India is the world's second most populous country. At 1.2 billion people, India comprises almost 18 percent of the world's population. Despite the country's slowing growth rate, it is set to overtake China as the world's most populous country before 2025.
India already strains to provide basic services to its population. Its primary demographic challenge is one of governance. By 2050 the relatively weak central government will be tasked with providing its estimated 1.6 billion people with infrastructure and essential services like energy, healthcare and food.
India is a global leader in wheat and rice production, second only to China. But the country still remains a net food importer because of poor transport and storage facilities that result in 10 percent to 25 percent of harvests being lost before reaching market.
Power generation is another key challenge facing India that will only be compounded by a large growth in population. Poor infrastructure and bureaucratic red tape have hampered India's ability to utilize its abundant coal reserves—the world's fourth largest. India's growing energy needs have caused its energy firms to seek coal, oil and natural gas around the world to try to meet rising domestic demand.
India's rising population brings social challenges as well. Selective birth practices are leading to a disproportionate ratio of male to female births. There are currently 6 percent more males than females in the 0-19 age demographic, and the ratio is not expected to stabilize until 2035.
The country also lags behind China in literacy and education rates for both its rural and urban population, which could impact future development.
India's transition into the world's most populous nation will not be an easy one. Without a strong central government and improved internal cohesiveness, New Delhi will continue to struggle to provide even basic services to its domestic population, hampering its ability to take a larger role in the region.