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India

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India (Listeni /ˈɪndiə/), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: भारत गणराज्य Bhārat Gaṇarājya; see also official names of India), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world.[16] Mainland India is bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east; and it is bordered by Pakistan to the west;[note 1] Bhutan, the People's Republic of China and Nepal to the north; and Bangladesh and Burma to the east. In the Indian Ocean, mainland India and the Lakshadweep Islands are in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands share maritime border with Thailand and the Indonesian island of Sumatra in the Andaman Sea.[17] India has a coastline of 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi).[18]

Home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history.[19] Four of the world's major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism—originated here, while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam arrived in the first millennium CE and shaped the region's diverse culture. Gradually annexed by the British East India Company from the early 18th century and colonised by the United Kingdom from the mid-19th century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence which was marked by a non-violent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi.

India is a federal constitutional republic with a parliamentary democracy consisting of 28 states and seven union territories. A pluralistic, multilingual and multiethnic society where more than 400[20] languages are spoken, India is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats. The Indian economy is the world's eleventh largest economy by nominal GDP and the fourth largest by purchasing power parity. Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1991, India has become one of the fastest growing major economies in the world;[21] however, the country continues to face several poverty, illiteracy, corruption and public health related challenges. India is classified as a newly industrialised country and is one of the four BRIC nations.[22][23] It is the world's sixth de facto recognised nuclear weapons state and has the third-largest standing armed force in the world, while its military expenditure ranks tenth in the world.[24] India is a regional power in South Asia.[25]

It is a founding member of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the World Trade Organization, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the East Asia Summit, the G20 and the G8+5; a member of the Commonwealth of Nations; and an observer state in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Etymology

The name India is derived from Indus, which is derived from the Old Persian word Hindu, from Sanskrit सिन्धु Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the Indus River.[26] The ancient Greeks referred to the Indians as Indoi (Ινδοί), the people of the Indus.[27] The Constitution of India and common usage in various Indian languages also recognise Bharat (pronounced [ˈbʱaːrət̪]  ( listen)) as an official name of equal status.[28] The name Bharat is derived from the name of the legendary king Bharata in Hindu scriptures. Hindustan ([ɦɪnd̪ʊˈst̪aːn]  ( listen)), originally a Persian word for “Land of the Hindus” referring to northern India and Pakistan before 1947, is also occasionally used as a synonym for all of India.[29]

History

Stone Age rock shelters with paintings at the Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh are the earliest known traces of human life in India. The first known permanent settlements appeared about 8,500 years ago and gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilisation,[30] dating back to 3400 BCE in western India. It was followed by the Vedic period, which laid the foundations of Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society, and ended in the 500s BCE. From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the country.[31]

 

Paintings at the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, 6th century

In the 3rd century BCE, most of South Asia was united into the Maurya Empire by Chandragupta Maurya and flourished under Ashoka the Great.[32] From the 3rd century CE, the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as ancient "India's Golden Age".[33][34] Empires in southern India included those of the Chalukyas, the Cholas and the Vijayanagara Empire. Science, technology, engineering, art, logic, language, literature, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.

Following Islamic invasions from Central Asia between the 10th and 12th centuries, much of northern India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire. Under the rule of Akbar the Great, India enjoyed much cultural and economic progress as well as religious harmony.[35][36] The Mughals also forged a strategic alliance with several Hindu Rajput kingdoms.[37] However, some Rajput kings, such as Maharana Pratap, continued to pose significant threat to Mughal dominance of northwestern India.[38] Additionally, regional empires in southern and northeastern India, such as the Ahoms of Assam, successfully resisted Mughal subjugation. The reign of Aurangzeb saw the enforcement of strict Muslim fundamentalism which caused rebellions among the Sikhs and Hindu Rajputs.[39][40] By early 1700s, the Sikh Empire and the Hindu Marathas had emerged as formidable foes of the Mughals.[41] Following the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire entered a period of gradual decline and by mid-18th century, a large portion of the Mughal territory came under the control of the Maratha Empire.[42]

From the 16th century, European imperialist nations, such as Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, and Great Britain, established trading posts in India and later took advantage of various internal conflicts to establish colonies. By 1856, most of India had come under the control of the British East India Company.[43] A year later, a nationwide insurrection of rebelling military units and kingdoms seriously challenged the Company's control but eventually failed. As a result of the instability, India was brought under the direct rule of the British Crown. Between 1860 and 1900, the Indian subcontinent suffered some of the worst famines in its history causing the death of about 14.5 million people.[44]

 

Mahatma Gandhi (right) with Jawaharlal Nehru, 1937. Nehru would go on to become India's first prime minister in 1947.

