Human existence has been evolving for the last many millenniums. The mode of production is also evolving along with human evolution. Around the 18th century, with the advent of industry and capital fueling economic structure, Europe turned towards Asia and Africa, in the quest for raw materials. These colonizing powers pumped out raw materials and in turn dumped indigenous markets with their finished goods. This process of draining resources is categorically explained by Dadabhai Naoroji in his work, ‘Drain of Wealth Theory’.
After independence, successive governments tried developing heavy industries which had an everlasting sociological impact, i.e., human resources from villages to a few industrial cities. These industries were set up on the lines of the bureaucratic Soviet model. Menaces like Red-Tapism and License Raj were very prevalent. The absence of open competition and a free market had a detrimental effect on the capacity building of India’s industrial power. This was the time when we as a nation were performing well in the primary sector, like agriculture also. We were not producing enough to feed the population and were forced to import low-quality food grains from the US. This was a time when two of the world’s most vibrant nations, i.e., India and China, were not developing on their right trajectory.
China too had the same fate, once a pioneer of the Silk Route was looted by colonial powers and then struck by the blood bath of the Cultural Revolution under the leadership of Chairman Mao. Communist China was not even recognized by major Western powers until the 70s. In 1971, China gave a surprise invite to the US table tennis team to China, to which the US responded by allowing China’s entry into the UNSC. This later came to be known as Ping Pong diplomacy. In the background of the Sino-Soviet conflict and later Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Chinese policy was more pragmatic and focused astutely on Western foreign investments and businesses with the US. All these factors under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping contributed to the industrial growth of China, by the end of the 90s China evolved into a major manufacturing power.
On the other hand, India did well in tackling shortages of food grains and became Aatmnirbhar through steering programs of the Green Revolution. However, the weak and short-sighted leadership was more interested in the romanticism of Soviet Socialism and continued with the License Raj system. In 1991, when Chandra Shekhar became Prime Minister, India had less than a week of foreign exchange left for buying energy resources like oil. The government was forced to take loans from the IMF and several banks by trading its confiscated gold. Our leadership took the step toward opening up the economy when we were on the verge of collapse (China did it a decade earlier). Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization (LPG) regulations helped our economy in diversifying industrial growth beyond the primary sector, but it was too late. Markets are flooded with cheap Chinese items we are buying, which adds up to the Chinese gross national product. This asymmetric balance of trade with China continued till 2014. In the last few years, the gap between export and import has been falling on the Chinese side. It’s a good sign. Between India and China, there are too many irritants like the issue of the Dalai Lama, the Trade Deficit, the Border Road Initiative, China using Non-Tariff barriers, and Territorial imperatives like the Stapled Visa issue, Non-clarity of LAC and Aksai Chin.
Recently, the Indian Prime Minister called the slogans of ‘Aatmnirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Vocal for the Local’, both these in one form or another, our main instruments against the tyrannical colonial regime. The invocation of the same sentiments is done to tap the capacity of demographic dividend which we are having today when we see that two-thirds of our population is below 35 years of age. This is our ‘China Moment’. With cheap indigenous skilled labor, better electricity, and good transport infrastructure – our nation could be the next manufacturing center. Without being Aatmnirbhar, India could not achieve the endeavors on which it thrives on.
Aatmnirbhar Bharat depends on the pillars of the ‘Industrial Growth’ and ‘Vocal for Local’ programs. Self-sufficiency is required to tackle the huge industrial enemy state on the other side of the Himalayas. Aatmnirbhar Bharat would be self-sufficient to aid and help other small states like Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, which will help in limiting China’s expansionist policy in these states.
In the life of every nation, there comes an opportunity when it can thrive and earn its true place by tapping those moments. In medieval times, the Second Battle of Terrain, the Battle of Khanwa, and the Third Battle of Panipat were such moments when we as a nation failed and, as a result, were doomed to centuries of political subjugation. But in modern times, Bharat tapped every such moment, whether it is the 1857 war of Independence, the Indian Independence Movement, or the Green Revolution. History is again repeating itself and we as a nation are again going through a decisive period. If we manage to get hold of it, then there will be no limit to the nation’s progress and India will decisively emerge as an Economic, Military and Political power.