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4. India

Projected annual growth: 5.5%
2010 GDP: $960 billion*
2050 projected GDP: $8.165 trillion

India, South Asia’s economic powerhouse, is forecast to leap six spots to become the world’s third-largest economy in absolute terms by 2050, replacing Japan.

Unlike regional rival China, Asia’s “rising elephant” has experienced robust growth only since the 1990s following the government’s move to deregulate the economy and attract more foreign investment. The economic reforms and favorable demographics have enabled India to play catch-up and emerge as one of the front-runners in Asia.

India’s young and growing population offers a large workforce and booming consumer market — factors that are regarded as vital drivers of long-term growth. The country’s thriving middle class, a key source of domestic demand, stands at approximately 300 millionand is approaching the entire population of the United States.

These factors have positioned India as a preferred destination for foreign investment in the region. The latest entrants into the market include coffee chain giant Starbucksand global online shopping giant Amazon. In the first 11 months of 2011, foreign direct investment totaled $50.81 billion,up 13 percent from the previous year, according to Ernst & Young.

* Based on 2000 U.S. dollars

Tim Graham | Getty Images