The shift at the top is happening this year, according to UN population projections. And maybe it has already taken place. India’s last census was canceled due to the pandemic, but the one that extrapolates past trend lines lands at close to 1.45 billion people in India right now. This while China’s population shrinks to 1.41 billion. The Indians are also young and modern. Almost half are under the age of 25, which means that the country now has the largest cohort of youth the world has ever seen: 650 million people. There also seems to be a positive gender equality trend. After working against problems such as “selective abortions”, when female fetuses were chosen, there are more women than men in India since last year. This is the norm in many countries, as women live longer than men, but the first time since statistics began to be kept in India.”In that case, it is extremely positive, if it is the case that these numbers can be trusted” , says Sten Widmalm, political scientist at Uppsala University with a focus on India.He puts a question mark about how safe the Indian statistics are, but sees many opportunities when the country will now continue to grow – not only in terms of population.” , that is to withdraw from China,” says Widmalm. The harsh dictatorship in China is seen as a risk, both politically and economically, which means that countries and companies around the world are becoming increasingly curious about India. The trend also sees India climbing economic charts and has now overtaken Britain’s previous place as the fifth largest economy globally. The expertise is pretty much in agreement that India will overtake even fourth-ranked Germany and third-ranked Japan, and if not too many years hence have only China and the United States above them in the economic order of power. Then, however, the assessments diverge.”After having overtaken China in population, India’s economy will overtake China’s, and may even surpass that of the United States in the second half of this century. Then they end up at the top of a new world order,” says researcher Yi Fuxian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States, in an article on the news site Axios. Others think it is far too early to shout hello. “Whether India’s economy ever overtakes the U.S. It’s too early to tell. A lot of institutional reform remains in India,” Robert Blohm, a Canada-based economist, told Axios. Sten Widmalm agrees. He mentions several major problems that India has to overcome, including the current political trend. “What is worrying is that a country of such great importance in the world is moving in an authoritarian direction since 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power.” Modi has ruled the country against an increasingly hardline Hindu nationalism. If you are not Hindu, life becomes much more difficult – and there are many minorities in the giant country. The risks of this may become more apparent only in worse times. “When the economy is going badly, you don’t have a conflict resolution mechanism that can peacefully deal with opposing interests, which you have in a functioning democracy,” says Widmalm and continues: “And that in turn leads to the risk of increased violence in society.”Another big question that is worse in India than in many other places is the environment, for example the air quality when the country continues to use fossil fuels both on the streets and in power production. “It has become so terrible that it is difficult to be in the big cities. It’s a disaster,” says Sten Widmalm. Still, the metropolises are growing to their breaking point, because people are more or less forced there if they want to make a living. This also risks running out of water, for example. “Water is scarce, electricity is scarce… Environmental destruction, as well as conflicts with China, are major obstacles for development to go in the right direction,” says Widmalm.
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