What's a Superpower?


One of the debates that’s been going on among readers of Minxin Pei’s piece ‘China’s not a Superpower’ over on our APAC 2020 feature has been how exactly to define a superpower. Is it just about military or economic strength, for example, or do you need a vision and governing system that inspires other nations to emulate it?

Certainly a strong military seems a pre-requisite (though it would have been interesting to see if Japan, with its constitutional bar on holding an offensive military capability, could have earned the superpower label had it achieved the world’s largest economy status some predicted).

With this in mind then, what about India? The hundreds of millions living in poverty are one consideration (though the same could be said of China). But whereas China has been rolling out for public view some impressive hardware, and developing a maritime force to be reckoned with, the past week has seen a series of media reports on some serious Indian shortcomings.

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Delhi-based journalist Shriv Aroor, for example, has this piece on India actually going backwards with its submarine force, which according to one report is set to shrink to the size of neighbour Pakistan by 2015.

Meanwhile, Asian Defence blog last week had this piece stating that 80 percent of India’s tanks were night blind:

Both points certainly bolster the case US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is making in a visit to India today for allowing greater foreign investment in India’s defence industry.

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