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India's Size Illusion

India’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is more a consequence of weakness than an expression of independence. For now, Indian policymakers should avoid succumbing to the illusion of size, and reconcile themselves with their country's current status as a middling power.

PROVIDENCE – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has upended the liberal international order, forcing India to reassess its security and economic strategies. The government’s decisions will be shaped by its assessment of the country’s military and economic strengths, but it should resist the temptation to equate them with India’s size.

True, India’s economy is undeniably large. According to the International Monetary Fund, India is the world’s third-largest economy in purchasing-power-parity terms, with a GDP of $10 trillion, behind China ($27 trillion) and the United States ($23 trillion). At market exchange rates, its GDP of $3 trillion makes it the sixth-largest economy, behind the US, China, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

But India’s economic size has not translated into commensurate military strength. Part of the problem is simple geography. Bismarck supposedly said that the US is bordered on two sides by weak neighbors and on two sides by fish. India, however, does not enjoy such splendid isolation. Ever since independence, it has been confronted on its Western frontier by Pakistan, a highly armed, chronically hostile, and often military-ruled neighbor.

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