Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been drumming up trade in Germany and many analysts are predicting the second most populous country in the world could be the next superpower. But does India really have what it takes to catch up with China or even overtake it?
The population and the economy are already growing faster than its big Asian competitor. But for the time being at least India remains a country of deep disparities.
Extreme poverty and unimaginable wealth often live side by side in India. Sixty percent of the population still work in the agriculture sector but there is a growing affluent middle class.
Prime Minister Modi has ambitious plans. He wants to make India an important part of the global industrial network and aims to increase the industrial sector share of GDP from the current 15% to 25%. Infrastructure project expenditure in the budget for the next five years is set to increase by 47% while corporate tax is reduced by 25% over four years. Analysts say Modi is already firmly on a path that will make him a major reformer of the Indian economy.
But India still has an image problem. The infrastructure across the land is in a parlous state. Many western companies see India as a difficult market – not least due to its infamous bureaucracy. In a World Bank assessment of 189 countries according to ease of doing business India is ranked 142nd. Germany may be India’s most important trading partner in Europe, but for Germany trade with India lags far behind China. Last year the volume of trade between the two countries actually fell.
Worldwide media focus on the problem of an endemic rape culture in India has damaged the country’s image. Modi’s role in an anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat state in 2002 when he was chief minister there also remains controversial. Is the self-avowed Hindu nationalist the right person to lead the world’s biggest democracy into the modern age and make it into an economic superpower?
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Thomas Matussek - a lawyer by training, he is a former German ambassador to the UK, the UN and most recently to India. Since that last diplomatic posting, he has worked as the Head of Public Affairs for Deutsche Bank, and is currently the Managing Director of its international forum, the Alfred Herrhausen Society.
Christian Wagner - a leading expert on southeast Asian affairs. He studied and later worked as a lecturer at the University of Freiburg. In 1994, he moved to Berlin as a research fellow at the Center for Modern Oriental Studies. Following further academic posts in Rostock and Bonn, Wagner returned to Berlin in 2002. He now works for the German Insitute for International and Security Affairs, where he's the Head of Research for Asia. His areas of expertise include India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Ramesh Jaura - born in India, he began his career as a journalist in 1964. He then moved to Germany where he worked as a journalist and global affairs observer combining professional pursuits with creating public awareness about the global dimensions of local, national and regional challenges confronting humankind, and increasingly focussing on the need for fostering culture of peace. He has worked for several years as international correspndent of Inter Press Service. Since 2009, he serves as global editor of the Globalom Medai group's IDN-InDepthNews, South Asian Outlook e-monthly and Global Perspectives, a magazine for international cooperation.