One of the main issues India has faced ever since its independence in 1947 is that of statehood. India has never been a nation state or a real country, it was created from the conglomeration of around 32 separate nations which happened to lie on the British railroad in South Asia. The people of these territories spoke a wide variety of languages from Tamil to Hindi to Urdu. Believed in different religions from Sikhism to Islam to Hinduism and of different ethnic makeup from the Tamil to the Kashmiris to those of Assam. Because of the wide variety of nations in these territories, the Indian nation was meant to be a state for all South Asians. However, those dreams fell short with the creation of Pakistan, which was created in the foresight that a Hindu majority India would attempt to subjugate other religious groups and become the nation of Hindustan. Which some observers might believe what the BJP is currently trying to do to India.
In comparison China has been a nation state for thousands of years. When the Indian Prime Minister speaks the most prominent language Hindi, at most he will be able to only be understood natively by 40% of the population. On the other hand, when the President of China speaks in Mandarin, over 95% of the population will be able to understand him. For India, civil unrest and internal strife is one of the key issues it faces such as the issue with the Kashmiris. On the other hand, mostly homogenous societies like China, Korea and Japan have not had to face these issues. “Never talk to me about profit, Jeh, it is a dirty word.” - Nehru
The most prominent issue India faces is that of its economy and development. When India became independent, it did not embrace free markets as in the view of the new ruling class that the capitalist system would turn India into a neo-colonialist state for the evil multinationals. They saw profit as a dirty word, this as it turned out to be false. The most prosperous states of Asia (the Four Asian Tigers) Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan embraced the free market. However, India turned to the Soviet modal of economics, implementing a centrally planned economy with a 5-year plan with almost all industries being controlled by the state. This turned out to be disastrous, most famously Nehru pushed for the creation of the Hindustan Mobile. Which was meant to show India’s self-reliance to the world. Because profit was a dirty word, the production of Hindustan Mobile’s was heavily inefficient with most cars never being sold as the vast majority of Indians were too poor to afford one.
However, like China, India decided to reverse course and attempted to liberalise its economy in the early 90s to attract foreign investors and turn India into a service economy and become more developed economy. While standards of living have increased since then, it is nowhere close to the drastic growth of China in the past 30 years as India hadn’t adopted a meritocratic system that China had. Instead, the ruling elite continued to profit with most Indians remaining in poverty (20% in extreme poverty, which China has irradicated it), and a GDP per capita PPP which is ranked 158th in the world which is less than Bangladesh and 1/10th of China’s GDP per capita PPP. FDIs in India only remain at around $39 billion, which is miniscule to even small Singapore’s $62 billion and China’s $240 billion. All these issues have arisen due to India’s poor infrastructure, large bureaucracy and lack of accountability.
Although India has elections, it doesn’t mean public officials are accountable. Many politicians get into power by the support from rural farmers, which make up over 50% of the country by giving them massive subsidies and votes often being indirectly bought through dealings with the farmers landowners, and those who are not bought into government are voted in based on caste lines. This intern means those of the cities are not ran in their interests. When Shanghai wants a new highspeed railway, the local party official needs to make sure that it is done, otherwise they are likely to get kicked out of their position by local party members or the central government. In India if Bombay wants to fill in a pothole on the street, you’ll need to jump through multiple hoops of bureaucratic red tape only to be told it's another official or agencies problem. If Bombay wants to vote out their state government, they will need to convince the entirety of the Maharashtra to do so as well, which is highly unlikely as forementioned with the issue above.
While India is going to be increasingly important in the Asian century and is likely going to be by the sheer size of its population alone a great power (but not an economically thriving one). However, it is likely to be second fiddle to the rest of Asia especially to China as fundamental structural issues such as a stifling bureaucracy leaves India paralyzed. Especially as it seems unable to increase its standard of living for the vast majority of its citizens or develop its infrastructure and move away from low skilled labour due to bad governance.