In the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress (INC) and other political organisations.[45] Some Indian radical revolutionaries led armed rebellions against the British Raj.[46] However, the defining aspect of the Indian independence movement was the nonviolent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi and the INC.[47] Under the leadership of Gandhi, millions of Indians participated in the Quit India civil disobedience movement against the British Raj.[48]

In September 1939, India declared war on Germany and at the height of the World War II, more than 2.5 million Indian soldiers were fighting against the Axis powers.[49] The Indian Army was one of the largest Allied forces contingents which took part in the North and East African, Western Desert and the Italian Campaign and played a crucial role in halting the progress of Imperial Japan in the South-East Asian theatre. [50][51] However, certain Indian nationalists collaborated with the Axis powers to overthrow the British Raj. The Indian National Army (INA), led by Subhash Chandra Bose, forged an alliance with the Axis powers and fought an unsuccessful military campaign against British India.[52]

In 1943, a perceived shortage of food leading to large-scale hoarding and soaring food prices coupled with poor food distribution mechanism and inadequate response of the British officials resulted in a catastrophic famine in the Bengal region which killed about 1.5 to 3 million people.[53][54] After World War II, a number of mutinies broke out in the Air Force and Navy and the INA trials caused considerable public unrest.[55][56] On 15 August 1947, the British Raj was dissolved following which the Muslim-majority areas were partitioned which led to the creation of a separate sovereign dominion known as Pakistan.[57] The partition led to a population transfer of more than 10 million people between India and Pakistan and the death of about one million people.[58]

Soon after the end of the British Raj, the accession of the 552 princely states to the Union of India went smoothly with the exception of Junagadh, Kashmir and Hyderabad.[59] Junagadh acceded to Pakistan which caused considerable internal unrest.[60] As a consequence, India militarily occupied Junagadh and held a plebiscite, following which Junagadh joined India.[61] After negotiations between India and then Nizam of Hyderabad ended in a stalemate, India launched a successful "police action" to annex Hyderabad.[61] Facing deteriorating political situation, unrest among the Muslim-majority populace and a Pakistani military invasion, the then Maharaja of Kashmir decided to seek military assistance from India and signed the Instrument of Accession.[61][62] The subsequent armed conflict between India and Pakistan ended in December 1948 and the Line of Control formed the de facto border between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir.[63]

On 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a new constitution came into effect under which the country was established as a secular and a democratic state.[64] In 1961, India successfully invaded Goa to liberate it from Portuguese rule, following which Goa was incorporated into the Indian union.[65] India's unresolved territorial disputes with the People's Republic of China escalated into the 1962 Sino-Indian War, which resulted in India losing control over northeastern Ladakh region. In 1965, Pakistan's failed attempt to infiltrate and invade Indian Kashmir triggered the Second Kashmir War.[66] A third major war broke out between India and Pakistan in 1971 which resulted in a decisive Indian victory and the creation of Bangladesh.[67] During the early 1970s, Sikkim faced a popular pro-democratic movement and a referendum was held in 1975, following which Sikkim merged with India.[68] In the 1980s, India launched a successful military offensive in Siachen which helped it gain control over most of the region.[69] In 1999, Pakistani soldiers infiltrated into the Kargil region of Indian Kashmir,[70] following which India responded with a successful military campaign to drive out the infiltrators.[71]

Since independence, India has faced challenges from religious violence, casteism, naxalism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies, especially in Kashmir and northeastern region. India became a a nuclear state when it conducted its first nuclear test in 1974,[72] which was followed by another five tests in 1998.[72] From the 1950s to the 1980s, India followed socialist-inspired policies. The economy was shackled by extensive regulation, protectionism and public ownership, leading to pervasive corruption and slow economic growth.[73] Beginning in 1991, significant economic reforms[74] have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, increasing its global clout.[21]

Geography

Map of India. Most of India is yellow (elevation 100–1000 m). Some areas in the south and mideast are brown (above 1000 m). Major river valleys are green (below 100 m).

