We were being shown around the Red Fort in Agra, India. Our tour guide was an elderly man who had spent his whole life in India. As our tour began he asked where we were from, and I said, “America.” Towards the end of the tour of the old Mughal fort, I saw a raised burial site in the middle of the fort complex and asked who was buried there. “An Englishman,” he said. I responded by telling him that I was originally from England.
He then brightened up and said, “Before, when you said you were from America, I liked you. But now I love you.” He put his arms around me and gave me a big hug.
He then explained, telling us that his father and his grandfather both served in the British military prior to independence from Great Britain in August 1947. “They had great respect for the British,” he said. He added, “Now we are suffering.” I asked him in what way. He said that it was too costly to live with all the corruption, a problem that did not exist in colonial times.
It was an interesting conversation on one of the biggest problems India faces today—corruption.
But it was also a reminder that India played a major role in the British Empire for two centuries, when a third of the British military was made up of native Indian troops. In World War II, two million Indians volunteered to fight for Britain, the biggest volunteer army in the history of the world.
Once again, India is becoming a significant military force, with a powerful role in South Asia and the Indian Ocean. “In fact,” as author Robert Kaplan writes in a recent book titled Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, “India hopes a nexus of east-west roads and energy pipelines will ultimately give it soft power dominance over the former territorial India of the (British) Raj, which encompassed Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma” (2010, p. 13).
The power balance is shifting—in the region and in the world at large. India and neighboring Asian nations are on the rise while American influence in the region and around the globe weakens. What will these developments eventually lead to?
Corruption and sectarian conflict
Besides the history and the news of systemic corruption, I learned a great deal more from our guide in India.
He told us that he was a Sikh by religion. As he was bareheaded, I expressed surprise since Sikh men normally wear turbans. He explained that he had to remove his turban and shave his head in 1984 following the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards.
Following her cremation three days after she was repeatedly shot by the two men, millions of Sikhs were displaced and 3,000 killed in extensive rioting. As Mrs. Gandhi’s son Rajiv put it, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” Our guide chose to remove his turban so as not to be conspicuous, in an effort to stay alive and take care of his family.
Rajiv himself was assassinated less than seven years later by Tamil nationalists angry at India’s involvement in neighboring Sri Lanka’s civil war, where Tamil nationalists were fighting for independence from predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka.
These sectarian conflicts go back centuries. At independence, British India was divided between predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan (the latter subdivided into East and West, separated by nearly 1,000 miles). Less than a quarter century later, East Pakistan broke away from West Pakistan and became Bangladesh.
Yet India itself, though mostly Hindu, still has many Muslims—in fact, the second- largest Muslim population in the world at about 160 million. In addition, there are sizable numbers of Sikhs and Christians. Christians are less than 3 percent of the population, but that still works out to several tens of millions of people.
While corruption and sectarianism remain serious challenges for all governments in India, the country can point to many positive accomplishments.
A vibrant, thriving nation
Visiting the country for the first time, I was struck by its vitality. Whereas America’s streets are largely empty of pedestrian traffic, India’s are teeming with thousands and thousands of people, as far as the eye can see.
They are all moving, anxious to make money in whatever business pursuit they are involved in. All this energy has contributed to making India one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
Service is second to none. Those employed in the hotel industry could not do enough to make our stay more comfortable. We were greatly impressed.
Another accomplishment is the fact that India remains a democracy 65 years after independence. Neighboring countries have had periods of military rule when their constitutions were suspended or rewritten, but India has remained the world’s biggest democracy, now with well over a billion people.
Along with a functioning democratic system, India has a thriving free press. I looked forward to reading The Times of India and other papers each morning. Journalists are certainly not afraid to criticize their leaders.
While we were there the papers (and government leaders) were not afraid to criticize the United States after President Obama called on India to open its economy more to U.S. investment. They did not appreciate a lecture from Washington, capital of a country that appears to be in rapid economic decline while India is growing.
Indian television news spent some time focused on the fact that the country’s growth rate has recently dropped to 7.6 percent, a cause of great national concern. The U.S. growth rate is roughly a quarter of that, while Great Britain is in negative growth. The eurozone is in an even bigger mess.
It’s difficult to understand why Western nations still give aid to India when India is clearly doing better than they are. Britain, for example, gives more aid to India than to any other nation.
Waning respect for the declining West
Not only are Western economies in decline, but respect in Asia for the former European colonial powers and the United States is also in decline, as Western values have dramatically liberalized. People often commented on our Western television shows and movies and the degenerate values portrayed on both.
There was also consternation in both India and Sri Lanka over the British prime minister’s speech at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, in October 2011. David Cameron urged former British colonies to liberalize their laws on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, laws originally given to them by the British! The Bible says that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34 Proverbs 14:34Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
American King James Version×).
In a number of conversations, people remarked on the breakdown of the family in the West. The comment was made that no Indian man would ever walk out on his family. The divorce rate there is 1.1 percent compared to the United States and United Kingdom, where about half of all marriages end in divorce.
Interestingly, the high Western divorce rate was blamed on “love marriages,” where everyone chooses their own mate. Indian marriages are more successful, it was said, because most are “arranged marriages,” determined by parents. Although choosing your partner has become more common in modern India, the cultural values and negative stigma on divorce also play vital roles in the low divorce rate.
What is clear is that “intact” families do not become a burden on the state. The breakdown of the traditional family is a major contributing factor in rising government spending in Western countries.
