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India to surpass China as world’s most populous country in April, UN says

India to surpass China as world’s most populous country in April, UN says

Diplomat Times (New Delhi)- India will be the world’s most populous country by the end of this month, eclipsing an aging China, the United Nations said Monday. The milestone raises questions about whether India can repeat the economic success that has made China central to the world’s economy and a leading global power.

The news comes at a moment when India is promoting itself as a rising international player as the host of this year’s G20 Summit. It’s also becoming a more attractive destination for multinational companies seeking to reduce their reliance on China.

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By the end of April, India’s population is expected to reach 1.425 billion, which means it will match and then surpass mainland China’s, the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs said in a press release. The forecast is based on their latest estimates of global population.

It’s not clear exactly when India’s population will pass China’s. It may have already have done so. Demographers say the limits of population data make it impossible to calculate a date. Another U.N. report last week projected that India would have 2.9 million people more than China by mid-year. The Indian government, which hasn’t done a census since 2011, has not officially commented on the estimates.

India and China are neighbors and have a complicated relationship, including robust trade ties and a long-running border dispute. The United States and its allies increasingly see India, the world’s largest democracy, as a counterweight to China.

But their interests don’t always align. India, unlike much of the West, has refrained from condemning its Cold War ally Russia over its war in Ukraine, instead adopting a neutral stance even as India’s purchases of Russian crude have soared.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have had those facts in mind earlier this year when he called on Indians to have small families. Yet those alarming statistics hide a more complex reality, and some positive trends, experts say.

Observers say India’s sheer size, and its young population, give it the potential to replicate China’s economic trajectory.

Young workers who flooded into China’s cities to take factory jobs starting in the 1990s were an essential ingredient in the boom that saw China become the world’s second-largest economy.

But China’s population peaked in 2022 and has since started to fall. By the close of the century, its population could drop below 1 billion, the U.N. said. The country’s elderly population is swelling while its birth rate is still plunging, from 1.7 babies per woman in 2017 to 1.2 in 2022, according to U.N. data.