Topographic map of India.

The territory controlled by India, the major portion of the Indian subcontinent, lies between latitudes and 36° N, and longitudes 68° and 98° E. The country sits atop the Indian tectonic plate, a minor plate within the Indo-Australian Plate.[75]

India's defining geological processes commenced seventy-five million years ago, when the Indian subcontinent, then part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, began a northeastwards drift—lasting fifty million years—across the then unformed Indian Ocean.[75] The subcontinent's subsequent collision with the Eurasian Plate and subduction under it, gave rise to the Himalayas, the planet's highest mountains, which now abut India in the north and the north-east.[75] In the former seabed immediately south of the emerging Himalayas, plate movement created a vast trough, which, having gradually been filled with river-borne sediment,[76] now forms the Indo-Gangetic Plain.[77] To the west of this plain, and cut off from it by the Aravalli Range, lies the Thar Desert.[78]

The original Indian plate now survives as peninsular India, the oldest and most geologically stable part of India, and extends as far north as the Satpura and Vindhya ranges in central India. These parallel ranges run from the Arabian Sea coast in Gujarat in the west to the coal-rich Chota Nagpur Plateau in Jharkhand in the east.[79] To their south, the remaining peninsular landmass, the Deccan Plateau, is flanked on the left and right by the coastal ranges, Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats respectively;[80] the plateau contains the oldest rock formations in India, some over one billion years old. Constituted in such fashion, India lies to the north of the equator between 6°44' and 35°30' north latitude[81] and 68°7' and 97°25' east longitude.[82]

 

The Himalayas form the mountainous landscape of northern India. Seen here is Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.

India's coast is 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi) long; of this distance, 5,423 kilometres (3,400 mi) belong to peninsular India, and 2,094 kilometres (1,300 mi) to the Andaman, Nicobar, and Lakshadweep Islands.[18] According to the Indian naval hydrographic charts, the mainland coast consists of the following: 43% sandy beaches, 11% rocky coast including cliffs, and 46% mudflats or marshy coast.[18]

Major Himalayan-origin rivers that substantially flow through India include the Ganges (Ganga) and the Brahmaputra, both of which drain into the Bay of Bengal.[83] Important tributaries of the Ganges include the Yamuna and the Kosi, whose extremely low gradient causes disastrous floods every year. Major peninsular rivers whose steeper gradients prevent their waters from flooding include the Godavari, the Mahanadi, the Kaveri, and the Krishna, which also drain into the Bay of Bengal;[84] and the Narmada and the Tapti, which drain into the Arabian Sea.[85] Among notable coastal features of India are the marshy Rann of Kutch in western India, and the alluvial Sundarbans delta, which India shares with Bangladesh.[86] India has two archipelagos: the Lakshadweep, coral atolls off India's south-western coast; and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a volcanic chain in the Andaman Sea.[87]

Climate

India's climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, both of which drive the monsoons.[88] The Himalayas prevent cold Central Asian Katabatic wind from blowing in, keeping the bulk of the Indian subcontinent warmer than most locations at similar latitudes.[89][90] The Thar Desert plays a crucial role in attracting the moisture-laden southwest summer monsoon winds that, between June and October, provide the majority of India's rainfall.[88] Four major climatic groupings predominate in India: tropical wet, tropical dry, subtropical humid, and montane.[91]

Biodiversity

 

The Bengal tiger is the national animal of India.[92] India is home to about half of the world's tiger population but the future of the species is threatened by habitat degradation and poaching.[93]

India, which lies within the Indomalaya ecozone, displays significant biodiversity. One of the seventeen megadiverse countries, it is home to 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of all avian, 6.2% of all reptilian, 4.4% of all amphibian, 11.7% of all fish, and 6.0% of all flowering plant species.[94] Many ecoregions, such as the shola forests, exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic.[95][96]