This, in turn, contributes to a decline in military power. As a recent article in The Wall Street Journal showed, the choice is increasingly between food stamps—to alleviate poverty, mostly caused by family breakdown—and national defense (Mackenzie Eaglen, “Defense vs. Food Stamps—What Would You Choose?” Aug. 7, 2012). The United States is no longer able to afford both.
The new superpowers of Asia
America’s economic decline must inevitably lead to military decline. At the same time, India’s economic rise must lead to a greater military role in the region. The same applies to China. These two countries are the new superpowers of Asia.
Bible prophecy shows the rise of a major military bloc east of the Holy Land able to put together a 200-million-man army immediately prior to Christ’s return (Revelation 9:16 Revelation 9:16And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
American King James Version×). This military force emerges onto the world scene east of the River Euphrates, the eastern border of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago.
This prophecy doesn’t specify whether this is the military forces of just one nation or an alliance of nations. But a later phase of end-time conflict will involve a group of Eastern powers—the Euphrates River being dried up “so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared” (Revelation 16:12 Revelation 16:12And the sixth angel poured out his vial on the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
American King James Version×, emphasis added).
In any case, such a force is only possible with considerable wealth.
India, China and other smaller Asian nations are benefiting from open markets in the West, an opportunity for them to sell their finished products cheaply to Americans and Europeans. They’re even lending to Western nations the money to purchase these goods from them!
It could be said that the interest payments the Asian countries receive from Western nations, particularly the United States, are enabling them to build up their military might.
It never seems to occur to anybody in the West that they might be trying to do exactly what America did to the Soviet Union. Under President Ronald Reagan the United States built up its military, forcing the Soviets to try to keep up, thereby leading them into national bankruptcy. Could the same thing happen to the United States as it tries to maintain its lead over China and other emerging powers? Of course it could!
“Although China’s expanded regional interaction and influence is a natural reflection of China’s growing economic strength and attendant political and military influence, a rising China poses a challenge to U.S. interests” (“Washington’s Long Turn East,” Stratfor Global Intelligence, Aug. 31, 2012).
American preeminence in jeopardy—as Britain’s before it
Returning to Bible prophecy, it’s important to understand that the United States and Britain are descendants of the biblical patriarch Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, later renamed Israel. Joseph’s two sons were prophesied to become a great nation and a multitude of nations (Genesis 48:18 Genesis 48:18And Joseph said to his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.
American King James Version×)—fulfilled in the United States and the former British Empire and Commonwealth (see our free Bible study aid The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy to learn more).
In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, the descendants of Israel were promised tremendous blessings for obeying the laws of God and were warned of great negative consequences for disobedience.
In Deuteronomy 28:43-44 Deuteronomy 28:43-44 43 The stranger that is within you shall get up above you very high; and you shall come down very low.
44 He shall lend to you, and you shall not lend to him: he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail.
American King James Version×God warned, referring to gentiles or non-Israelites: “The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail.” What this means for the times ahead is that the nations that America and Britain are indebted to will call the shots. They will soon be dictating to us—and it’s all because of our national sins, our progressively turning away from God.
It should be remembered that the geopolitical map of the world is never the same two days in a row. The world is constantly changing. As one nation declines, so others emerge—until conflict ensues.
A major turning point in Asia came during World War II with the fall of Singapore in February 1942, when British forces surrendered it to Japan. Although the Western allies were eventually triumphant against the Japanese, irreparable damage had been done. The British were no longer seen as invincible.
Within a few years after the end of the Second World War, Britain gave independence to its Asian territories. The fall of the empire changed the balance of power in the region—leading eventually to the creation of two new nuclear powers, India and Pakistan.
At the time of India’s independence, nobody thought that Britain would completely pull out of Asia and cease to be a global power. Yet once the decline started it sped up, and Britain’s imperial power went into a rapid downward spiral. Could the same happen again with the decline of the United States, Britain’s successor in Asia and elsewhere?
The current path’s days are numbered
What effect will the decline of American power have on the region? That’s the subject of Robert Kaplan’s book Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. He concludes that “the U.S. military, with its sheer size and ability to deploy rapidly, will still be indispensable, even as the United States itself plays a more modest political role, and other, once-poor nations rise up and leverage one another” (p. 16). Other nations, especially India and China, are certainly rising up.
However, as with Britain, the future may turn out to be quite different, with America playing a diminished role, if any. The Wall Street Journal ‘s David Wessel, in his book Red Ink, quotes former Congressional Budget Office director Bob Reischauer on the state of the U.S. deficit: “We’re driving seventy miles an hour toward a cliff … And when we reach that cliff will be determined by events over which we have very little control. The path we’re on can’t go on for fifteen years. Whether it can go on for two, three, four years, I have no idea” (p. 129).
The aforementioned Wall Street Journal article highlighted the fact that U.S. military forces have seen three straight years of spending cuts. The threat of sequestration (automatic spending cuts being triggered by law) hangs over the defense budget, which now faces a further cut of half a trillion dollars beginning in January.
And then there is India.
A global high-tech leader, this nation of growing power and influence is planning a mission to Mars. It is also the world’s biggest importer of weapons, an indicator of where it is headed in terms of military power.
On the downside, it has a major problem with poverty and corruption. Additionally, the recent power failure that affected most of the country showed it has serious problems with its infrastructure.
But these problems are not likely to hinder its relentless climb to superpower status in a region that is rapidly changing.