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How India Arrived on the World Stage in 2023

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How India Arrived on the World Stage in 2023

Beyond its role as a major military and strategic player, hundreds of millions of Indians are participating in and shaping global technological, cultural, and economic trends.

How India Arrived on the World Stage in 2023
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Ville Hyvonen

The story of India’s rise has been a familiar one for over a decade now. But in many ways, this past year — 2023 — is the year when this rising India has truly arrived on the world stage as a great power, noticed by both the West and the nebulous “Global South.”

The following are some of the key ways that India has emerged on the world stage, beyond its well-known geopolitical role as a counterbalance to China or burgeoning military procurement.

A Changing World

The world is changing. Key economic, technological, cultural, and sociopolitical developments are occurring in Asia, but particularly along its southern, Indian Ocean-facing rim. It may take a while for Western stereotypes to catch up with the reality regarding much of this region. New York City is no longer the only cosmopolitan driver of technology and culture: Dubai and Singapore have stepped up, and are cleaner and safer, and in many ways, have surpassed the cities of the West as entrepôts. The United Arab Emirates has become the pivot of three continents. Indonesia may soon become one of the world’s largest economies. Saudi Arabia is no longer a medievalesque state but a place brimming with concert halls and tourism; hijabs and burqas are no longer mandatory. The center of all this change is India, now the world’s most populous country.

Active Leadership

A country’s prominence on the world stage is not only a function of its economic or military might, but of how active its leader is. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is certainly one of the most globally-minded leaders India has had since its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Modi has visited the United States, and hosted the G-20 summit in a festive fashion. He courted Elon Musk and other investors directly, and pushed for semiconductors to be made in India. It helps to have a prime minister who will market his own country. But Modi alone is not India’s sole selling point.

India-West Relations Are Too Big to Fail

There are more people in India than in all of the West, in North America and Europe combined. India is not a country that can be ignored, sidelined, or meaningfully punished, even when its officials are accused of an attempted assassination on American soil.

Indians know that the balance of power between India and the West is only going to gradually tip more and more in India’s direction as the West shrinks. This is why Indians applaud the “who cares what the West thinks?” attitude often displayed by the Modi government.

Both the West and India need each other. While it is true, in a narrow sense, that the West has cultivated India as a strategic counterweight to China, the reasons that the West needs India are deeper. India’s society, political structures, academia, culture, the internet, and to some extent, language, are integrated with the West’s to an extent that China’s are not. China, Russia, and Iran, whilst open to trade and technology, are increasingly socio-politically walled away from the West. A civilizational network that includes both the West and India would seem large and globally relevant, whereas a West that has pushed India away would appear smaller, more insular, and less universal over time.

On the other hand, India also needs the West because it cannot hope to complete its transition to becoming a major economic and military power without investment, weapons, technology transfer, and diplomatic support from the West.

India on the Internet

The arrival of India on the world stage is seen nowhere as prominently as on the internet. India already has the greatest number of Instagram, Facebook and YouTube users in the world, many of whom are communicating with the rest of the globe in English. Six out of ten of the most searched articles on Wikipedia are India-related.

In technological circles, the concept of different internets — walled off from each other, like China’s — is known as the splinternet. The sanctions regime against Russia in the aftermath of its invasion of Ukraine has also pushed it to create its own internet infrastructure.

But India largely shares the same internet with the West, and there are at least 750 million Indians on the internet. Summing up the impact of this phenomenon, international affairs journalist Noah Smith wrote, “India is going to be much more important than China…to global life…even as [China] became more important to businesses, regular people outside the country never really had a sense of what went on there, or what regular Chinese people were like. India is very, very different. For anyone on Twitter or in the blogosphere, the change has been very noticeable… suddenly, a lot more of the audience is Indian….”


This Indian audience is more connected, aware of non-local issues, and most importantly, wealthier, because of digital technology. India has pioneered the use of mobile devices to provide both state benefits and private financial services. These services are stacked together and verified using biometric data, producing India Stack.

India Stack — combined with the widespread adoption of cell phones and cheap data rates — has revolutionized life in India. It has greatly reduced inefficiencies arising from a lack of physical infrastructure, theft, and corruption, and has enabled more Indians to live above the poverty line. These healthier, happier Indians can contribute more to the formal economy, spend more on education and entertainment, and connect with the world. India Stack is now emerging as a key good that India can offer the rest of the world, an example of how innovations in social and economic life are now coming from the so-called Global South or Third World.

Beyond digital infrastructure, more and more companies are manufacturing in India, even though its manufacturing sector is not as big as Vietnam’s or Bangladesh’s. What India’s advantage is, though, is that it can potentially mass produce goods at a scale unrivaled by any other country. Furthermore, in order to reduce reliance on China, companies such as Walmart are importing more from India, while Apple is producing its latest iPhone 15 there.

India has also been producing physical infrastructure at a breakneck pace.  Not too long ago, India’s rickety infrastructure was a global joke. But now it is expanding its roads, railways, and airports at a steady pace. It has also produced an indigenous semi-high-speed train, the Vande Bharat Express, which is now starting to be deployed between major cities.


The cumulative nature of these changes—infrastructure, internet access, leadership, and India’s relationship with the West, has been that India has arrived on the world stage in a big way in 2023. No doubt, India will be a major military and strategic player, but beyond this, hundreds of millions of Indians will also be participating in and shaping global technological, cultural, and economic trends.

This increased access to information, connectivity and prosperity has changed the nature of the Indian polity by knitting it more closely together. Whereas half a century ago, India was in many ways a collection of localities with local concerns held together by a constitutional order guarded by a small post-colonial elite, modern India and modern Indians have emerged as a people, as a nation. They will make their voices heard, and an interconnected world will hear.