Until a few years ago, the suggestion that India could grow as fast as China belonged to the same category as other incredible pronouncements by 'fact-proof' politicians. There was little by way of hard data to back up such a claim. But now no longer. The phenomenal rise of the Indian corporations, the unexpected rise in India's savings and investment rates and the sustained high growth rate of the last five years mean that the comparison with China is no longer ridiculous. Which of the two countries will be economically ahead in the long run is not clear and is in any case unimportant. The two countries are becoming Asian and world superpowers Even a few years ago, (India) being an industrialised nation seemed a hopeless dream What seems evident now and is good news is that both these nations seem firmly on course to joining the band of nations considered to be developed. As a first cut, take the current annual per capita income of these two nations. Correcting for purchasing power parity, India's is $4,100 and China's is a little more than double that Using the growth rates of income that these nations have achieved in recent years (around 9% for India and 11% for China) and the current population growth rates, we can make a projection of how the incomes of India and China will grow over the next years. Using this simple calculation and treating an income of $20,000 for each person every year as the cut-off income of an industrialised nation, it can be shown that China will be an industrialised, developed nation by 2016 and India by 2028. China has had a track record of high and sustained growth for so long (certainly since 1978) that the Chinese projection does not come as a surprise. If you made exactly this kind of calculation 20 years ago, you would still reach a prediction in the vicinity of 2016. Political turmoil The big surprise is India. Even a few years ago, being an industrialised nation seemed a hopeless dream. The fact that it can happen in 21 years from now is an extraordinary achievement. But one must not get carried away. What I have just done is a mechanical projection of the current situation into the future. Sonia Gandhi - taking part in top-level talks in China Even with all these caveats it is true that what has been happening in India is a fundamental transformation. CSM Worldwide - an organisation based in Lansing, Michigan, and one of the best-known forecasters of the automobile sector - predicts that next year India will overtake China as the fastest growing car market in the world. Between 2007 and 2013 the annual growth in automobile sales is projected to be 8.05% for China and 14.47% for India. One of the reasons for this is that for the first time India seems to be innovating in this sector. Steep climb Thanks to major initiatives by groups like Tata Motors, India could become a leading global player for very cheap cars, the "ultra-affordables", that is, vehicles that are priced below $3,000. As for savings and investment, the nation is now firmly among the East-Asian super-performers with around 34% of national income being invested each year. And again the corporate sector has played a big role in this steep climb. One reason why India can step up its growth rate even further - so as to equal or even surpass the Chinese figure - is that the economy still has a lot of slack. The nation's labour laws are arcane and in need of change (which could help workers even more than the aggregate economy). The bureaucracy is still huge and obstructive. To clean this up needs nothing other than determination at the top. There are energy and environmental worries. If the nuclear deal with the US goes through, this will ease the nation's energy strains to a considerable extent. India has a lot of unutilised human capital, since over 30% of the adult population is illiterate. Finally, regional trade between South and East Asia, which was always low, is growing - and mainly between India and China. Total India-China trade was $1.6bn in 1997-98 and this year it is expected to be anywhere between $15bn to $20bn. Over the last few years, trade between the two nations has been growing at over 40% per annum. There is scope for further large increases on this count, which will not only contribute to the growth of both nations but also to intertwined economic interests and, through that, greater regional harmony. The simple arithmetic calculation does not have to be a pipe dream.