The first time I heard the phrase “India is a rising superpower” was in 1998. The country had just crashed the nuclear party by conducting a series of detonations at the Indian army test range in Pokhran. I remember well the feeling of pride that followed the utterance of the word “superpower”. My teenage self could not help but conjure images of Superman, cape and all, flying majestically around the globe, saving people as he did. The euphoria was enough to blunt the effects of the sanctions that hit us in the wake of all the celebrations.

The second time I heard the phrase take over public discourse was a year later. This time it was one of many jingoistic phrases yelled out with pride, only to be lost within the cacophony of war. It was 1999 and the Kargil conflict was in full swing. For the third time in the nation’s history, Kashmir was proving to be India’s kryptonite.

That was 18 years ago and it seems to my middle aged self that this claim of being a “superpower” has lodged itself within India’s collective psyche. Only now it seems like the notion is akin to that of a false sun. Always over the horizon. Perpetually taunting with twilight. Never actually rising. But why?

Indeed, how is it that a country that ranks 76th in corruption, 118th in happiness, 92nd in education and 2nd in pollution keeps making the claim?

Heck, what does the term “superpower” even mean?

That is precisely what Sandeep (making his triumphant return to the show) and I try to understand in this episode.


Download : TheLexValidusShow-2-Kryptonite.mp3




Why is India not a great power (yet) – Bharat Kannad

The long view from Delhi – Admiral Raja Menon, Rajiv Kumar

Nonalignment 2.0 (PDF report) – Various authors

Crossing the Rubicon, The shaping of India’s new foreign policy – C. Raja Mohan