What’s Ahead for India?
When India has trouble, the world takes note. Its 1998 nuclear saber-rattling with Muslim rival and neighbor Pakistan, and the terrorist attacks on the Indian parliament last December, which caused a severe rise in tensions between the two nations, have put the world on the edge of its seat.
Then when Islamic extremists set fire to a train transporting Hindu activists on February 27, the region exploded in the worst religious violence in a decade. Hindus responded to the attacks in clashes which have killed close to 1,000 and left another 100,000 homeless.
The level of tension, coupled with the level of firepower, makes the Indian subcontinent a uniquely dangerous region. What is ahead for this area?This is an issue of atomic proportions! You need to understand why India is in its present state, and where it is all leading.
A Land of Extremes
The landmass that is India is beautiful.Green pastures, rolling hills and snowcapped mountains caress the landscape. The feet of Genghis Khan, Marco Polo, Vasco da Gama, Akbar, the East India Company traders and Sir Winston Churchill trod the paths of history across this majestic land.
India has been, is and will remain a nation of abundant potential. It boasts one of the world’s largest economies and, along with Japan, is one of “the only two major non-Western societies to sustain democratic governments for any length of time” (Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order).
Despite widespread criticism of British colonial rule, India has benefited greatly from its past links with the British Empire. No nation of this size and scope was better positioned for structural independence after colonial rule. India is the most populous democratic country in the world and has a burgeoning middle class.
Since achieving independence, India has experienced growth and expansion of its British-established financial institutions, communications, railways, military, airline industry, coal, oil and natural gas industries, and has developed a nuclear power capability.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, India embraced capitalism and opened itself to foreign investment. Its economy has since seen steady increase. Its information technology and film industries are among the world’s biggest.
In stark contrast, most Indians remain illiterate and impoverished, enduring periodic famines and epidemics sweeping the country. Though the Hindu caste system is outlawed on paper, citizens of the democratic country are still affected strongly by it. India is thus a country of contrasts. Like its varied landscape, the conditions of this nation lie in extremes: from skyscrapers to huts, from relative peace to full-blown violence, from natural beauty to natural disasters.
Today, India has a population of over a billion and the fourth-largest army in the world.
Russia and the U.S. are both seeking strategic partnerships with India. The November 26, 2001, Statesman (India) reported, “Being simultaneously wooed by two of the three major world powers of the early 21st century is recognition of a militarily self-confident India’s gradual emergence as a future economic and industrial powerhouse.”
In fact, Henry Kissinger noted that the “international system of the 21st century … will contain at least six major powers—the United States, Europe, China, Japan, Russia and probably India” (Diplomacy).
So what is ahead for this emerging “powerhouse”? What kind of power will this nation be as the 21st century progresses?
Before discussing India’s future, let us gain an overview of its recent history.
The Portuguese, with explorer Vasco da Gama, established trading posts in India around a.d. 1500. Soon, the Dutch did so as well—eventually superseding the Portuguese and gaining a toehold on the lucrative spice trade in the East. When the Dutch, however, made the fatal mistake of charging the British exorbitant prices for the Indian spices, a small group of British traders formed themselves into the English East India Company in 1600.
At this point, the British had no aims for political control of India. But Britain sought to protect its commercial interests in the land—which was not yet a unified nation, but a vast number of warring states, each with its own language, religion and customs. It wasn’t long until the British forces were drawn into the local feuds and assumed greater responsibility for law and order.
In 1858, the British crown assumed control of the Indian subcontinent. Its rule of India was a vast improvement on the 200 years of commercial domination and exploitation by the East India Company. With the growth of a native middle class, social and political reforms were loudly demanded.
Under the British, the abundant natural resources of the subcontinent were exploited to the fullest. Fourteen million acres had been brought under irrigation by the turn of the 20th century, and famine was drastically reduced. As the British spread the English language and culture among the Indians, education began to flourish. Corrupt misrule by the local rajahs was abolished. Infanticide and suttee (the suicide of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre) were made illegal. Also, numerous factories were built—causing trade and commerce to thrive in India as never before.