India's forest cover ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats, and northeastern India to the coniferous forest of the Himalaya. Between these extremes lie the sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; the teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain.[97] Important Indian trees include the medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies. The pipal fig tree, shown on the seals of Mohenjo-daro, shaded Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment. According to latest report, less than 12% of India's landmass is covered by dense forests.[98]

Many Indian species are descendants of taxa originating in Gondwana, from which the Indian plate separated. Peninsular India's subsequent movement towards, and collision with, the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. However, volcanism and climatic changes 20 million years ago caused the extinction of many endemic Indian forms.[99] Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalaya.[97] Consequently, among Indian species, only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are endemic, contrasting with 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians.[94] Notable endemics are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and the brown and carmine Beddome's toad of the Western Ghats. India contains 172, or 2.9%, of IUCN-designated threatened species.[100] These include the Asiatic Lion, the Bengal Tiger, and the Indian white-rumped vulture, which suffered a near-extinction from ingesting the carrion of diclofenac-treated cattle.

In recent decades, human encroachment has posed a threat to India's wildlife; in response, the system of national parks and protected areas, first established in 1935, was substantially expanded. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act[101] and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat; in addition, the Forest Conservation Act[102] was enacted in 1980. Along with more than five hundred wildlife sanctuaries, India hosts thirteen biosphere reserves,[103] four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; twenty-five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.[104]

Politics

The Secretariat Building, in New Delhi, houses key government offices.

India is the most populous democracy in the world.[16][105] It is a parliamentary republic and operates under a multi-party system.[106] There are six recognised national parties, such as Indian National Congress (INC) and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), and more than 40 regional parties.[107] From 1950 to 1990, barring two brief periods, the INC enjoyed a parliamentary majority. Since late 1980s, politics in India has been dominated mostly by the INC and the BJP;[108] however, the emergence of several influential regional parties has often necessitated the formation of multi-party coalition government.[109]

Within Indian political culture, the INC is considered centre-left or "liberal" and the BJP is considered centre-right or "conservative". The INC was out of power between 1977 and 1980, when the Janata Party won the election owing to public discontent with the state of emergency declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1989, a Janata Dal-led National Front coalition in alliance with the Left Front coalition won the elections but managed to stay in power for only two years.[110] As the 1991 elections gave no political party a majority, the INC formed a minority government under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and was able to complete its five-year term.[111]

The years 1996–1998 were a period of turmoil in the federal government with several short-lived alliances holding sway. The BJP formed a government briefly in 1996, followed by the United Front coalition that excluded both the BJP and the INC. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with several other parties and became the first non-Congress government to complete a full five-year term.[112]

In the 2004 Indian elections, the INC won the largest number of Lok Sabha seats and formed a government with a coalition called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), supported by various Left-leaning parties and members opposed to the BJP. The UPA again came into power in the 2009 general election; however, the representation of the Left leaning parties within the coalition has significantly reduced.[113] Manmohan Singh became the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962 to be re-elected after completing a full five-year term.[114]

Government

India National Symbols of India[115][116]

Flag

Tricolour

Emblem

Sarnath Lion Capital

Anthem

Jana Gana Mana

Song

Vande Mataram

Animal

Royal Bengal Tiger

Bird

Indian Peacock

Aquatic animal

Dolphin

 

Flower

Lotus

Tree

Banyan

Fruit

Mango

Sport

Field hockey

Calendar

Saka

River

Ganges

India is a federation with a parliamentary form of government, governed under the Constitution of India.[117] It is a constitutional republic and representative democracy, "in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law." Federalism in India defines the power distribution between the centre and the states. The government is regulated by a checks and balances defined by Indian Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.

The Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950.[118] The preamble of the constitution defines India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic.[119] India has a bicameral parliament operating under a Westminster-style parliamentary system. Its form of government was traditionally described as being 'quasi-federal' with a strong centre and weaker states,[120] but it has grown increasingly federal since the late 1990s as a result of political, economic and social changes.[121]

The President of India is the head of state[122] elected indirectly by an electoral college[123] for a five-year term.[124][125] The Prime Minister is the head of government and exercises most executive power.[122] Appointed by the President,[126] the Prime Minister is by convention supported by the party or political alliance holding the majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament.[122] The executive branch consists of the President, Vice-President, and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet being its executive committee) headed by the Prime Minister. Any minister holding a portfolio must be a member of either house of parliament. In the Indian parliamentary system, the executive is subordinate to the legislature, with the Prime Minister and his Council being directly responsible to the lower house of the Parliament.[127]

