India is leaving the Third World so fast that it is almost possible to watch it happeneing.

Many write off India as backward and poor. The reality is that its billion people have a booming economy, excellent education and limitless ambition – and they are ready to take over the world. America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East face a reversal of fortune that will astonish us and overpower us if we do not revise our rapidly dating assumptions and prejudices.

Yes India still has poverty with the power to turn the stomach. Yes, there are still elephants striding nonchalantly through the boiling city traffic and cows on the loose in the heart of a megalopolis which crams the population half the size of Australia into fewer than 750 square kilometers. But heartbreaking as these images are, they are not a true indication of the new civilisation which is growing here in the world’s largest free country.

In India, the amazing thing is that all the intelligent people are optimistic. The economists, the writers and the thinking classes in general, are full of an infectious patriotic delight at the way their mighty country is preparing for world power. No douby some unpredictable disaster could unhorse this new hope. A recent article in Forbes mentioned that India would have the maximum number of Billionaire’s in 10 years time.

The world is paying too much attention to China and too little to India. America and Europe, in particular, simply havnt been able to cope with the threat India’s information technology industry poses to their own jobs. “They could not believe Indians could do this. To them, this was still a country of snake charmers.
In any Indian there’s now a sense of tremendous belief in the future. Even five years ago there wasn’t. We used to be apologetic about our identity, today we want to flash our identity – as Americans have always done. The lower middle class used to lament that the rich would get richer while they stayed stuck or even sank lower into poverty. They no longer believe that.”

While most of the world has been looking at China, or has been distracted by America’s clumsy and self destructive attemt to spread freedom with smart bombs and tanks, India has been incubating an economic and social revolution that is just as significant. With a population of one billion, most of them young and huge number in their 20’s, it is not far behing China’s 1.3 billion in sheer numbers.

But it has significant advantages which China does not possess and may never achieve. China is a police state with muzzled media and is run by a rigid, secretive elite wothout the rule of law. Crucially in India it is the poor who vote most of all and, as a result they have astonishing power. It is one of the many examples of the way in which the old British India is now utterly dead, but now ideas which were truly British have been successfully adapted to Indian needs.

Now you know why the slums are not bulldozed and their inhabitants rounded up and expelled as they might be in China or other parts of the world, and why nothing is done to prevent migration to cities by poor country families hoping to better themselves. India speaks English and in – in one of Britan’s greatest and least noted achievements – is the greatest functioing democracy in the history of the world. A genuinely free press is increasingly bold in exposing corruption and abuse of authority. At the last elections 400 million people voted and the existing government was evicted from power without violence.

And now India has what must be surely the world’s biggest and fastest growing middle class. Thanks to the economic reforms in the early Nineties, and to long quiet growth before that, this confident growing class now has the purchasing power to sustain lasting economic growth and the political power to demand serious reform.

The reverence for education and self improvement here is comparable to America in its great days, when everyone assumed that tommorrow would be better than today, and was determined to make sure it would be. A wise investor here would be setting up as many high quality, affordable private schools as he could build.

We should take nothing for granted about India except that it is changing with great speed and that it is, just now, one of the most hopeful places in a world badly in need of a new great power that believes in freedom and democracy.