India's economy is now the second-fastest growing of any large country in the world, albeit still much slower than the 9.9% that China recorded in 2005. What is interesting is how quickly the mainstream media went from having a blind spot on India to speaking of it in the same sentence as China.
As recently as 1998, most of the mainstream press was spoke of China as an emerging superpower, while India was still spoken of merely in the context of its nuclear tests, rivalty with Pakistan and its poverty. Most articles spoke of India and Pakistan under a suggestion that they were equals.
Now, almost all articles about China being a rising economic superpower also include India. India has, in just eight short years, changed its entire 'brand' from being one of austere poverty and an intractable, stalemated dispute with Pakistan, to being one of the two rising superpowers in this world, a place with an endless supply of knowledge workers promises to reshape the global economy.
That there are even articles like this, which compare India and China to see which has more promise, is telling. Such comparisons were nearly unheard of in the late 1990s.
What has enabled a country as large as India to revamp its entire 'brand', its perception in the eyes of the world, so completely, in such a short time?
I attribute this to four factors :
1) The rise of Internet usage and bandwidth speeds, permitting more business collaboration between India and the United States.
2) The War on Terror, where a stable, thriving democracy, containing 150 million Muslims, is seen as a model and positive influence on nascent democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, thus receiving indirect moral support from the US, UK, and Japan.
3) The Indian community in the US reaching critical mass. Their numbers have more than doubled from 1990 to 2000, and continue to grow. They are also the highest-income ethnic group in the US, and are developing many business ventures between the US and India.
4) The gradual, ongoing replacement of older generation Indians with a new generation that is globally aware, tech-savvy, better educated, less xenophobic, and has higher self-esteem. Older generation Indians kept India under socialist stagnation for decades, and kept Indian society at a lower level of Maslow's hierarchy for far too long. They were, frankly, an embarassment in many aspects of human existence, and their passing on can only lead to massive progress.
Prediction : India becomes the foremost economic and political 'fad' of 2006, with at least five cover stories on India in major magazines, in 2006.