Book Talk

The Unfinished Quest: India’s Search for Major Power Status from Nehru to Modi




11:00 a.m. (UTC)


  • Along with the meteoric rise of China, there has been much interest in the emergence also of India, as a rising power with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world up until the 2019 COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The rapidly developing United States–China rivalry gives India an added importance in world politics today as the most significant swing power that can help balance China’s potentially aggressive rise in the Indo-Pacific region. Further, the strengthening of Hindu nationalism under Narendra Modi – who has been making strong attempts to ensure India emerges as a leading power, while at the same time taking populist stances internally and using international-status enhancement as the basis for electoral victory – evokes global interest. The dynamics of international status in domestic political contestation has not attracted much attention in the literature to date. Now that we have some three decades of data on India’s economic and military growth, we can make a better assessment of the achievements and shortcomings in comparison with others – especially China. Where this book differs is in its focus on the “status” perspective, which is often missing in many popular works on India’s rise – as scholars and journalists who write about India tend to neglect this important sociopolitical concept. The book thus combines scholarly insights and interesting anecdotes on international status, a topic that has seen much advance more generally in the Sociology and International Relations literature in recent years. It seeks to explore how, in its 75-year existence as an independent state, India has achieved much in fulfilling the dreams of Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors in obtaining global status even while the quest is still ongoing. Why have India and its leadership continued to believe that the country has a destiny to rise as a global power? What are the hard and soft power markers that encourage them to think this way? What are the internal and external constraints here, and the opportunities that India may have both gained and missed in pursuing this? Finally, what does the future hold for India’s status elevation?

    Speaker: Prof. Dr. T.V. Paul is James McGill Professor of International Relations at McGill University. From 2016 to 2017, he served as President of the International Studies Association.

    Discussant: Prof. Dr. Manjeet Pardesi is Associate Professor of International Relations in the Political Science and International Relations Programme. He is also the Asia Research Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.


    GIGA, Neuer Jungfernstieg 21, 20354 Hamburg, Germany, and online



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    Chapter in Edited Volume | 2021

    Rising Powers and Responsibility

    Aufstrebende Mächte wie China und Indien haben ihren wirtschaftlichen, militärischen und politischen Einfluss in der Welt stark ausgebaut. Aus dem Westen wurde daraufhin gefordert, dass diese Staaten mehr "Verantwortung" übernehmen und ihren "Anteil" zur Lösung globaler Herausforderungen leisten sollten.


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