India: The Next Twenty-Five Years

Subhash Kak
7 min readJan 14, 2023

The world is going through extraordinary change, and all signs point to India playing a prominent role in the new order.

If the past few centuries were about discovery and control of the outer, the world is now in the dangerous phase of control of the inner by chemicals, pharma, and propaganda facilitated by social media and journalists working at the behest of the establishment.

There is loss of jobs due to pervasive automation and AI, which points to unprecedented social, political, and economic disruptions. The future will provide employment to vastly fewer people. Anticipating this, populations have begun to shrink in Japan, Korea, East Europe, and many other countries; even India is nearing the replacement level fertility of 2.1.

Past as prelude

The past offers clues for the future. It is not widely known that the estimated GDP of India was about 40 to 45% of the world total until 1100 CE, and after centuries of intermittent war during Turkish invasions, it was still over 20% in 1800 when the British firmed their control over the country.

Britain destroyed India’s industry, precipitating mass poverty. After the Industrial Revolution, India became a captive market for the products of British factories and India’s share of the world economy shrank from 20% to about 1.8% by 1918.

Before that, India had experienced the physical destruction of its universities, such as at Nalanda, Vikramshila, Vallabhi, and Takshashila at the hands of the Turkish invaders. Even after this crushing loss, India’s sciences remained the most advanced in the world but were localized in families such as those of the world-famous Kerala School of Mathematics that survived until the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire in the 16th century.

The British rule of 150 years was a period of unmitigated disaster for India on many fronts:

A) The British stole around $45 trillion through their tax and revenue policies.

B) The policies of the British Rule were responsible for famines that led to the death of about 100 million people.

C) Britain pursued a system of language apartheid to which India is still a prisoner; the Indian Supreme Court and higher scientific education do not allow the use of any Indian language.

D) The literacy rate dropped from an estimated 60 to 70 percent to as low as 16 percent in the 150 years of the British Rule.

E) Britain created the caste system by arbitrary conflation of jāti and varna, which was fossilized by the bureaucracy.

Despite these impediments, Indian economy has become the world’s third largest in PPP (purchasing power parity), behind that of China and the United States. The PPP is a fairer measure of the intrinsic strength of an economy. It is measured in international dollars that would buy in a country a comparable amount of goods and services a U.S. dollar would buy in the United States.

India’s economy is already growing rapidly, and economists believe that during the next few years its growth rate will outstrip that of other nations.

PPP GDP in 2023 for 10 top nations in International dollars

India’s advantages include the relative youthfulness of its population, payoff from further administrative reform and, most importantly, its respect for the Yoga of Life (karmayoga) which is the cultural frame that values hard work, excellence, and devotion to knowledge.

Currently, China, US, and India have GDP of $33, $27, and $13 trillion international dollars (2023 IMF estimates). The graph below estimates how the race between the three economies will shape up in the next twenty-five years, with average assumed annual growth rates of 4, 2, and 8.5%, respectively.

The economic race between China, US, and India

Here’s another estimate of the 10 largest economies in 2024 based on IMF and World Bank data.

While India is expected to eventually become the largest economy by size, the United States will continue to be the richest country on a per capita basis as its population is much smaller. According to other predictions (such as that by PwC), Indian economy will take a bit longer to overtake China.

The current world scene

The challenges confronting the world in the coming decades include:

1. Increase in addictions. Alienation from nature and loneliness will lead to greater abuse of illegal substances and legal drugs. (Modern medicine prescribes chemicals that require further chemicals to counter side-effects. In 2015, an estimated 119.0 million Americans aged 12 or older used prescription psychotherapeutic drugs, representing 44.5 percent of the population. Two-thirds of Americans use prescription drugs, and there were over 120,000 drug overdose deaths in the US last year.)

2. Increased violence. Violence from social and religious groups that live in their own bubbles divorced from reality will increase. These groups are increasingly behind random terror attacks, beheadings, rapes, and bombings across many countries. Failing to assimilate, these groups don’t do well economically, play victims, and hold the larger society responsible for their troubles.

India is better equipped than others to deal with alienation and addiction due to its culture that emphasizes patience, self-reflection, and knowledge. Furthermore, unlike Western medicine that deals with treating symptoms, the Indian approach (as in Ayurveda) is to treat health as search for balance, which is more effective for chronic and life-style illnesses. One can also hope that Indian culture has resources within it to inspire communities that have chosen to self-isolate to join the mainstream.

Dealing with its western neighbor

India’s neighbor, Pakistan, is facing economic troubles that are expected to worsen in the future. Seeing itself as a medieval theocratic Riyasat-e-Medina, a garrison state, Pakistan has not incorporated universal values in its polity and it can’t compete with other nations economically for it spends twice the world-average on military and half the world average on education. Many worry that as a weakened state it could, like its own neighbor Afghanistan, fall into the hands of religious extremists, which would complicate India’s economic rise.

Pakistan could have harnessed its natural beauty to become a tourism powerhouse, but its politicians and propagandists keep its people in a state of religious frenzy that makes it a dangerous place for travel by kafirs. Even momins are not safe because of sectarian rivalry, and bombings of rival mosques take place with sickening frequency.

There are those in India who say that India should help Pakistan economically to strengthen the progressive groups in its society. In my view this will be naïve, because the dynastic elites who control the state’s institutions are not interested as much in the long-term progress of the country as in the perpetuation of their power within the current framework.

India should insist on fundamental reforms within Pakistan, such as devolution of power to Balochistan and Sindh, closing of its terror networks, and full rights to its religious minorities before engaging with Pakistan. This insistence will strengthen the hand of progressive groups within the country who are seeking political and administrative changes.

Challenges that lie ahead

Although the rise of India is unstoppable, it will require highly skilled political leadership to manage it. Its diversity is a strength and the idea of Bhārat has united the country culturally for over two millennia.

As India rises economically, it will be relentlessly attacked by the West and its proxies and falsehoods spread about its society and its diverse traditions. Indians will have to create mechanisms to counter such attacks.

Indian institutions — especially the judiciary — remain largely colonial in their functioning and they need urgent reform. Some of the most intense opposition to reform in India is from the Left (Sinister in Latin) and from academics and NGOs that are tied to the neocolonizing forces in the West.

The Indian entertainment industry has largely remained mired in negativity and inauthentic storytelling and this must change if it aspires to become successful across the globe.

Indian education system requires major reform in curriculum and it needs to stop viewing history through the colonial perspective. It also needs to democratize science teaching and make it possible to learn computer programming and other science subjects in every Indian language.

India’s religious tradition that values universal progress and upliftment of all has helped Indians become model citizens everywhere. Yoga, which is lived Hinduism, has swept into the entire world with its message of wellness and self-knowledge.

The diaspora is India’s unique asset and its worldwide success instils self-confidence. If Indians as individuals in far corners of the world could rise to the top, India as a nation will not be stopped either.

Further reading

A brief primer on Hinduism

Passion play in Pakistan

The Idea of India