Will the 21st century be India's? – Relations with the world and Greece

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The perspectives of political and especially economic relations between Greece and India, on the occasion of the second summit meeting of the leaders of the two countries in only six months, the planning of the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor and the role of Greece in it, the two faces of the Indian economy which is gaining enormous dimensions but maintains major structural problems, the ability of such a populous and still developing country to implement a democratic, parliamentary system, as well as the peculiar autonomy that New Delhi seeks in its foreign policy, are the issues that are discussed in the show of Polydefkis Papadopoulos "First in Europe and the World" (First Program, Saturdays and Sundays 12.00-13.00).

The guest is Asteris Chouliaras, Professor of Comparative Politics and International Relations at the University of Peloponnese and responsible for the project "India and Others - India's Relations with Europe and the World " (Papazisi Publications), a unique publication in Greek literature.

Will the 21st century be India's? – Relations with the world and Greece

In recent days, the second Greece-India Summit took place, aspiring to create a strategic relationship between the two countries, develop business partnerships and promote the inclusion of Greece in the plans of the world's most populous country to find a way to the markets of Europe and the West.

Mr Mitsotakis' meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the second in six months. Mr Modi visited Athens on August 25, the first visit of an Indian leader to our country after 40 years. And it is good that the development of the two countries' political and especially economic relations is accelerating because, for years, this did not happen.

The prime minister was accompanied this time by a crucial business mission, but there has been a lag in economic relations on both sides. For example, Indian investments in Greece are currently minimal.

The participation of GMR Airports Limited (in collaboration with GEK TERNA) in the construction and operation of the airport in Kasteli in Crete stands out, as well as the acquisitions of food companies of the SwitzGroup (Kriton Artos, Olympic Food, Ioniki, Koulourades, etc.).

From the Greek side, the presence in India is also limited, with Goldair offering handling services at nine airports in India, while the Theodoropoulos group continues to have a presence in the country, and Eurobank is also expected to enter the Indian market soon.

Now, as heard during the visit of the Greek delegation, the sectors of interest, especially to India, are agriculture, green energy, ports, fintech, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, shipping, industrial equipment, tourism, real estate, construction and the audiovisual industry.

Also, during this visit, a special discussion took place about the role of the IMEC (India-Middle East-Europe Corridor), which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union, France, Italy, and Germany. At the same time, there is also great support from the USA.

It is a large and strategically important project that expects to bring India closer to the Middle East and also to the markets of Europe and the West with a "corridor" for energy, products and data, which will be a response to China's Belt and Road Initiative. IMEC will start from the western ports of India, from where the ships will reach the UAE, and from there, by an extensive rail network, they will be transported through Saudi Arabia and Jordan to the port of Haifa in Israel and from there by ships to Europe.

The plan envisages, among others, Piraeus as a key entry point for IMEC in the EU. The war in Gaza has currently frozen this plan. At the same time, some analysts link the attack by Hamas on October 7, among others, to the obstruction of this plan, which, if implemented, will bring about upheavals and major changes in world trade and international relations.

The show examines the importance and prospects of IMEC, Greece's role, and the fact that its design bypasses Turkey.

Looking more generally at India's prospects, in 2024, the international economy is expected to grow by 2.4%, while the growth rate of this country in the last 12 months was 7.6%.

Also, based on UN calculations last April, India's population of 1.428 billion had now become the largest on Earth, surpassing by about 3 million that of shrinking China. In the past, in the 1970s, 1980s and even 1990s, high population growth was a disadvantage in India, given its level of development, and for that reason, it had taken measures to control fertility, as had China.

In the meantime, as far as India is concerned, the conditions have changed so that the large – and at the same time particularly young- population has become a significant advantage.

On the occasion of these performances, there are now many comments and analyses in the international press on whether the 21st century will no longer be China's but India's. But while India has earned the title of the fastest-growing major economy, it has never expanded enough to generate jobs for all, as it needs to create 9 million jobs every year to maintain its growth rate.

Thus, India is threatened by underemployment, with wages remaining "frozen" for years. Furthermore, economic growth without parallel job growth condemns Indian society to permanent inequality, increasing the potential for unrest. Also, India is brutalising its environment to feed its population, although rising living standards now protect against phenomena like the famines of the past.

Finally, despite its growth in traditional economic sectors and new ones such as semiconductor manufacturing and the Internet services sector, India continues to face significant obstacles, such as government inefficiency, inadequate infrastructure, limited spending on education and health and legislation restricting land use.

Thus, Prof. Chouliaras is asked which of the two aspects of the Indian economy seems to prevail. And anyway, an additional comment that can be made is that it is not a coincidence that many Indians are chief executive officers (CEOs) of global giants, such as Google/Alphabet, Microsoft, YouTube, Adobe, IBM, Novartis, Starbucks, Chanel, etc.

At the same time, apart from a huge population and a gigantic economy, India is the largest democracy in the world, with a parliamentary system and sufficient governmental stability.

Thus, this country, which in a few years will reach 1.5 billion people, with the multi-tiered administrative system of 37 states and autonomous regions and a society in which castes still play a role, nevertheless manages to hold free parliamentary elections for 543 deputies of the central parliament, as will be done in April and May, in addition to the procedures for the election of local governments. Mr. Chouliaras explains how a country of such dimensions managed to build a democracy.

The discussion concludes by considering Indian foreign policy, whose permanent features are flexibility and avoiding explicit commitments to third parties guided by the country's national interests.

India's refusal to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine and maintaining close economic ties with Moscow have been widely discussed in recent times. However, this is explained by the fact that Russia is a traditional strategic partner of India as a counterweight to China and a supplier of hydrocarbons, weapons systems, and even space technologies.

But while New Delhi remains averse to the idea of ​​joining political and military coalitions, India realises that isolation would have even greater costs. That is why it participates in partnerships that are not coalitions, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS group.

At the same time, it is a member of the QUAD formation, which the USA, Japan and Australia comprise.

One would describe India as a non-Western, but not anti-Western, country that has traditionally followed a third path, reminiscent of a legacy of the former Non-Aligned Movement.

Polydefkis Papadopoulos is a columnist for ERT News.

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This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor

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