When India overtook China in April to become the world’s most populous nation, observers wondered: Will New Delhi surpass Beijing to become the next global superpower? India’s birth rate is almost twice that of China. And India has outpaced China in economic growth for the past two years—its GDP grew 6.1 percent last quarter, compared with China’s 4.5 percent. At first glance, the statistics seem promising.
This question has only become more relevant as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington this week. From a U.S. perspective, if India—the world’s largest democracy—really could trump China, that would be something to shout about. India is China’s natural adversary; the two countries share more than 2,000 miles of disputed, undemarcated border, where conflict breaks out sporadically. The bigger and stronger China’s competitors in Asia, the greater the prospects for a balance of power favorable to the United States.