Your Thursday Briefing: India’s Population Milestone

Can India’s economy keep up with its population?

India will soon become the world’s most populous country, supplanting China for the first time in centuries, according to data from the United Nations.

With size — a population that now exceeds 1.4 billion people — comes geopolitical, economic and cultural power that India has long sought. And India’s economy has been growing much faster than its population for a generation, causing the proportion of Indians living in extreme poverty to plummet.

India’s work force is young and expanding, even as those in many industrialized countries are aging and, in some cases, shrinking. Its service sector is successful and wage costs are lower than in China, so India could try to capitalize on China’s difficulties and become a high-end manufacturing alternative.

Enormous challenges: India’s immense size and lasting growth also lay bare a multitude of problems. Most Indians still remain poor by global standards: Many young people are not well educated and face a looming shortage of good jobs. There is also a yawning gender gap, with only about one-fifth of Indian women working in formal jobs. The country’s infrastructure is in bad shape (though the government is working to change that), and the Hindu-first nationalism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party contributes to a combustible environment.

Those problems raise the uncomfortable question: When will India ever fulfill its vast promise and become a power on the order of China or the U. S.?

Related: China’s shrinking population could be a burden for the rest of the world. It could also allow India to catch up economically.

China’s nuclear buildup

China is on track to massively expand its nuclear arsenal, potentially joining the U.S. and Russia as atomic superpowers and ushering in a new strategic era. In recent weeks, American officials have sounded almost fatalistic about the possibility of limiting China’s buildup.

China has built a reactor on its coast that excels at making plutonium, a key ingredient for producing nuclear bombs, though Beijing maintains that it is strictly for civilian purposes. It is also building three vast fields of missile silos while upgrading its missile technology and its “triad,” the methods for delivering nuclear weapons from land, sea and air.

Russia, which has threatened to use battlefield nuclear weapons in Ukraine, is cooperating with China to potentially produce arsenals whose combined size could dwarf that of the U.S.

The big picture: Just a dozen years ago, American leaders envisioned a world that would move toward eliminating nuclear weapons. Now the U.S. is facing questions about how to manage a three-way nuclear rivalry, which upends much of the deterrence strategy that has avoided a nuclear war.

Numbers: The U.S. and Russia each have 1,550 long-range nuclear weapons, and both countries are modernizing their arsenals. China currently has about 410 nuclear warheads — the latest Pentagon estimates say that warhead count could grow to 1,000 by the end of the decade.

How Russian propaganda plagues Ukraine

Some people living along the front line in eastern Ukraine blame attacks on their towns not on the Russian forces that have bombarded their region for the past eight months, but on the Ukrainian Army.

Ukrainian soldiers call them “waiters,” because they refuse to be evacuated while awaiting a Russian takeover. They confound officials and the police with their support for Russia after months of attacks, repeat Russian propaganda lines and give information to the Russian military.

The police chief in the frontline town of Kostyantynivka blamed a relentless propaganda campaign that has been imposed for more than a decade. It has turned citizens against the government in Kyiv, he said, and pushed informants into the arms of the Russian proxy forces that took hold of parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Tactics: Pro-Russian television and social media channels have suffused the area for years. One channel on Telegram often announces that the Ukrainian Army is firing mortars, just before a Russian missile strike.

Other developments in the war:

The U.S. is sending Ukraine a new weapons package valued at $325 million.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Sweden and promised to work for a “swift accession” to NATO for that country.


Asia Pacific

Electric vehicles took center stage at Shanghai’s auto show.

The Chinese authorities have detained a dozen people in connection with a hospital fire that killed at least 29 people in Beijing.

A shoe salesman pleaded guilty to stealing the thumb of a 2,000-year-old Chinese terra-cotta warrior at a museum in Philadelphia.

Around the World

The U.S. Supreme Court decided to continue to allow widespread access to a crucial abortion pill through Friday evening, giving the court more time to consider the case.

Fox News’s $787.5 million defamation settlement amounts to a rare acknowledgment of informational wrongdoing by a powerhouse in conservative media.

The two warring factions in Sudan said they had agreed to a 24-hour cease-fire but it was unclear whether it would hold. Here’s how the war started.

Other Big Stories

Two teenagers were arrested and charged in connection with a fatal shooting at a birthday party in Alabama.

Some 155,000 government workers in Canada went on strike over issues like pay and remote work rules.

Palestinians in the town of Huwara in the West Bank said they fear for their safety amid a surge of attacks by Israeli settlers.

Facebook, TikTok and Twitter seem to be increasingly connecting users with brands and influencers, making social media less social, our columnist writes.

A Morning Read

A fund-raising competition in rural New Zealand in which children try to kill the most feral cats was canceled after a backlash from animal rights organizations.

Culling invasive species like rats, rabbits and possums is not uncommon in New Zealand. While hunting feral cats is an acceptable way of controlling their population, one wildlife ecologist said, “it’s when you talk about children in particular, and doing it as a competition, I think, that it’s politically unwise.”


A century of 16-millimeter film

In 1923, the Eastman Kodak Company introduced 16-millimeter film, a new format that revolutionized moviemaking.

Major studios shot on 35-millimeter film, which produced a sharper image but was more expensive. Sixteen millimeter ushered in a new era of movies made outside the Hollywood system. Regular folks could now record their own lives; journalists and soldiers could film in the midst of war; and activists could shoot political documentaries in the street.

Today, 16 millimeter, which is increasingly expensive and difficult to process, is no longer optimal for amateur filmmakers. But filmmakers like Darren Aronofsky and Spike Lee still turn to it, attracted to 16 millimeter’s “grain,” a three-dimensional, pointillist texture that gives the finished movie a rougher look, evoking the analog past and the blurry nature of memory.


What to Cook

This colorful tahini ramen salad is perfect for picnics.

What to Read

In Han Kang’s novel “Greek Lessons,” a young mother loses the ability to speak Korean and takes solace in learning ancient Greek.

What to Watch

Keri Russell plays a savvy U.S. civil servant in the Netflix series “The Diplomat.”


Price freezes let you hold on to an online plane ticket price.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Water whirl (four letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Dan

P.S. Readers submitted these short stories to our Modern Love column, including one about saris.

“The Daily” is about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion pills.

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