Maybe this sounds like too obvious an assertion to put into words, but there’s a lot more to the matter than meets the eye at first glance. From Government of India GDP targets & projections, and from the premature jubilation of mainstream Indian right wingers at supposedly beating back the ‘Islamic enemy’, it might seem like we’re well on our way to becoming an a world power in the same league as the EU, China or the US; if not in the next 30 years, perhaps a decade or two after that. Well, that vision may very well turn out to be a dud.
The critical challenge is that of Demography. We are well on our way on the same demographic trajectory as the Europeans, Americans and East Asians before us witnessed- that of a declining birth rate combined with increasing life expectancy. But unlike them, we’re making mediocre use of our golden window when we have the largest age cohorts ever entering the workforce and a low dependency ratio. China during a similar transition was quite consistently racking up GDP growth numbers in the double-digits across multiple years, while we have to be content with 7 to 8 per cent in a good year.
What’s more, our current economic slowdown may be worsened by a once in a century pandemic: Covid-19. This will further push down our average growth to such levels that it will become almost impossible to break out of the middle-income category by the time our population starts to rapidly age. Once stuck in the classic middle-income traffic, we may begin to witness a deterioration of social order anywhere from the scale of Brazil, South Africa or Venezuela today.
Another facet to the demographic problem is that followers of Indic religions will likely be overrepresented among the ageing/declining population of the country, while Abrahamics, particularly Muslims will form an ever expanding proportion of the population. As if this internal demographic crisis wasn’t enough, the Af-Pak region is witnessing a population explosion of massive proportions. It is more than plausible that at some point in the future the Muslim voters of India will hold enough political sway for the North-Western borders to be thrown open teeming masses of even more impoverished and more fundamentalist co-religionists of theirs to stream into our country.
So under this entirely possible scenario, we may be looking at ending the century on an entirely different note- as an ageing economic dystopia on the verge of being overwhelmed by Mohammedan hordes. Such an end is by no means a foregone conclusion, but it is certainly not a fringe possibility either.