Event ReportsPublished on Feb 12, 2016
Potential growth slowdown emerging as a global issue

Now it is evident that a potential slowdown in global growth is looming large, which will consequently exacerbate current and future issues that the world is facing. Concomitantly, however, there is also huge positive potential of economic progress, the best example being India -- wherein regardless of changing governments and shifting political ideologies, economics has been instrumental in breaking down societal and demographic challenges.

These views were expressed during a roundtable discussion at Observer Research Foundation on January 14 to ascertain the viewpoints of regional experts on global emerging trends, especially those that will have effects on both domestic and international policy, in the next five to twenty years.

While the discussion was open to new emerging trends in India, its main focus was to center the conversation on six main themes or trends for the Global Trends, a premier publication of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the United States, published every four years and presented to the incoming or returning President. The six themes were Individual Empowerment, Economic Trends, Clash of Values, Driver of Technology, Changing Nature of Warfare and Common Issues.

Individual Empowerment: The previous global trends report illustrated a power shift towards Asia, and its continuance today. Currently, individual empowerment is one of the primary subjects in focus. To achieve individual empowerment, the NIC projects that power will need to shift from state actors towards non-state actors i.e. the civil society, before it reaches every individual.

Economic trends: In terms of economic trends, it is evident that a potential slowdown in global growth is looming large, which will consequently exacerbate current and future issues that the world is facing.

Clash of Values: Clash of values refers to a conflict arising from contesting ideologies.. It is observed that this clash of values can be negated if the society prospers in general. Rising prosperity has positive consequences, predominantly in reducing the tendency of war and conflict. It is keenly observed that lack of prosperity or the unwillingness to prosper, is one of the fundamental characteristic of modern terrorist organizations and can be used to combat such leanings.

Driver of technology: Two areas in technology that are influencing global trends are Artificial intelligence and Biotechnology.  As artificial intelligence becomes more a reality, its global application is becoming a topic of debate. For example, a recent British study found that half of American jobs would be taken over either completely or at least partly by technology and will continue to disrupt future job markets. Biotechnology, though in its nascence phase, it is poised to revolutionise the world. While most trends point towards positive benefits, there could be some negative consequences. It is not completely unfathomable for biotechnology to be used as weaponry, like biological weapons were in the past. Furthermore, unequitable distribution of such technology may add to the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Changing nature of warfare: While a sharp decline in combat casualties was witnessed since 2013, in recent months, this number has begun to increase again. Warfare is drastically changing and technology such as sophistication and miniaturization is playing a very large role in this shift. It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between combatants and non-combatants in this new paradigm with the advent of asymmetric war.

Common issues: One of the more positive points of the discussions pointed towards the convergence of state, non-state actors and individuals on issues that are affecting the world today. For example, climate change has fast become a global issue that has been accepted by a majority of the world population and is now enforced by transnational alliances and pressure politics, resultant of this convergence.

Indian emerging trends and their impact on South Asia

Demographically, India is on the precipice of a demographic dividend, with nearly 60 per cent of the country under the age of 25. If India is unable to provide the 12 million jobs that it requires annually, the dividend will be hard to achieve. Moreover, with more access to information through different media, the impatience of the youth on the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots is a cause for concern.

The growing middle class and the fast changing tastes and preferences of the growing youth need to be understood and addressed immediately. India’s demographic situation, coupled with its economic progress, has propelled it as a global and regional power, regardless of its desire and this semi-urban booming population will be instrumental in deciding its future path.


Manufacturing will be the key to India’s economic future and can bring about tremendous social and political transformations if implemented properly. Manufacturing as a mainstay of economic activity can be instrumental in increasing living standards and providing better livelihoods than other sectors.

India must look to significantly improve its ‘ease of doing businesses. One method to do this is to lend active support to start-up initiatives in the country. Currently start-ups in India require help in finance and technology and governmental support. Even if this can be done through administrative reforms rather than legislatives, that would assist in getting through the tough phase. Moreover, the availability of household savings in India can also be vital in averting negative effects of global slowdown.

India’s fast paced urbanization has implication on the economy as well but without new norms in urbanization policies, this will be difficult to harness. Urban agglomerations need to be developed, especially keeping in mind economic and energy efficiency.

With global interests conflicting more and more with each other, the importance of international institutions to align such interests is more relevant today. Better coordination among multilateral institutions can lead to better coordination among nations, which in turn will fuel economic growth. Diversity and representation of these institutions must be enhanced.

India’s new emerging role

With China’s influence rising in the South Asia region, India’s role as the regional power is being threatened. For this, India must look to build stronger alliances with the west while maintaining a working relationship with China. Additionally, India should be cognizant of the impact domestic politics of US and China can have on it and on its immediate neighbors.

India’s domestic politics

Indian politics is represented by ‘big government’ which is neither necessary nor efficient. Instead, if India can employ the small effective government strategy, it would be in a stronger global position.

There are two main emerging trends that need to be rectified in terms of Indian domestic politics. First, the role of the minorities cannot be ignored any further, especially if India is to maintain its pluralistic characteristic. Second, equality must become an accepted notion across India, especially amongst the Hindu majority. This must be addressed while keeping in mind the concept of ‘Hindu Nationalism’ and its contest with emerging global trends.

Technology and social media

Technology and social media are becoming more mainstream in India, as they have in other countries. Through such media, access to information and services has become easier as has public awareness. Moreover, social media is helping galvanize interconnectivity among communities and groups towards common goals and objectives. Examples such as the local responses to the Nepal and Chennai floods, organized through social media, show the increasing importance of this technology in daily life.

Also, the need for regulation of large data and global cyber companies like the “FANG” companies (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) has become more relevant.

The session concluded with NIC views on the emerging trends as described by the Indian experts. Technology is poised to change the South Asian landscape and the new generation upcoming in India will be the key factor to India’s progress and development. Education is more crucial now than ever before, especially if India is to gain the demographic dividend. Environmental degradation in India will have global consequences and needs to remain in focus and finally, the debate between majoritarianism and pluralism will need to be studied in detail as to find a balance between the two.

In terms of the global trends, the NIC panel believes that analysis needs to be conducted based on three possible trajectories: (i) A capable and committed United States (ii) a less than capable and less committed United States (iii) A potential obstacle in China’s economic growth and (iv) A combination of the above three trajectories.

(This report is prepared by Harish Venugopalan and Priyadarshini Ray, Research Interns, Observer Research Foundation)

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