Till late 1990s, India was seen as a regional power in South Asia without any global weight. To what extent this perception has changed in the international community? What are the factors that led to this change in perception?

Previously, as a developing country where poverty is a hard nut to crack, India used to refrain itself from the global politico-economical front.  All western countries including the US saw India as a regional power in South Asia with no global weightage. Over the years, this perception has changed to a great extent due to various reasons.

India’s previous position

Three main problems that were being faced by India In the pre-1990 era are

  • The weak economic condition of India was not integrated into the global economic environment.
  • The cold war politics and Nehru’s non-alignment policy that was seen as India’s veiled alignment to the USSR.
  • Disagreements over India’s nuclear program.


The week and protected economy exemplified India as a poor nation that can exert little impact on global markets.  The non-aligned foreign policy caused recurrent tension with western powers, particularly Washington. In the last two decades, this perception has changed.

Reasons behind the transition

  • The cessation of the cold war and the demise of the USSR guided India to regain its priorities with the rest of the world. India entered into the era of liberalization, privatization, and globalization and thereby integrating the economy with other powers.
  • The economic liberalization in the 21st century led to a maturity growth rate and gradually India’s global presence was felt due to its growing economic status.
  • India has emerged not only as of the world’s largest democracy but also as one of the most admirable democracies. The strong democratic values of India compared to the other neighboring countries were much better.
  • India has been able to successfully relate to the world about its peaceful nuclear program. India is now seen as a responsible nuclear-powered country with restrictive nuclear proliferation.
  • The emergence of new technology, enhanced India’s scientific potential in the field of information technology. The space mission added a feather in the cap.
  • India is a big emerging market and it virtually forced the western countries to look at India as a separate and distinct entity.
  • In the Post Cold war era, the United States foresaw better coordination and support from India in the field of human rights, free trade, the proliferation of weapons, etc.
  • In recent years, the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is becoming increasingly significant in the world arena, with the United States, India, and China—the most important stakeholders in the region.


The long democratic run of India with significant economic growth, scientific and technological development, skilled labor, huge market, its continued confrontation against terrorism represented India’s importance to the other western powers.

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