NEW DELHI (AP) — Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India’s economy will be among the top three in the world within five years, as he marked 76 years of independence from British rule on Tuesday.
Wearing a flowing, multi-colored turban, Modi addressed the country from New Delhi’s 17th century Mughal-era Red Fort, saying his government had lifted over 130 million people out of poverty and that India’s growing prosperity was an opportunity for the world.
“When poverty decreases in a country, the power of the middle class increases considerably,” he said. “In the next five years, I promise India will be among the top three economies in the world.”
His statement comes after reports last year from S&P Global and Morgan Stanley forecast that India’s economy would overtake Japan and Germany’s to become the world’s third largest by 2030. They said India’s economic boom will be driven by offshoring, investment in manufacturing, growing digital infrastructure and energy transition.
India’s $3.5 trillion economy surpassed the United Kingdom’s last year to become the fifth largest. Modi said he was confident that when India marks 100 years of independence in 2047, it will do so as a developed nation.
The government forecasts India to grow by 6-6.5% this fiscal year, putting it among the world’s fastest-growing large economies.
But despite steady economic growth, the Modi government has struggled to quash unemployment concerns and is under pressure to generate enough jobs, especially as it faces a general election in 2024, which Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is favored to win.
The unemployment rate has grown over the last year, reaching 8% last month, according to the Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy.
Modi did not address these concerns in his speech, instead lauding India’s journey over the decades.
“We are lucky to have demography, democracy and diversity,” he said, after noting that India was now the most populous country in the world according to some estimates. The Indian government is yet to release official population data, and its last census is from 2011.
Modi highlighted India’s rise on the global stage and said a new world order was emerging after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“India is becoming the voice of the global South. We are bringing the promise of stability to the world,” he said, adding that all eyes would be on India as it hosts the G-20 Summit in New Delhi next month.
The prime minister also reiterated calls for peace in the northeastern state of Manipur, where a near civil war has raged for months and killed over 150 people. He said the country stands with the people of Manipur and that resolution can only be achieved through peace.
Since clashes between two dominant ethnic groups erupted in early May, residents in Manipur have protested against the state government, ruled by Modi’s party, and called for the firing of its chief minister.
Over 50,000 people have fled the state, where violence has persisted despite a heavy army presence. Armed mobs have torched buildings, massacred civilians and looted weapons from state armories.
But for three months, the strongman leader was largely silent on the conflict in Manipur. His role, or lack thereof, sparked a no-confidence motion against his government in Parliament. Modi defeated the motion last week, after appealing for peace in Manipur for the first time since the conflict began.
India celebrates its Independence Day a day after its neighbor Pakistan. The two separate states came into existence as a result of the bloody partition of British India in 1947.
The process sparked some of the worst communal violence the world has seen and left hundreds of thousands dead. It triggered one of the largest human migrations in history and some 12 million people fled their homes.