Power plays on geopolitical chessboards can either be distinguished as threats or opportunities. India’s aspiration for hegemony in South Asia can be traced back to its historical role as a regional power, as well as to its strategic interests. India, a nation with the second-highest population in the world and the seventh-largest country in terms of territory, has long been regarded as a rising force. With its enormous military might, booming economy, and rising global influence, it has been attempting to widen its sphere of influence as the main state in the area, both through diplomatic, economic and strategic alliances as well as through military border conflicts and power projection.
Historical legacy is a substantial part of its emergence as a global power. The nation became a reliable ally and military power due to its multiple contributions in war. India sent more than a million soldiers to fight in World War I on behalf of the British Empire. In several major conflicts, including the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the Battle of Gallipoli, and the Battle of Ypres, Indian soldiers were not only involved but also fighting on the frontlines. India also assisted considerably to the Allies’ victory in World War II and not long after, the country won its freedom from British colonial assertion. The Liberation of 1947 had worldwide repercussions. As European empires started to disintegrate and former colonies gained independence and influence, the end of British colonialism signified a shift in the dynamics of world power. India became one of the largest and most densely populated state in the world. It also became an influential player in the post-Cold War era due to its advantageous geostrategic position, abundance of resources, and rich cultural heritage. It aimed to become a dominant force in the Non-Aligned Movement, a collection of nations that refused to support either the Soviet Union or the United States. It has successfully maintained a non-interference approach towards domestic affairs of other countries and a policy of peaceful coexistence. This has contributed to India’s status as a responsible foreign actor and helped to establish India as an authoritative voice in world politics.
In the years following its independence, India focused on its economic policies with the intention of fostering growth and development. This necessitated the establishment of a mixed economy model with a concentration on state-led industrialization of major sectors including manufacturing and agriculture. India’s sizable and expanding workforce is mostly made up of youthful individuals. The economy has grown the abundance of labor in the country. India’s technological sector is booming with organizations like Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys setting the standard in fields like software development and IT services. The middle income bracket in India is expanding day and night and consumer expenditure is ascending as a result. Foreign investment is being recruited and this has led to the expansion of crucial sectors including retail and consumer products. As one of the greatest producers of food crops like rice and wheat in the world, India also boasts a robust agricultural sector. This has facilitated expansion throughout additional industries and given the economy a secure foundation. Additionally, development of India’s nuclear capability has also increased its geopolitical significance. In 1974, the country carried out its first nuclear test, and in 1998, it carried out a number of nuclear tests to formally join the nuclear club. It has since made efforts to position itself as a trustworthy nuclear state and has taken actions to expand its nuclear capability. With the aid of its nuclear program, it has been able to advance its foreign policy objectives and solidify its strategic relevance in the area. It can now use its nuclear arsenal to ward off possible foes and strengthen its negotiating stance in international talks.
The country’s economic growth, military capabilities, and soft power resources have enabled it to pursue a more assertive foreign policy, leading to India’s increasing involvement in regional and global affairs. However, India’s rise as a hegemonic power is not without risks and challenges. It is seen as a perilous that can cause unrest and conflict in the area. Its assertive ambitions will increase tensions in the region and its relations with neighbors, especially Pakistan and China.
It faces serious strategic challenges from both countries and has ongoing territorial conflicts. A major source of stress in its relations with China has been border problems in the Himalayan region. Due to their long-standing border disagreements, they have recently been involved in a number of military standoffs. China’s economic development has put India’s regional economic hegemony in jeopardy. China has been making significant investments in South Asian infrastructure projects, such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which runs through Kashmir.
Similarly, India’s relations with Pakistan have also become strained due to the involvement in cross-border terrorism and border skirmishes. Pakistan has been accused of funding and supporting terrorist organizations that have targeted India. These organizations have carried out attacks against Indian people and military sites. Terrorist attacks continue to pose a serious danger to India’s homeland security. Parts of the Jammu and Kashmir state, which is governed by India, are also claimed by Pakistan, and the two nations have engaged in a number of battles over the disputed region.
India’s aspiration for regional hegemony is a complex matter with multifaceted challenges and risks. Hegemony through dangerous means can lead to disastrous consequences. Hence it is essential to find solutions that promote peace and stability for the benefit of all. While India’s historical legacy, economic development, and military prowess may be credited for its ascent to global dominance, it also confronts significant strategic threats from its neighbors. Given that all three participating states are in possession of nuclear weapons, the pursuit of dominance through risky methods can have disastrous effects on regional security. Finding diplomatic solutions that advance peace and stability for the benefit of everyone while also respecting the sovereignty and interests of each nation is therefore essential. A nuanced and cooperative strategy, with an emphasis on constructive engagement and conversation, as well as the adoption of responsible and ethical foreign policies, is needed for the region to move towards a peaceful and prosperous future.