The Legislature of India is the bicameral Parliament, which consists of the upper house called the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the lower house called the Lok Sabha (House of People).[128] The Rajya Sabha, a permanent body, has 245 members serving staggered six year terms.[129] Most are elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures in proportion to the state's population.[129] 543 of the Lok Sabha's 545 members are directly elected by popular vote to represent individual constituencies for five year terms.[129] The other two members are nominated by the President from the Anglo-Indian community if the President is of the opinion that the community is not adequately represented.[129]

Judiciary

India has a unitary three-tier judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India, 21 High Courts, and a large number of trial courts.[130] The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases involving fundamental rights and over disputes between states and the Centre, and appellate jurisdiction over the High Courts.[131] It is judicially independent,[130] and has the power to declare the law and to strike down Union or State laws which contravene the Constitution.[132] The role as the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution is one of the most important functions of the Supreme Court.[133]

Administrative divisions

India consists of 28 states and seven Union Territories.[134] All states, and the two union territories of Puducherry and the National Capital Territory of Delhi, have elected legislatures and governments patterned on the Westminster model. The other five union territories are directly ruled by the Centre through appointed administrators. In 1956, under the States Reorganisation Act, states were formed on a linguistic basis.[135] Since then, this structure has remained largely unchanged. Each state or union territory is further divided into administrative districts.[136] The districts in turn are further divided into tehsils and eventually into villages.

Map of India showing its states and territories

The 28 states and 7 union territories of India

States:

  1. Andhra Pradesh

  2. Arunachal Pradesh

  3. Assam

  4. Bihar

  5. Chhattisgarh

  6. Goa

  7. Gujarat

  1. Haryana

  2. Himachal Pradesh

  3. Jammu and Kashmir

  4. Jharkhand

  5. Karnataka

  6. Kerala

  7. Madhya Pradesh

  1. Maharashtra

  2. Manipur

  3. Meghalaya

  4. Mizoram

  5. Nagaland

  6. Orissa

  7. Punjab

  1. Rajasthan

  2. Sikkim

  3. Tamil Nadu

  4. Tripura

  5. Uttar Pradesh

  6. Uttarakhand

  7. West Bengal

Union Territories:

  1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands

  2. Chandigarh

  3. Dadra and Nagar Haveli

  4. Daman and Diu

  5. Lakshadweep

  6. National Capital Territory of Delhi

  7. Puducherry


 

Foreign relations

 

India and Russia share an extensive economic, defence and technological relationship.[137] Shown here is PM Manmohan Singh with President Dmitry Medvedev at the 34th G8 Summit.

Since its independence in 1947, India has maintained cordial relationships with most nations. In the 1950s, it strongly advocated for the independence of European colonies in Africa and Asia and played a pioneering role in the Non-Aligned Movement.[138][139] India was involved in two brief military interventions in neighbouring countries – the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka and Operation Cactus in Maldives. India has a tense relationship with neighbouring Pakistan and the two countries went to war in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. Most of these conflicts were fought over the Kashmir dispute, with the exception of the 1971 war where the dispute primarily concerned the civil unrest in erstwhile East Pakistan.[67] After the Sino-Indian War and the 1965 war, India developed close military and economic relations with the Soviet Union and by late 1960s, the Soviet Union had emerged as the largest supplier of military arms to India.[140]

India continues to maintain strategic relations with Russia and also enjoys extensive defence relations with Israel and France. In recent years, it has played an influential role in the SAARC and the WTO.[141] India has provided as many as 55,000 Indian military and police personnel to serve in thirty-five UN peacekeeping operations across four continents.[142] India is also an active participant in various multilateral forums, particularly the East Asia Summit and the G8+5.[143][144] In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with other developing nations in South America, Asia and Africa. Since early 2000s, India has vigorously pursued its "Look East" policy which has helped it increase its collaboration with the ASEAN nations, Japan and South Korea on a range of issues, particularly economic investment and regional security.[145][146]

