Life in India is said to move like an elephant. It’s slow and stubbornly resistant to change. But when it finally steps forward, it does so with a mighty force.

I’ve seen monumental changes since my first visit in 2004: new highways, skyscrapers, subway systems, suspension bridges, rural electrification, and improved sanitation. When it comes to economic growth and development, China hogs the media spotlight. But over the last twenty years, 300 million Indians have been lifted out of poverty – one of the greatest achievements in human history.

India has a long way to go. Vast slums still blight its cities. Many villages are little changed from a century ago. Corruption at all levels of society remains a way of life.

And lately, it seems the Indian elephant has lost its way. Its challenges are similar to those facing the United States. Will India move ahead with the market reforms of its recent past? Or will it choose the inertia of nationalism and ethnic conflict?