Mapping out a long-term strategy for India's development is of paramount importance given the rapid geopolitical change and economic transformation worldwide. The Quad summit has shown that India does matter in the emerging world order. The post-Covid world is likely to set new standards and methods of international economic cooperation. The United Nations may not be as influential as interlocking groups of converging and connecting nations linked together by common interests. Critical decisions need to be taken today to ensure the emergence of India as a serious power in Asia and beyond in the coming decade. The centre of gravity of the global economy is continuing to shift from North America to Asia, and this is a fact that India needs to capitalize on.
Building a 21st century technology backbone is the key to building a collaborative future in tomorrow's multipolar world order. Sufficiently strong technology is indistinguishable from foreign policy, and this was clearly seen in the Quad summit. There is an unmistakable trend towards multipolarity in both Asia and the world, and it is in India’s long-term interest to reinforce it. This will also involve strengthening strategic economic partnerships with the USA, Japan, and Europe (including Russia), which share India's security concerns and remain vital sources of trade and technology.
As far as the pandemic goes, India should aim for an investment led recovery. We still have a relatively rich demographic dividend, and both the public and private sectors can invest in youth business models and innovative production techniques, which would enable the nation to create a long-lasting socioeconomic recovery. In this regard, India can be a role model for much of Asia and the world. India's youth must be encouraged to infiltrate the political and legislative spheres by running for positions at the highest levels, and ensure that policymakers hear their voices.
With a massive rise in digitalization, data use culture needs to be strengthened in India. Covid has shown us the importance of reliable and timely data, as well as the need to strengthen broadband capacity throughout the country. Nations with better information and communication technologies, especially internet access, were able to conduct more activities online during the pandemic, thus cushioning the adverse impact of Covid on their economies. Investing in nation building activities requires a sustained focus on data literacy and numeracy. A range of transferable skills such as data collection and aggregation, database management, digital cartography, and data visualization should be made compulsory for all students regardless of their disciplines.
The pandemic has worsened equality on every front, but government policy can help. In the industrial sphere, MSMEs have borne the brunt of the crisis through liquidity shortages and supply-chain disruptions. In the labour market, the crisis is having more adverse effects on workers penalized by lower employment protections – in particular, those who are inadequately trained, less educated or both. Such people need specialized policy interventions to ensure their smooth return to the workforce.
The key problem for India is that just as it begins to meet the requirements of the 21st century, the baggage of the past is catching up with it. Some tough decisions now need to be taken. We have just too much at stake in the new emerging world order. There is no turning back to any form of populist thinking that hampers socioeconomic growth.