Recent overtures by the Indian government have enhanced India's economic, strategic and military cooperation with the United States and the European Union.[147] In 2008, a civilian nuclear agreement between India and the United States was signed, prior to which India received waivers from the IAEA and the NSG which ended restrictions on nuclear technology commerce, even though India possesses nuclear weapons and is not a signatory of the NPT. As a consequence, India became the world's sixth de facto recognised nuclear weapons state.[148] Following the NSG waiver, India has also signed civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreements with other nations including Russia,[149] France,[150] the United Kingdom,[151] and Canada.[152]

Military

 

India maintains the third-largest military force in the world, which consists of the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and auxiliary forces such as the Paramilitary Forces, the Coast Guard, and the Strategic Forces Command.[64] The official Indian defence budget for 2010 stood at US$31.9 billion (or 2.12% of GDP).[154] According to a 2008 SIPRI report, India's annual military expenditure in terms of PPP stood at US$72.7 billion.[155] The President of India is the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces. Defence contractors, such as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), oversee indigenous development of sophisticated arms and military equipment, including ballistic missiles, fighter aircraft and main battle tanks, to reduce India's dependence on foreign imports.

China's repeated threats to intervene in the 1965 war in support of Pakistan convinced India to develop nuclear weapons to counter Chinese nuclear tests.[156] India conducted its first nuclear weapons test in 1974 and carried out further underground testing in 1998. Despite criticism and military sanctions, India has consistently refused to sign the CTBT and the NPT which it considers to be flawed and discriminatory.[157] India maintains a "no first use" nuclear policy and is developing a nuclear triad capability as a part of its "minimum credible deterrence" doctrine.[158][159] India also has an advanced ballistic missile defence shield development program and is developing a fifth generation fighter jet in collaboration with Russia.[160][161] Other major indigenous military development projects include Vikrant class aircraft carriers and Arihant class nuclear submarines.[162][163]

Economy

 

The Bombay Stock Exchange, in Mumbai, is Asia's oldest and India's largest stock exchange by market capitalisation.

According to the International Monetary Fund, India's nominal GDP stood at US$1.3 trillion, which makes it the eleventh-largest economy in the world,[164] corresponding to a per capita income of US$1,000.[165] If purchasing power parity (PPP) is taken into account, India's economy is the fourth largest in the world at US$3.6 trillion.[166] The country ranks 142th in nominal GDP per capita and 127th in GDP per capita at PPP.[164] With an average annual GDP growth rate of 5.8% for the past two decades, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.[167]

Before 1991, the Indian government followed protectionist and socialist-inspired policies because of which the Indian economy was largely closed to the outside world and suffered from extensive state intervention and regulation.[168] After an acute balance of payments crisis, the nation liberalised its economy and has since moved towards a free-market economy.[169][170] Since then, the emphasis has been to use foreign trade and investment as integral parts of India's economy.[171] Currently, India's economic system is portrayed as a capitalist model with the influx of private enterprise.[170]

India has the world's second largest labour force, with 467 million people.[172] In terms of output, the agricultural sector accounts for 28% of GDP; the service and industrial sectors make up 54% and 18% respectively. Major agricultural products include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, potatoes.[134] Major industries include textiles, telecommunications, chemicals, food processing, steel, transport equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery and software.[134] India's external trade has reached a relatively moderate share of 24% of GDP in 2006, up from 6% in 1985.[169] In 2008, India's share of world trade was about 1.68%;[173] in 2009, it was the world's fifteenth largest importer and eighteenth largest exporter.[174] Major exports include petroleum products, textile goods, gems and jewelry, software, engineering goods, chemicals, and leather manufactures.[134] Major imports include crude oil, machinery, gems, fertiliser, chemicals.[134]

Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car.[175] India's annual car exports have surged fivefold in the past five years.[176]