As one of the nations of the British Commonwealth, India had the privilege of receiving access to the abundant blessings God promised to the descendants of the ancient biblical patriarch Abraham—the father of the faithful (Gen. 12:3). (Request The United States and Britain in Prophecy for more information.) It would be hard to believe that India could have brought itself to where it is today without the influence of the East India Company, the British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations, despite revisionist criticism of British colonial rule.
Colonial India gained its independence from British rule in 1947, forming two independent states: the secular state of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan.
India’s independence marked a turning point in world affairs. With Britain’s loss of a dominion population of 400 million (at that time), its global influence was slashed.
Britain had helped develop a strong army in India—800,000 troops of which supported the Allies in World War i. Yet, the untimely national independence movements ensured the absence of significant Indian military contributions during World War ii. Instead, Churchill solicited large numbers of Canadian, Australian and New Zealand fighting forces in order to buttress Allied positions.
The secessionist Mahatma Gandhi generated immense popularity within India during the 1930s and ’40s. After his assassination in 1948, India undertook the enormous task of administering its own affairs, apart from the British, under the leadership of rookie Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Relative stability under Nehru was attributed largely to his domestic focus and neutralist stance on international affairs.
After Nehru’s death in 1964, his daughter, Indira Gandhi, led the country from 1966 to 1977. In the 1970s, despite U.S. fears of Russian insurgency in both India and Afghanistan, Mrs. Gandhi signed agreements with northern neighbors China and Russia.
The 1980s saw much domestic strife, horrific floods, the Bhopal gas disaster, the tragic assassination of Mrs. Gandhi in New Delhi and the rise to rulership of her son Rajiv. In the 1990s, India didn’t fare much better, with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, religious riots, earthquakes, pneumonic plague and the controversial conducting of nuclear tests.
India’s Future Revealed
So what does the future hold for India? Only the revealed Word of God answers this question and reveals India’s dynamic future. Knowing certain key prophetic events that will take place soon is necessary in understanding India’s future.
First, unfolding westward of the subcontinent are key nations that will make up the emerging radically Islamic “king of the south” (Dan. 11:40). With Iran as its head, this Middle Eastern power bloc will challenge the sovereignty of Jerusalem and “push” against the European Union, led by Germany, termed in Bible prophecy as the king of the north. (For more information, request our free booklet The King of the South.)
This will launch the world into a devastating nuclear World War iii—a war in which India will play a critical role. After the European king of the north makes conquests in Europe, the Middle East and other major parts of the world, the nations to his “east and … north” will rise as a formidable foe ultimately to steamroll the European Union (v. 44). These nations are mainly Russia, China and other Asian powers (request our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy). The key nations of this alliance, its army numbered at 200 million men (Rev. 9:16), are identified specifically in Ezekiel 38 and 39—the peoples of the Indian subcontinent comprising a major part of it.
Knowing this key point of Bible prophecy sheds much light on India’s immediate future. Can India come into alliance with a bloc such as Russia, China, Japan and Korea? At this point, it may seem unlikely that any of these nations would form alliances of themselves, even without India—except for Russia and China. But, as the Bible reveals, it will be a major world war involving a dominant Western power that will unite these families together as they fight what will become an increasingly unipolar world—with a mighty Europe at the head.
Let’s look briefly at where India currently stands in relation to these Asian societies.
• Russia. Though officially non-aligned during the Cold War, India was dubbed an ally of the Soviet Union by the West. Thus, its relations with the West were distant. With the Cold War more than a decade past, India and Russia still have close ties. A few years ago, during nato’s Kosovo campaign, Moscow sought to counter U.S. global dominance by proposing a tripartite axis with India and China—an idea that India and China (both recent rivals) did not rule out. Then, last December, Russia and India signed a $10 billion long-term defense cooperation agreement. Russia sees India as an important trade partner. India has now become the largest purchaser of Russian military equipment. The two countries have also agreed on joint development and production of future, cutting-edge weapons systems.
