Book Review: India: The Last Superpower by Hiroshi Hirabayashi (translated by Prem Motwani)

Book Name: India: The Last Superpower

Author: Hiroshi Hirabayashi

Translator: Prem Motwani

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Aleph

Rating: 4/5

Book Blurb: In India: The last superpower, the former ambassador of Japan to India, Hiroshi Hirabayashi, presents a portrait of India as a growing global superpower. He highlights the unique features of India in which he served as a diplomat from 1998–2002. In addition to a detailed analysis of India’s strengths and weaknesses, Hirabayashi throws light on the history of friendship between the two countries from as early as India’s struggle for independence. He shows how India supported Japan after World War II, and how Japan has been a staunch friend of India for decades. He analyses how their shared religious heritage (Buddhism originated in India and later travelled to Japan) has strengthened the bond between the two countries. On the economic front, the two nations have collaborated and risen as superpowers in Asia. In geopolitical terms, the two countries are capable of countering China’s expansionist aims in the region. For both Japanese and Indian readers, The book will prove to be of great value as the author uses his personal experiences of India, as well as a Japanese perspective, to provide insights into a variety of aspects of the country. Overall, the book places India in the centre of world Politics and projects a picture of its growing global significance. The former diplomat fully expects India to join the ranks of great powers such as the United States of America, Russia, and China, in the not too distant future.

Review: Hiroshi Hirabayashi was the Japanese ambassador to India and in this book, he argues why India will emerge as the last superpower of the world, even overtaking China. The book starts with a brief history of India and then explains the unique advantages that India enjoys in terms of resources, demography (a comparatively young population as compared to other countries with an ageing population) and domestic economic reforms.

“India enjoys a demographic advantage with a large young population leading to a healthy pyramid structure.” 

The bond between the two countries is strengthened by the Buddhism connection but the economic partnerships between the two nations is very strong. Japan has provided economic aid to many Indian projects through the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and ADB.

The uncomfortable relationship due to Indian nuclear tests marks the start of the tenure of the ambassador’s relationship with India but he ultimately manages to learn some Hindi phrases that he can use at important meetings and conferences. The book delves into the work culture and differences between Indian and Japanese leaders. This book is primarily aimed at the Japanese audience since he acknowledges that while Indians have a lot of admiration for Japan, some Japanese may not have a complete understanding of India.

“India attaches great importance to peace and offers silent prayer in the Parliament every year on 6 August in memory of the victims of atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” 

The author has compiled good information that makes this book a sort of handy guide for anybody wishing to invest or come to India for work.

The caste-based politics, size of the Indian economy, secularism and cultural aspects are all explained in detail.

Of course, no book on India-Japan relations can be considered complete without a discussion on Maruti Suzuki which perhaps is a living reminder of how deep the ties between the two countries are. The company has made cars popular in India and it heralded a revolution of cars for Indians, suited to every budget.

“Perhaps because India still has the vestiges of the DNA of non-alignment, its public stance is that it does not seek to enter into a formal alliance with any country and prefers to remain fiercely independent without any foreign baggage.”

Other projects such as North East connectivity with Myanmar is also discussed.

The author argues why India is uniquely positioned to counter China’s rise and must make strategic alliances to protect its interests. This is a timely book with someone who has keen insight and the mix of political and economic superpower is explained well.

The translation is a bit direct but nevertheless, it’s a good job and given a book of this size and so diverse, it comes across as a good read.

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