmark nuclear deal with the US without any objection from China in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. China was 2 times the size of the Indian economy then.
However, now China has become 5 times of Indian economy, and it is not willing to make the same adjustment for India in NSG (for membership).
Similarly, India’s ability to purchase cheap Russian oil while maintaining great relations with major European powers is based on the possibility of India becoming a bigger economy. An economically anaemic India won’t provide the same attractions, and choices will become harder.
Furthermore, India’s ability to push back the most proximate national security threat, from China, is weakened due to low spending on defence. The problem is not the percentage of GDP spent on defense, but the total GDP itself. If GDP is small, the percentage won’t make much difference.
A growth rate of 7% will give all the flexibility the country needs on funding the military, getting seats in crucial global alliances, and enforcing the principle of Indian Exceptionalism in the world.
Source: This Post is created based on the article “7% Growth Is India’s Best Foreign Policy Strategy” published in The Times of India on 6th June 2022.