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The School of International Regional Studies is a research and educational centre seeking to revive international regional studies as an academic discipline in Russia. The department’s world-class professors train the next generation of regional studies specialists while developing an increasingly prestigious research school.
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Professor Vera Vishnyakova, Head of the HSE School of International Regional Studies of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs addressed welcoming speech and expressed her sincere thanks to the speaker and guests of the event.
The invited guest of the online seminar was Indian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Russia, Bala Venkatesh Varma. He noted the close relationship between Russia and India that stretch in history back to the country gaining independence in 1945. At the current juncture of development, India has a great influence in Southeast Asia, however, this influence does not spread by military forces, but through religion and culture. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary also noted the common policies of India and Russia in such areas as energy and security, a common vision in the framework of cooperation in the BRICS, G-20, and the UN.
The invited experts were Olga Solodkova, Associate Professor at the HSE Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs; Aleksey Kupriyanov, Senior Research Associate of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of RAS and Tatyana Shaumyan, the Head of the Centre for Indian Studies of RAS.
Professor Lunev began his lecture with a historical retrospective of the last 30 years, which have no analogs in human history. First of all, the change in key world players is worth noting: with the collapse of the USSR, the bipolar system collapsed as well, turning into a monopolar system under the leadership of the United States. However, the United States also failed to maintain supremacy, and therefore the trend to polycentrism can be observed. Nowadays, the US share in the global economy is even lower than in 1913, before the outbreak of World War I. In this context, it is very important to identify key players and the distribution of power.
Professor Lunev not only described the features that characterize the Great Power but also explained why India fits this concept. According to the first economic feature, in 2011, India took 3rd place among other economies in the world, and in 2019, India’s GDP amounted to almost $3 trillion, making India one of the largest economies in the world, bypassing France and England. According to experts’ esteems, after the global pandemic, India will suffer the least losses from the virus and only continue to increase the already high rates of economic growth.
According to the second, political parameter, India can be described as one of the most democratic countries in Asia. Though the Indian political system is not a Western one, it is perceived by the West as the closest. If a few decades ago Asia was characterized by a degree of homogeneity, at this stage there is a huge gap in the development of countries, and India is one of the leading countries (it was suggested that India could replace Russia in the G-8).
According to the third feature, in military and political terms India is among the top 5 most powerful states in the world, and although India’s nuclear power indicators are rather modest (India has only 130-140 nuclear supplies), the country took 3rd place in the world in terms of the military budget, with the leaders in this field the USA and China. India also takes 1st place in the import of weapons, a significant part of which is supplied by Russia.
The last feature, named by Professor Lunev was a cultural indicator that marks India’s development of its “soft power” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And though over the past few years, the attitude of Russians towards India has worsened, the role of India as the birthplace of ancient traditions and Buddhism is still highly important.
In foreign, predominantly Western discourse, a certain opposition has developed towards the characterization of India as a Great Power with the trend of defining it as a second-tier country and a developing country. This can be explained by the fact that the concept of a Great Power itself developed in the West in the 19th century and could not include Asian countries. According to the expert, at this stage, two Asian states, India and China, can claim the full title of Great Powers.
Secondly, the socio-economic indicators of the country are criticized: at the moment, 21% of the Indian population is poor, while the gap between classes is still not as wide as in the USA.
The other indicator is “strategic culture”, a rather vague concept that is more likely to relate to the military sphere, in which, however, India is significantly superior to the EU and Japan.
The weakness of India is only its internal doubts about its greatness and the expectation of recognition from the West, as well as the current policy of Narendra Modi, focused on balancing between other powerful states. However, such balancing is impossible in the long term, and in the near future, India needs to determine its place in the world order, especially in the framework of relations with China and the United States, with which, according to expert forecasts, it will form three future centers.Video is availabe to the link: https://youtu.be/2ruMxuqiW0I