Analysing the Legacy of Colonialism in India’s Relationship with the Global North

1. Abstract 

India’s international relationship with Western nations, tracing its trajectory from the colonial era to its current global standing, and its narrative unfolds through the lenses of identity evolution, economic metamorphosis, and diplomatic recalibration. India’s identity construction during and post-colonial periods reveals the nuanced nature of social identities, challenging stereotypes and uncovering unexpected roots throughout the decade. The economic landscape shaped by colonial structures, marked by agrarian challenges and industrial decline, sets the stage for post-independence economic policies and shifts.  India’s robust and diversified economy, reducing dependency on former colonial powers and collaboration with like-minded nations in the Gulf and ASEAN, India can amplify its voice on the international stage, challenge the dominance of the global north, and collectively address issues related to economic justice and sovereignty, thereby reshaping the dynamics shaped by colonial legacies. The study scrutinizes India’s engagement with the global north in the present scenario, the research delves into contemporary challenges and the impact of changing world orders.  

2. Introduction 

In the dynamics of international relations, India’s position from the colonial era to its current standing on the global stage is a fascinating tale of identity evolution, economic metamorphosis, and diplomatic recalibration. The shaping of India’s identity during and post-colonial periods serves as a backdrop to its ongoing struggle with modern identity dilemmas, where collective identity is sought for political, economic, and cultural reasons, often giving rise to oppositions and contrasts. The economic landscape in colonial India, marked by agrarian challenges, land settlement disparities, and industrial decline, laid the foundation for a post-independence era defined by economic planning and policy shifts towards modern tactics of institutions like NITI Aayog. The subsequent political, economic, and diplomatic transformations, particularly post-1991, propelled India into a global player, where controlled economic reforms paved the way for impressive growth rates, and political decisions, such as nuclear testing, showcased India’s commitment to safeguarding its national interests. 

As India engaged with the global north, its diplomatic relations with the United States and the United Kingdom took center stage with France, Germany, and other European nations. The US-India strategic partnership, encompassing political cooperation, economic ties, and international collaboration, exemplifies India’s growing influence.  India grapples with a changing world order, asymmetries with the China-Russia growing partnership, and regional complexities. This research paper delves into the multifaceted layers of India’s international journey, dissecting historical narratives, assessing current challenges, and providing insights into the country’s dynamic role in the global arena. As India navigates these challenges, it stands at the crossroads of history, balancing its rich cultural heritage with the demands of a rapidly evolving international landscape.

3. Explore how colonialism influenced Indian culture, identity, and society.

Identity construction is an ongoing process linked to modern identity dilemmas based on what after colonialism India looks like. People seek a collective identity for political, economic, cultural, or defensive reasons, often creating oppositions and contrasts as we saw poverty, malnutrition, disease, cultural upheaval, economic exploitation, political disadvantage, and systematic programs aimed at creating a sense of social and racial inferiority. However, social identities are only sometimes what they seem.  Some seemingly reactionary movements may aim for what they see as progressive European ideals, The idea of ‘high’ culture often has earthy origins, and not all identities are equally imaginary. The assertion of Dravidian identity in South India coexists with a sense of marginality and inferiority in society and Individually they might grapple with contradictory identities throughout their lives, while others may opportunistically reject one persona for another. Cultural and religious revivalism can lead to extreme para-identities. Many cultures allow for the coexistence of multiple senses of ‘self.’ Tradition is often used to legitimize innovations in identity. The study of history can both empower and threaten those seeking to reshape community perceptions for political or economic purposes. This volume aims to challenge conventional orthodoxy in history and encourage a more tolerant and irreverent approach to differences, promoting diverse and alternative forms of existence.

4. India’s economic journey after post-colonialism 

India’s economic journey post-colonialism has been marked by significant policy initiatives, particularly through the implementation of Five-Year Plans and shifts in the perceived prime moving force of the economy. The overarching goals of the Five-Year Plans included achieving economic growth, modernization, self-reliance, and equity. Under the influence of democratic socialism and inspired by Soviet planning,  the private and public sectors ensured social gains over mere economic profits. The Five-Year Plans sought steady increases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), modernization through technological advancements, and self-reliance to reduce dependence on foreign nations. Equity was emphasized to ensure that economic prosperity reached all sections of society, addressing basic needs and reducing wealth inequality.

Spanning from 1950 to 1990, witnessed significant developments in economic planning and policy. Such as The Economic Programme Committee (EPC), formed by the All India Congress Committee (AICC), recommended the establishment of a permanent Planning Commission in India. In 1950, the Planning Commission was set up,  and it became the central agency responsible for formulating and implementing economic plans.

Economic and social planning aimed to establish a welfare state. Sustainable economic growth, poverty alleviation, employment generation, and self-employment were key objectives. Modernizing the traditional economy, particularly in the agriculture sector, was a priority to get back the potential to revive self-reliant India like ancient Indian trade influence. The planning process aimed at promoting economic equality and self-reliance. Planning relied on financial resources from central and state budgets, public sector enterprises, the domestic private sector, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and Gross Budgetary Support to enhance five-year plans. Since India was declared a planned and mixed economy post-independence, the government played an active role in resource allocation. Centralization of authority in economic matters in the Union government was driven by the need to address regional disparities, poverty, and market failures.

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Author: Loknath Saha