Ramachandra Guha’s “Ten reasons why India will not and must not become a superpower”

On 13 April 2010, Ramachandra Guha gave his:  “Ten reasons why India will not and must not become a superpower” lecture, presented by the International Development Research Centre and co-hosted by the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Canada-India Foundation, at the Asian Centre at UBC.  (The talk can be seen in its entirety in the video above.) Since an initial essay published in the summer of 2008 giving seven reasons why India would not become a superpower (referenced in this article in India Together), Guha has expanded his reasons to ten:

  1. The rise of left-wing insurgency in Central and Eastern India (a brutal civil war between the Maoists and the Government of India).
  2. The rise of right-wing religious fundamentalism (BJP/RSS).
  3. The decline and corruption of the democratic center (particularly the conversion of political parties into family firms).
  4. The degradation of public institutions (such as universities, law courts, hospitals, civil services).
  5. The growing (spectacular) gap between the rich and the poor.
  6. The rapid pace of environmental degradation (air pollution, dead rivers, depletion of groundwater aquifers, disposal of toxic and nuclear waste, etc.).
  7. The superficiality of the mainstream media (or “the Indian media’s complicit worship of wealth, celebrity and super-stardom”) and abandonment of commitment to serious environmental reportage.
  8. Political fragmentation and the instability engendered by multiparty coalition governments (price of support is the most profitable ministries).
  9. Unreconciled borderlands (Kashmir, Nagaland and Manipur).
  10. Unstable neighborhood (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka).

Guha seems to have greater cachet as a lecturer in the West and greater credibility in critiquing India because of his all-India education: St. Stephen’s College, Delhi School of Economics, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta.  He has been nominated by Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines as one of the world’s one hundred most influential intellectuals and by India Together and BusinessWeek as one of the fifty most influential people in India.  He is a 2009 recipient of the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honor.

Guha speaks passionately and knowledgeably about the environmental degradation taking place in the pursuit of “growth” and the displacement of a voiceless tribal population of 90 million living in forests (on top of natural resources and by rivers) that the Government of India is looking to exploit, primarily through public private partnerships. (Guha is one of three academics that have filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India against the activities of Salwa Judum, a state-supported vigilante group killing and displacing the tribal population in the state of Chhattisgarh in pursuit of the Naxalites (Maoists).)

Guha contends that the pursuit of superpower status detracts the Government of India from addressing the problems listed above.  Rather, India is uniquely placed to be a “bridging power” – to be a greater influence in culture and ideas, and promoting the ethic of democracy and diversity from which other countries can learn.  “The Indian national experiment is the dream – we should fulfill it.”

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8 Responses to “Ramachandra Guha’s “Ten reasons why India will not and must not become a superpower””


  1. 1 robert May 10, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    This idiot seems to be CIA agent working against India

  2. 2 Salt Lake City countertops August 7, 2010 at 2:17 am

    @robert: Yes you may have a point but this article would have gain the higher point. It could be very hard India as a superpower country and there could be a lot of factors to consider.

  3. 3 Keshava H. Korse August 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    It is one of the brilliant speeches I heard in recent time. The true liberal democratic ethos that make the bottom line of this speech, I believe, is the need of the time to build a nation and the world, that has sustainable & equal opportunity for all.

  4. 4 Kaber Vasuki May 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    He forgot that we don’t really care.

  5. 5 Yawar December 14, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Kaber Vasuki ki jai ho!! That is the bottom line. We have reached the bottom of the pit – indifference. But of course there will always be idiots like me who refuse to see facts and will continue to dream of what can be and continue to do what they can – no matter how small. That is why I say, “I will not allow what is not in my control, to prevent me from DOING WHAT IS IN MY CONTROL.” Jai Hind.

  6. 6 ramesh December 15, 2011 at 3:56 am

    i don think guha s right in this aspect….Mr guha u first tell me which country doesnt have problems?????? If u r talkin abt the problems above as vital constraints for the development of the country u r completely wrong….we must n we will sort out all the problems in the near future and make this country a super power in 2020….if u r a responsible citizen of india its ur duty to work for the development of the country….rather u r critisizing ..ppl like u make india vulnerable n foolish in frnt of countries like usa…first respect ur nation…if u have respect to ur nation then u will feel everythn here s right….will u talk a word abt ur parents if they hav done somethn wrong to u in public?????no…cos u respect them…

    • 7 M I Jaffrey April 28, 2013 at 8:14 am

      Facts and realities are always biter dear but that doesn’t mean to leave in dreamworld. Mr.Guha is academician and his books and research has put a significant contributions in understanding the hidden issues and challenges. People like u retards the pace of growth as u never feel the scope of improvement/


  1. 1 “Ten reasons why India will not and ust not become a superpower” | chindiapedia Trackback on February 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm

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