• China. India and China peacefully lived alongside each other for millennia. When China, in the 1950s, became more bold about its claim to Tibet, Prime Minister Nehru made no qualms about the Chinese advance, in an effort to maintain “peace.” However, the Chinese didn’t want to stop at Tibet. This thrust India into the 1962 Himalayan War, where—though it put up quite a fight against the numerous Red army—India lost administration of part of its northern territories. Relations have improved somewhat since the end of the Cold War, though both countries keep a watchful eye on each other, especially since the uprisings in Nepal of rebels sympathetic to the late Chinese dictator Mao Tse-tung.
Also, China has maintained close relations with Pakistan, supporting its military—particularly nuclear—capabilities. This has been Beijing’s trump card in dealing with New Delhi. Stratfor.com noted, “China can easily increase tensions between Pakistan and India … endangering stability” (Dec. 11, 2001).
Nonetheless, knowing what Bible prophecy predicts, we know eventually the two will both be allied with many other Asian nations. With Russia—India’s strategic partner—drawing closer to China, India could easily be brought into the pack when the East is threatened by a dominant Europe.
• Pakistan. Since Indian independence from British rule in 1947, Islamic Pakistan has been an archrival of its great neighboring Hindu nation—epitomized by the border conflict concerning Jammu and Kashmir (see p. 18). India and Pakistan have been at war three times—escalating now into a nuclear arms race. China has typically supported Pakistan, though just months ago it stated that its aim for better relations with India would not affect its relations with Pakistan. When India tested nuclear devices in 1998, Pakistan soon followed (with Chinese support). In fact, India angered Beijing when it stated that China was the real threat that justified the nuclear show.
India is watching its western neighbor, especially since the terrorist attacks on the U.S. last September. After its brush with terrorism last December, when suicide bombers attacked the Indian parliament, India blamed Islamic extremists and many called for the same type of retaliation against Pakistan that the U.S. was waging in Afghanistan.
Relations between India and Pakistan probably will never simmer down to a friendly level. We can know, however, that should a strong Asian alliance occur that includes India and China, Pakistan may join its friends in Beijing, even if it means temporarily patching things up with its Hindu neighbor.
• Japan. Though Japan condemned India and imposed severe economic sanctions in response to its nuclear display in 1998, relations are turning more friendly. When each country was visited by the other’s prime minister, each head of state did not stop at the other’s political capital first, but its technological and commercial hub. This indicates of a strong economic relationship. The main reason for this, according to analysts, is twofold: 1) to boost the large-but-ailing economies of each; and 2) to offset Chinese dominance in the region.
Recently, Japan and India have even worked more closely on a military level: When Japan’s interests were threatened in the Strait of Malacca (near Indonesia), India accommodated its naval exercises—sending a coast guard patrol vessel for the first time to a drill in Tokyo Bay last June.
• Southeast Asia. With its “Look East” policy beginning shortly after the end of the Cold War, India has sought closer ties with southeastern Asian nations. In 1995, it became a full dialog partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean), strengthening its relations with those countries. It currently has strong military and economic links with countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam. In 2000, India held naval exercises in the South China Sea, presenting a direct challenge to China.
Brighter Future Ahead
The prophesied Asian alliance will not only deal a crushing blow to the European beast power, it will be a key bloc in the final battle before Jesus Christ returns to save mankind from self-annihilation (Matt. 24:21-22). The armies—what is left of the European power and the “kings of the east” (Rev. 16:12), or the Asian hordes—will gather in Armageddon (v. 16). God will then bring them to the final battleground: “I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land” (Joel. 3:2). God will plead with the nations of the world in the only way they understand. Prophecy tells that the carnage will be so great that blood will flow to the level of a horse’s bridle in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Rev. 14:20). Here mankind will begin to have the proper awe and respect for God’s power.
Understand this: These critical events are all leading to a glorious ending. When Christ returns, He will set up a perfect, peace-producing government, creating 1,000 years of utopian society worldwide. Nations like India that now suffer from epidemic famine and natural disasters will see the end of such squalor and suffering. Nations like India that are involved in volatile border conflicts will live free from war for an entire millennium. That is the real hope for the Indian people.