By Vivek Pattanayk in Bhubaneswar, June 24, 2023: For quite a period there has been use of the expression global power in the field of international relations and in political debates. Of course, the word power relates to the political state not any other category of power. When the word global is used it would mean a state having worldwide dimension in matters of economy, military strength, and wide political influence.

If one goes into history one would find at different times names of different countries have been referred to as global powers.

In the ancient time Greece under Alexander, Persia under Xerxes, Rome under Julius Caesar and even in earlier times Egypt under Ramses I or Ramses II could be considered as global powers. One, however, would rush to clarify that the world then was small in political dimension in comparison to the present-day world. Certainly, it was not like the huge geographic world we see today with international multimodal transport systems and telecommunication outreach and internet.

Later in history India and China qualified to be included in the list although only as global economic powers by virtue of their wealth including trade, manufacturing capacity which could be called GDP in modern parlance until they were overtaken by historical events.

The Iberians, Dutch, Kaiser’s Germany, Austria of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Imperial British, Czarist Russia, the Bourbon French, and the Ottomans (although Turkey being called Sick Man of Europe) were considered as global powers because of their political, military, and economic prowess. Japan joined the list during the interwar period. It will be relevant to refer to Hegel’s concept of world spirit which explained how different nations acquired world status.

The end of the Second World War and events following armistice brought a sea change to the concept of global power. Britain and France losing their colonies and empires were overshadowed by two other victor powers of the Second World War namely, USA and USSR although UK and France both got the permanent membership status in the Security Council of newly formed United Nations symbolizing their global power image.

Very curiously China under KMT also got permanent membership. Whether all the permanent members continued to be of equal status as global powers became doubtful with the elapsing of events and changing times. However, after the collapse of the Communist bloc, dismemberment of the Soviet Union, the distinction of being called only global superpower was enjoyed by US.

Despite being checked militarily in the Korean war and suffering loss of prestige following disastrous defeat in Vietnam, humiliating financial crisis of 2008, US has recovered its status as a global superpower after the first and second gulf wars and followed by success in the Kosovo war. Notwithstanding pathetic withdrawal from Afghanistan yielding power to Taliban after two decades of war, US is still considered a superpower for its worldwide military presence, domestic economic heft and leadership in information technology, artificial intelligence, and space program.

In the recent times the exclusive superpower status of US is being challenged by Russia particularly after rise of Putin following his intervention in Georgia creating South Ossetia and Abkhazia and then integrating Crimea. It has also inherited from the erstwhile USSR its technical, military, and economic infrastructure.

Since the first decade of this century China with its spectacular economic achievements, strengthening of military muscle and remarkable space program sending unmanned vehicle to Mars, is vying for the status of global superpower. Mismanagement of pandemic in US and the Trump period chaotic leadership nationally and internationally contributed to loss of image of US. The delayed conclusion of the Ukraine conflict with no quick, swift, and outright victory has also played a part in weakening the global position of Russia.

Nevertheless, the countries recognized as unquestioned global power are USA, China, and Russia. Europe, despite its economic integration, could not accomplish political homogeneity and without unified military command could not qualify as a political power.

Meanwhile Japan, and Germany have also undoubtedly made their presence felt across the globe for their magnificent economic and technological footprint.

In addition, there are countries like India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, and Iran who have also carved out their places for global recognition along with oil rich wealthy Saudi Arabia.

For some time, India was being dubbed as an emerging power until President Obama when he visited India for the first time in 2010 told that “India has already emerged” meaning it was no longer an emerging power. However, before the euphoria of being recognized as such by US President, could be trumpeted the country was swept by widespread media coverage of 2G and Coal scams resulting in cancellation of more than one hundred licenses.

Although all the accused were acquitted by trial court India struggled to restore its status globally for quite some time. In the last few years there is growing assertion in India that the country has become a global power. Interestingly some global leaders refer to India as emerging global power. The Indian media in line with ruling political dispensation is also getting into the cacophony of calling India as a global power.

In addition, India is being called as Mother of Democracy, Viswa Guru etc. etc. much to chagrin of those who have been left out of power structure generally leveled as Opposition. Recently a former central bank Governor when asked by media persons whether India is a global power, his curt reply was it did not matter.

In terms of importance of countries in global issues forming of Groups became a fashion first with creation of group called G-6 and then it becoming G-7, and for a while it became G-8 until Russia having been pushed out of this jamboree the expression G-8 is no longer in currency. However, the world has seen another group of powers called G-20 which owed its origin to the debilitating financial crisis of 2008 more known as sub-prime crisis.

To face and tackle a global crisis of huge financial magnitude political leaders across major countries recognized the need for close cooperation and coordination among countries having significant influence on global economy.

Dr Manmohan Singh, when he was the Prime Minister received a lot of respect from the top leaders of this newly formed Group for his professional advice in the global handling of this crisis, also due to his prestige as an economist of global standing. India like China remained almost unscathed during the sub-prime calamity.

G-20 Chairmanship has come to India by turn after Indonesia’s Chairmanship of last year. This has given India an opportunity to host different events connected with this Group. Within India the media has been giving febrile focus on these events to celebrate the country’s chairmanship as if the country has got a star status in the global firmament.

Mere Chairmanship of the Group which is rotational in nature does not make a country a global power. Apart from economic strength ,military capability and influence a State wields over the world are crucial factors to be categorized as a global power. It is true that India has become the third largest economy of the world since March 2014 by Purchasing Power Parity.

At the same time becoming most populous country in the world its per capital income is affected. There was almost frenzied ecstasy sometime back in certain circles because India’s GDP exceeded UK, the former imperial power without recognizing Britain was far ahead of India in terms of per capita income.

France an erstwhile imperial power has tremendous influence over many French African countries even after decolonization. Britain, despite the Commonwealth of Nations, could not have the similar sway over former colonies.

India’s soft power like Bollywood movies have spread their tentacles across Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia and other parts of the world. Perhaps one day Yoga may give India a special world status in soft power.

The country has also made a mark in the pharmaceutical industry, being called the pharmacy of the world.

India has moved far ahead since the dismal PL 480 days by making exports of food grains more particularly in the recent times in millet in addition to sugar.

At the same time its global status as an emerging global power is hamstrung by social indices on infant mortality, malnutrition, gender issue, poverty, and inequality.

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