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June 2024

India 2050: Facing New Challenges

Christophe Jaffrelot
Senior Fellow - India, Democracy and Populism

Dr. Christophe Jaffrelot is Senior research fellow at CERI (Centre de Recherches Internationales) at Sciences Po (Paris), and research director at the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King’s India Institute (London).


These explainers draw on Indian and academic sources and on workshops and discussions with representatives from several French companies, all members of Institut Montaigne. The authors and Institut Montaigne are grateful to Eric Adam (Carrefour), Rita Chraibi (Groupe Bel), Anne Falchi (EDF), Éric Nottey (Veolia) and Pierre-Alexandre Teulié (Kearney) for their valuable contributions.

How can France and Europe fully capitalize on the "Indian moment" that is shaping the 21st century? Both are key players in India's pursuit of a balanced global power dynamic, as India will remain committed to diversifying its partnerships.

Despite India's robust economic growth—8.4% in the last quarter of 2023—the economic relationship between Europe and India remains underwhelming. It is only the EU's tenth-largest trading partner, accounting for just 2.1% of European exports of goods.

The term "untapped potential" frequently describes our relationship with India. Yet European companies are well-positioned to meet some of its needs. The country, despite its macroeconomic successes, still faces classic development challenges. Christophe Jaffrelot and his co-authors delve into these issues in two insightful papers on India's food security and environmental concerns (water stress, air pollution, and deforestation).

These papers provide forward-looking scenarios up to 2050—with agriculture and the environment being particularly suited to twenty-five-year horizon scenarios—, outlining concrete avenues for reflection and opportunities for French and European businesses in specific sectors, while paving the way for a revitalized France-India and Europe-India dialogue.

The coming years are a prime opportunity for France to enhance its economic ties with India and establish a robust agenda for collaboration in environmental and agri-food sectors. For both France and Europe, it will be a matter of overcoming points of tension and of taking advantage of the many steps forward in the Europe-India agenda in order to base the relationship on an encouraging and tangible dynamic.

This paper is part of a series of short and medium-term scenarios that outline potential trajectories for certain countries, with the aim of supporting decision-making.

The Challenge of Food Security

Whatever the demographic scenario, India, now the world's most populated country, will see its population continue to grow for another quarter-century. Can it solve or at least alleviate the problem of mass undernutrition it faces today? This challenge persists despite the country's macroeconomic successes and a remarkable increase in agricultural production over the years.

This paper investigates the reasons for India's chronic undernutrition and questions its ability to attain long-term food security. While Indian authorities are working to address both issues, the public policy solutions put forward, despite some successes, tend to reproduce pitfalls without providing lasting remedies. This publication also showcases the trajectories that population and agricultural production curves are likely to follow in India up to 2050, through several scenarios guided by statistical projections.

The authors identify five key areas for action, which offer significant opportunities for collaboration with French and European partners.

▸ Read the full paper [Scenarios] - India 2050: The Challenge of Food Security

The Environmental Challenge

Water, air, and forest crises: India's environmental challenges are staggering.The country ranks thirteenth in water shortages, suffers from a surge in premature deaths due to air pollution, and has the second-highest rate of deforestation globally. In 2022, India has also become the third-largest carbon emitter globally, which amplifies the far-reaching implications of the challenges it is facing.

This paper delves into the magnitude of these challenges and reviews local initiatives that are emerging in India to tackle them.

France and Europe, as privileged partners, can play an essential role in supporting India's search for innovative solutions, with a focus on better natural resource management and more effective public policies. The avenues for reflection put forward by the authors highlight potential opportunities for French and European companies.

▸ Read the full paper [Scenarios] - India 2050: The Environmental Challenge

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