By Anand Kulkarni
India ranks fourth on the Asia Power Index, which attempts to measure the power of countries in the Asia-Pacific.
The Asia Power Index, developed by the Lowy Institute in Australia, covers 25 countries across a very broad geographical spectrum, extending to Pakistan, Russia and Australia and the U.S. India ranks behind the U.S, China and Japan in that order. Following India are Russia, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in that order to round out the top 10.
The region is currently in a state of flux with China continuing to flex its economic and militarily muscle, and with the U.S and North Korea summit still up in the air. A myriad of issues beset the region including challenges of phenomenal urbanisation, inequality and environmental constraints, while at the same time recording huge economic growth.
What does the index measure?
The index includes many parameters to measure the “power” of a nation, including economic resources such as gross domestic product (GDP), technological and scientific capability, connectivity through trade and investment flows, resources that enhance financial and legal force abroad. Military capability is measured by defence spending, weapons availability and capability, military posturing while resilience of a nation is determined by economic and political security and Institutional stability.
Other factors taken into account are the diplomatic influence of the country, as well as its economic relationships along with cultural influences such as cultural identity and uniqueness, information flows and people movements, amongst others.
The index takes into account several measures, recognising the vast array of economic, military, diplomatic and cultural factors that make up power, or to put alternatively the range of “hard” and “soft power” capabilities that give rise to influence power.
India’s performance on the index
On the index, India measures very high on “future tends” measurement (third) which implies that one can be optimistic about India’s role and place in the region going forward. India is first in the region on working age population, reflecting its famous demographic dividend while its sheer economic size will continue to confer significant weight, and its military spending continues to be among the highest.
India also performs relatively better than its overall performance on cultural influences (third place). India is a key player in the region through its vibrant diaspora which is an important source of capital, ideas, entrepreneurship and labour, increases its attractiveness to tourists.
Where India falls below its overall ranking is in economic relations (seventh), defence networks (tenth) and resilience (fifth). India as compared to other countries, does not have well developed formal trade and investment relationships such as trade agreements, apart from the ASEAN, which includes only a few countries from the region. Furthermore, a number of proposed agreements, such as with Australia have not yet materialised. Similarly, India is light on for formal defence alliances, possibly historically linked to its non-aligned status, and its broader approach to diplomacy.
The index also reveals that India ranks fourteenth in terms of technology (in the economic resources parameter) suggesting it needs to catch up with the other countries in terms of science and technology and research and development. India performs the worst in the measure of institutional sustainability which comes under the resilience parameter, which is due to its issues of the ineffectiveness of government, lack of transparency and accountability.
The Institute also measures the “power gap” which is the difference between the overall power score and what could be expected given a nation’s resources. This is used to analyse how well a country converts its resources into influence. On this measure, India’s performance is considerably weaker, coming in at the seventeenth place. The entire region is undergoing rapid development and change and given its strength in terms of resources, India is reasonably well poised to make an even stronger contribution in the upcoming years.
Dr Anand Kulkarni is a Consultant and Principal Advisor at Victoria University, Melbourne. He is also the Associate Editor for the Journal “International Review of Business and Economics” and a Fellow at the Centre For Policy Development in Australia.
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