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Emulated or National? Contemporary India's ‘Great Power' Discourse
Published in
Volume: 17
Issue: 1
Pages: 69 - 102
Its ubiquity notwithstanding, contemporary India's ‘great power' discourse does not appear to reflect the concerns of the Indian multitude. Recognizing this condition and approaching the discourse as a political phenomenon that has real effects, this article makes the following suggestions. First, India's great power discourse comes into existence through a pedagogical project wherein the discourse's core assumptions about India's role and purpose in world affairs appear uncritically emulated from the historical experience of other great powers, primarily the United States. Second, even though the discourse is rooted in a historical experience external to the nation, it would be misleading to term the discourse as a ‘wholly emulated' one. The agential participation of at least some Indian nationals in carrying out the emulation makes it a ‘more emulated and less national' discourse. Third, though it is ‘more emulated and less national,' the project normalizes the discourse by erasing the signs of its emulation; so that it can be passed off as a ‘wholly national' discourse. This allows the discourse to appropriate the entire imaginative space of the Indian nation and, therefore, of India's international relations. Fourth, once aware of these workings of the pedagogical project, we can wonder how a democratic—that is, a ‘more national and less emulated'—idea of India's role and purpose in world affairs could look like.
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