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The Past, Present, and Future of India

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Advent of the Europeans

Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut, sailing via the Cape of Good Hope in 1498. This marked the beginning of

the European era in Indian history. The lucrative trade in spices of Malabar - in modern Kerala - had tempted

the Portuguese and inspired the search for a sea route to the Indies. The Portuguese had already established

their colony in Goa by the first decade of the 16th Century but their territorial and commercial hold in India

remained rather limited.

In the next century, India was visited by a large number of European travellers - Italians, Englishmen,

Frenchmen and Dutchmen. They were drawn to India for different reasons. Some were traders, others

adventurers, and quite a few fired by the missionary zeal to find converts to Christianity. Among them was

Francois Bernier, the French doctor who enjoyed the confidence of princes and nobles and was in a uniquely

privileged position to observe the functioning of the Mughal court. His account is a valuable source of

information for historians.

These travelogues aroused European interest in India, and prompted in course of time, the colonial

intervention. England, France, the Netherlands and Denmark, floated East India Companies. Chartered as

trading companies by their respective governments, their primary commercial interest was in Indian textiles,

both silk and cotton, indigo and at times, other sundry merchandise.

During the late 16th and the 17th Centuries, these companies competed with each other fiercely. By the last

quarter of the 18th Century the English had vanquished all others and established themselves as the

dominant power in India. The military campaigns of Robert Clive and the administrative enterprise of Warren

Hastings (1772 - 1785) contributed significantly to this achievement.

British Colonialism

The British administered India for a period of about two centuries and brought about revolutionary changes in

the social, political and the economic life of the country. Most Indians who came in their contact could not

perceive the strategic threat posed by the East India Company. The British from the beginning followed a

policy of divide and rule. Diplomacy and deceit were used to gain control of revenue collection in the province

of Bengal. This gave the foreigners effective control of administration. The Marathas, the Sikhs and ...

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...table and self-reliant. A powerful

entrepreneurial class has emerged - almost as important an objective as securing all-round industrial

development.

India's strategy for development has had many critics. It was pointed out that the emphasis on heavy industry

made capital inefficient and lowered the annual rate of growth of GNP to about 3.6 per cent between 1950 and

1975.

But the philosophy of self-reliance is finally paying off. By the 80's, the first phase of industrialisation was

largely over. India now has a well-developed industrial base that can produce almost anything that the country

needs. The scientific and technical infrastructure is capable of responding to complex challenges. With the

success of the green revolution that began in 1975, India has also become self-sufficient in food grains.

A self confident nation, India is prepared to interact with the rest of the world without anxiety or inhibition. Just

when other countries began to increase protection, the Indian government began to lower protective barriers,

invite global tenders for its major investment projects, and encourage industry to secure the most up-to-date

technology from abroad.
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