I lived and worked in India in the 1970’s. Partly as a result of COVID, my wife and I had not been back for four years until recently. Having just returned from a brief and lively visit to Delhi, we have have been amazed at the economic growth achieved over the last decade.
The roads are clean; smelly Putt Putt vehicles have gone. There are relatively no beggars blocking up the streets, which are themselves much cleaner. Delhi now has a smart and efficient underground system which was built at below budgeted costs. Individuals are generally well dressed at all levels of society. Middle class Indian citizens also now go skiing in the winter. The food is good with a wide range of choices.
The forecasts are that India will now grow faster than China over the coming decade, although India will still have a lot of catching up to achieve. It is becoming a major consumer economy. India has a lot of the UK’s characteristics, where China has been more like Germany. For the foreseeable future Chinese growth rates are likely to slow, and those of India to accelerate.
When I was living in India most of the cars were Ambassadors. Now to spot an Ambassador is a rarity. The cars in India are effectively the same as in other parts of the world with the shift to electricity beginning. The car population in Delhi is the same as any other major city, with new roads servicing improved access.
What particularly impressed me was the amount of change in modernisation which has occurred in a relatively short time. Mumbai is probably still ahead of Delhi, but Delhi is catching up.
Education in India have also much improved. The British system is the main model where learning to speak English is a crucial education ingredient. A powerful plus is also that good independent secondary schools can operate in India on surprisingly low costs and are thus affordable for much of the population. I have helped a new secondary school in Bihar which now has over a thousand pupils and where the fees are surprisingly little.
India has also been its own “tech developer” for some 50 years. As a result, India now has a significant high-tech industry/sector which can be expected to grow rapidly over the next decade. India has also had the remarkable political achievement of being and remaining a democracy where the electorate is some 12 times that of the UK.
Many approve of the current Modi Government, which has got a lot done; others are critical, but it is accepted Modi will stay in office until India’s next General Election. India also appears to be very competent at managing huge General Elections without any major corruption.
India’s management of the pandemic has also been impressive, again given the huge numbers of people involved. I believe India will be driven forward over the next two decades substantially by the rising tide of well-educated and strongly motivated young people going through an improving education system.
There is, however, one important matter where India has aroused the disappointment and criticism of other democratic countries: its continuing to trade with Russia. India’s excuse is that it is dependent on energy imports from Russia for over 80% of its power, which means, in practice, that it has to be able to import energy from Russia, as one of the major producers. There is also the issue of energy costs where India could not afford the prices currently being paid by the West for energy.
Nevertheless, the presence of electric cars that I spotted on India’s streets are surely a sign of the future: a modern, technological, economic superpower, that will leave revanchist powers like Putin’s Russia behind before too long. It is up to use to ensure she becomes a firm ally of the West.