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Will India Start Acting Like a Global Power?

New Delhi’s New Role

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the leaders of the other BRICS countries in Goa, India, October 2016 Danish Siddiqui / REUTERS

The country with the world’s third-largest military by personnel strength, fifth-largest defense budget, and seventh-largest economy isn’t a member of the UN Security Council. It isn’t even a member of the G-7, the exclusive club of major industrialized economies. It is India, a country long regarded as an emerging power rather than a major global player.

In fairness, for years, this assessment was not off the mark, and India’s reality did not match up to its vaunted potential. And indeed, India still faces daunting developmental challenges. It is home to around 270 million people living in extreme poverty. Its infrastructure is in need of major investment—to the tune of $1.5 trillion over a decade, according to India’s finance minister. Discrimination among India’s famously diverse population persists, whether on the basis of gender, caste, religion, or region.

Because of these challenges, and because the country has

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