India rising: A new superpower for a new century – it’s a common theme here.

TV, newspaper and magazine headlines tell the story over and over again. And the words “My India is Great” are tattoed on the backs of the ever-present Tata buses. India may be a pluralistic democracy, but nationalism is the state religion here.

India’s papers, which judging by the ones I’ve read really are free and fair, tend to have a little bit more of a jingoistic ring to them than one would find in the NY Times or the Post. Politicians can be ridiculed and parties denounced, but India’s progress and soon to be preeminent world status is never doubted. People here want India to be respected on the world stage. Badly.

Here’s a quote from an article in the Telegraph, Kolkata’s English language daily. It’s taken from an article about the purchase of Ranbaxy (an Indian pharmaceutical company) by a Japanese company:

“Her reading is that it is the Japanese who will have to learn to adapt and not the other way around. The reasoning has a philosophical basis. The Japanese, she says, are moving to a different plane. Material things and crass corporate commercialisation matter much less than motives such as self-actualisation.

Indians, on the other hand, are descending from that plane. They are becoming more aggressive, more demanding. This is their century and they want to stomp over the rest of the world. In a fight of wills between a young, ambitious and pugnacious nation and a people committing temporal hara-kiri, the new Ugly Indian will prevail.”

Though the opinion discussed isn’t the author’s, it isn’t an uncommon one. People here hunger for national respect and success to an extent I’ve never seen before.

The question of whether India will actually be a superpower in the 21st century is an academic one that’s beyond me. I do know one thing, though: in the minds of many Indians, India already is.