The Unfinished Quest: India's Search for Major Power Status from Nehru to Modi

Hosted by the LSE IDEAS

Mar 2.10, Marshall Building, LSE


Professor T.V. Paul

Professor T.V. Paul

James McGill Professor of International Relations, McGill University


Dr Rohan Mukherjee

Dr Rohan Mukherjee

Assistant Professor, Deputy Director of LSE IDEAS

In 2022, India surpassed the United Kingdom, its former colonial ruler, as the fifth largest economy in the world. Since the 1990s, a series of US presidents and secretaries of state have all acclaimed India as a rising major power that deserves to be recognized as a lead actor in the international arena. All five permanent members of the UN Security Council except China have openly acknowledged the need to include India among their ranks. But even now, India has not attained the status of a globally recognized great power.

In The Unfinished Quest, leading international relations and South Asia scholar T.V. Paul charts India's checkered path toward higher regional and global status, covering both the successes and failures it has experienced since the modern nation's founding in 1947. Paul focuses on the key motivations driving Indian leaders to enhance India's global status and power, but also on the many constraints that have hindered its progress. He carefully specifies what counts as indicators of greater status and uses these as benchmarks in his assessment of each era. In this manner, he also brings forth some important insights on status competition and power transitions in the contemporary international system.

Paul's analysis of India's quest for status also sheds important light on the current geo-strategic situation and serves as a new framework for understanding the China-India rivalry, as well as India's relative position in the broader Indo-Pacific theater. As the economies of China and India grow rapidly, the power balance between them will be determined by each country's ability to develop the hard and soft powers needed to outpace the other and solidify their place in the global hierarchy. Whether India can be a "swing power" able to mitigate China's aggressive rise depends on its relative power position in that theater. This sweeping account of India's uneven rise in the global system will serve as the authoritative work on the subject.

Meet the speakers and chair

Professor T.V. Paul is James McGill Professor of International Relations in the department of Political Science at McGill University. Paul specializes and teaches courses in international relations, especially international security, regional security and South Asia. He is the author or editor of 21 books and nearly 85 journal articles or book chapters. In September 2018, Paul became a Fellow (Elected) of the Royal Society of Canada. In March 2019, Paul took the leadership role in forming the Global Research Network on Peaceful Change (GRENPEC). This network is aimed at promoting worldwide scholarship on this neglected subject. In August 2021, Oxford University Press published The Oxford  Handbook of Peaceful Change in International Relations with some 41 chapters by leading scholars on global, regional and national level research on peaceful change. T.V. Paul was elected as the 56th President of International Studies Association and on March 17, 2016 he took charge as ISA President for 2016-17. He delivered the presidential address on the theme: “Recasting Statecraft: International Relations and the Strategies of Peaceful Change.”  In the presentation, he called for the International Relations discipline and its theoretical paradigms to devote more attention to strategies for achieving enduring peace among states. For the full text of the speech, see: ISA Presidential Address

Dr Rohan Mukherjee’s research focuses on rising powers and how they navigate the power and status hierarchies of international order. His book, Ascending Order: Rising Powers and the Politics of Status in International Institutions, published in the Cambridge Studies in International Relations series with Cambridge University Press, received the 2023 Hedley Bull Prize from the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) and the 2023 Hague Journal of Diplomacy Book Award. His regional focus is on the Asia-Pacific, particularly how major powers such as India, China, the United States, and Japan, and smaller states in South and Southeast Asia, manage the regional effects of global transitions. Prior to the LSE, he was Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. He received his PhD from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. He holds an MPA in International Development from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, and a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Oxford. He has also been a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the MIT Security Studies Program and a non-resident Visiting Fellow at the United Nations University in Tokyo.

More information about the event

This event is hosted by LSE IDEAS 

Event hashtag: #LSEIndiasQuest

This event is convened by the International Orders Research Unit, LSE IDEAS.

LSE IDEAS (@lseideas) is LSE's foreign policy think tank. Through sustained engagement with policymakers and opinion-formers, IDEAS provides a forum that informs policy debate and connects academic research with the practice of diplomacy and strategy.

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