India in the 2020s-From a Lumbering Elephant to a Mighty Garuda

  • By Monika Sethuraman
  • August 15 2020
  • The author explains the changes in India’s foreign policy under PM Modi. Look at the deeper points made about the nature of the Indian State rather than Modi.

On the eve of India’s 74th Independence Day I am reminded of our liberal journey over the past century. Many mighty world powers undermined India because she does not seek to dominate the world but merely wish to set the right kind of discourse on the international stage.


We are often deemed as the Elephant in the room, the License Raj, the fountainhead of Redtapism. Nonetheless, we pursued our Dharmic goals of voicing the cause of the Global South in international institutions, inter alia the WTO, WHO. We take pride in our righteousness and that we are strongly rooted in our ancient moral and ethical code; we stand out as the only ancient civilization to have risen democratically, driven by principles.


Amidst the chakravyuha of complex representative politics and rigid bureaucracy India perhaps has the most liberal judiciary of the third world and most disciplined military.


In a realist world, ethics and principles are seen as weakness. Thus, mighty powers often disregard India as a weak state resorting to ethics and expect India to join the bandwagon.  Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi very well understands that with the advent of The US President Trump and resurgence of economic protectionism, came the end of liberalism.


Under PM Modi, India started manifesting its global ambitions fluttering its wings and flying high as Mighty Garuda; India’s global outreach and economic, political, and cultural integration with the rest of the world, especially with people of Indian origin, started to take shape. 


The cultural resurgence of India with Gandhian ideals such as the emphasis on holistic, healthy harmonious coexistence with the environment via Yoga, Ayurveda and Siddha, cottage industries through Make in India, Startup India and strategic autonomy is implicit of PM Modi’s vision of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat.


Duplicity, deceit, conniving, and cunning are not our nation’s inherent character. 


We are the land of Dharma, righteousness, natural order, and duty, and we are not socially engineered to be deceptive. Rather, we were a latent power for decades, and only now, we manifest our capabilities. 


Realist akin to Clausewitz and Chellaney would prescribe war as a means to the end. They would allude to the war to end all wars as a solution. 

Bank of Ayudhya, Bangkok whose symbol is Garuda.


However, Indian administrators are well aware that war is only the last resort when every other avenue is explored tried and lost, akin to the Mighty Garuda leader of the community of Birds in our Pauranic tradition who negotiated a ‘pact’ with the Community of Snakes in exchange of his mother, Vinata’s freedom. 


Thus, efforts of the Government of India towards ‘giving diplomacy a chance’ or ‘dialogue through diplomacy’  should not be attributed to meekness when the Government of India has actively been upgrading its fighter jets, missiles, and weapons system with MiG-29, Su-30-MKI, C-17, C-130J, Rafale, M777, Hammer missiles and 248 Astra missiles. 


Our dream is to democratize international institutions and reform them by working within the international system and international laws. India believes in economic cooperation as a means to increase domestic competence rather than cause conflict, while sovereignty and territorial integrity lie at the heart of such a process.


The year 2020 has been harsh on humankind, with our 1.3 billion who constitute one-fifth of the global population locked-down as a preventive measure against Covid19, marking the largest quarantine in human history. While India entered this massive lockdown, it succeeded in keeping the essential administrative, military, economic, and academic activities intact and also achieved a peaceful progressive unlock. The unlock was marked with a zeal to go bullish with creativity and passion for shaping and prospering in the post-Covid world order.


Every crisis is an opportunity to reform.


Today, India has a renewed form of resilience in spirit and aspiration. It is akin to the rise of the gigantic Garuda of the tradition, who is a keen observer, has a  bird’s eye view of mundane affairs, a strategist, and mighty protector of Dharma. 


The Mighty Garuda, the Puranic eagle, is so fierce that even the heavenly Lords Indra and Surya fear his strength. Unlike an aged, blind Elephant, an embodiment of previous Congress-led government, India, under PM Modi, is swift and hawk-eyed like the Mighty Garuda.  


Today’s India is also a  Dharmic republic, its talons firmly fastened to traditional liberal values such as Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family), Sarveshaam Svastir-Bhavatu (May there be well-being in all), Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah,   Sarve Santu Niraamayaah (May all be happy, May all the living being be free from illness).  


Like Garuda, who crossed many hurdles to emancipate his mother from the deceitful fire-spitting reptiles (Nagas) masquerading as great powers; the youth of India, who constitute the largest student population of the world, will rise to liberate Mother India from fear of poverty and foreign aggression, indeed to celebrate sustainable peace and prosperity for all.


Author  is pursuing a PhD in International Relations at Central China Normal University. She is an Independent Research fellow at the Chennai Center for China Studies and  Member of  Young Minds of C3S, a China focus group.


Also read

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2. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, Not a deer but a seer

3. How India can build Comprehensive National Power 

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