Sign Up

India in 2040 — Coding the World

What will India look like four decades hence? Poorer? Richer? A world superpower? A nobody?

July 21, 2001

What will India look like four decades hence? Poorer? Richer? A world superpower? A nobody?

By 2040, India has become the world’s leading software producer. Most of the code for Sony-Toyota cars and airplanes, for Sichuan Space shuttles, for General Electric-Motors electronic kitchens and even for Windows ’40 is written by Indian engineers.

India has also become, with China, the leading labor exporter in the world. The country is supplying cooks, nannies, gardeners and nurses to all countries where labor is tighter. English has supplanted Hindi as the leading language in India, although for most Indians it remains a second language.

By 2040, India’s boom of the last 25 years has also prompted a surge in foreign investment in India. Meanwhile, the number of Indians living in England, Canada, and the United States has soared. The success of Prime Minister Chaudhury’s recent visit to England has led to a major improvement in Indian-English ties and promises a renewed burst of Indian emigration to England.

India still has huge economic troubles, though. Air and water pollution have reached a crisis point and rising sea levels are threatening the coastline — although not so seriously as in neighboring Bangladesh. Tensions along the Pakistani-Indian border have subsided a bit, partly because Islamabad now realizes it cannot challenge Delhi.

At the same time, India-China relations have become increasingly strained. Each of the two countries has dozens of nuclear warheads targeted at the other, and both have massed huge numbers of troops on their disputed border.

The Indian-engineered coup in Burma, toppling a pro-Chinese government, has aggravated tensions further. Intelligence experts say that each side is preparing for an “information war” to incapacitate the electronic systems of the other.

Government sites are secure, of course, but defense ministry hackers on each side have figured out how to disable the other country’s private Internet sites and e-mail communications en masse. In a test run, Indian hackers wiped out all the Bank of Zhejiang’s records, so that it had no firm idea who its depositors and borrowers were.

In turn, Chinese Defense Ministry hackers were itching to respond with computer assaults that would destroy India’s economy. United Nations officials were desperately trying to avoid a new-style war that would risk battering the global economy.

Only in France, where the best-seller “Le Défi Indien” (or “The Indian Challenge”) is sailing off the Internet book order lines, is there some relish at the prospect of an inter-Asian electronic war.