India appears on the way to becoming the world's most populated country by the middle of the next century, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

"The latest projections suggest that India's population may surpass China's in less than 60 years, or before today's youngsters in both countries reach old age," the bureau said Sunday in releasing its "World Population Profile: 1987."China, long the world's most heavily populated nation, is home to one in five of the Earth's people.

But, the bureau says, "the time is now foreseeable when India will take over the No. 1 one spot, reflecting a population growth rate that is nearly twice as high as China's."

Currently, the bureau estimates, China contains 1,088,169,000 people while India has 816,828,000.

But in India the birth rate is 32 per 1,000 people, compared to just 20 per 1,000 in China, which has conducted an intensive campaign to reduce births in recent years.

After subtracting deaths, India's population is growing at 2.1 percent annually, China's by only 1.3 percent, the bureau reported.

Thus, population projections for the year 2050 show India as the world's most populated country, with an anticipated 1,591,204,000 people. At the same time China would have a population of 1,554,875,000.

Sharp changes are expected in other nations too, the report says.

The Soviet Union, currently ranked third in population, is expected to drop to No. 5 by the year 2050. Fourth-place United States would slip to eighth, while Indonesia, currently fifth, would drop to seventh.