During the late 2000s, India's economic growth averaged 7.5% a year.[169] Over the past decade, hourly wage rates in India have more than doubled.[177] According to a 2007 McKinsey Global Institute report, since 1985, India's robust economic growth has shifted 431 million Indians out of poverty and by 2030, India's middle class population will rise to more than 580 million people.[178] India ranks 51st in the Global Competitiveness Report and if diversified, it ranked 16th in financial market sophistication, 24th in banking sector, 27th in business sophistication and 30th in innovation; ahead of several advanced economies.[179] Seven of the world's top 15 technology outsourcing companies are based in India and the country is viewed as the second most favourable outsourcing destination after the United States.[180] India's consumer market is currently the world's thirteenth largest and is expected to become the fifth largest by 2030.[178] India has the world's fastest growing telecommunication industry, adding about 10 million subscribers during 2008–09 period.[181] The country has the world's second fastest growing automobile industry, with domestic sales increasing by 26% during the 2009–10 period[182] and exports increasing by 36% during the 2008–09 period.[183]

Despite India's impressive economic growth over recent decades, the country continues to face various socio-economic challenges. Though the percentage of people living below the World Bank's international poverty line of $1.25/day decreased from 60% in 1981 to 42% in 2005,[184] the country still contains the largest concentration of poor people in the world.[185] Since 1991, inter-state economic inequality in India has consistently grown; the per capita net state domestic product of India's richest states is about 3.2 times that of the poorest states.[186] Perception about corruption in India has also increased significantly[187] and according to one estimate, since independence India has lost US$462 billion in illegal capital flows.[188] Half of the children in India are underweight[189] and about 46% of Indian children under the age of three suffer from malnutrition.[185]

According to a 2011 PwC report, in terms of PPP, India's GDP will overtake that of Japan in 2011 and by 2045, India's GDP will surpass that of the United States.[190] Additionally, over the next four decades, India's average annual economic growth rate is expected to stand at about 8% and therefore, it has the potential to be the world's fastest growing major economy over the period to 2050.[190] The report also highlighted some of the key factors behind India's high economic growth rate — young and rapidly growing working age population; growth of manufacturing sector due to strong engineering skills and rising levels of education; and sustained growth of consumer market due to rapidly growing middle class population.[190] However, the World Bank suggests that for India to achieve its economic potential, it must continue to focus on public sector reform, transport infrastructure, agricultural and rural development, removal of labour regulations, education, energy security, and public health and nutrition.[191]

Demographics

 

Population density map of India.

With an estimated population of 1.2 billion,[10] India is the world's second most populous country. The last 50 years have seen a rapid increase in population due to medical advances and massive increase in agricultural productivity due to the "green revolution".[192][193] The percentage of Indian population living in urban areas has consistently grown; from 1991 to 2001, India's urban population increased by 31.2%.[194] In 2001, about 285 million Indians lived in urban areas while more than 70% of India's population resided in rural areas.[195][196] As per the 2001 census, there are twenty seven million-plus cities,[194] with the largest cities being Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.

India's literacy rate is 64.8% (53.7% for females and 75.3% for males).[64] The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate at 91% while Bihar has the lowest at 47%.[197][198] The national human sex ratio is 944 females per 1,000 males. India's median age is 24.9, and the population growth rate of 1.38% per annum; there are 22.01 births per 1,000 people per year.[64] Though India has one of the world's most diverse and modern healthcare systems, the country continues to face several public health-related challenges.[199][200] According to the World Health Organization, 900,000 Indians die each year from drinking contaminated water and breathing in polluted air.[201] There are about 60 physicians per 100,000 people in India.[202]

The Indian Constitution recognises 212 scheduled tribal groups which together constitute about 7.5% of the country's population.[203] As per the 2001 census, over 800 million Indians (80.5%) were Hindu. Other religious groups include Muslims (13.4%), Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.9%), Buddhists (0.8%), Jains (0.4%), Jews, Zoroastrians and Bahá'ís.[204] India has the world's third-largest Muslim population and the largest Muslim population for a non-Muslim majority country.

Languages

India is home to two major linguistic families: Indo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (spoken by about 24%). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman linguistic families. Neither the Constitution of India, nor any Indian law defines any national language.[8] Hindi, with the largest number of speakers,[205] is the official language of the union.[206] English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a 'subsidiary official language;'[207] it is also important in education, especially as a medium of higher education. In addition, every state and union territory has its own official languages, and the constitution also recognises in particular 21 "scheduled languages".

Culture

The Taj Mahal in Agra was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his deceased wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered to be of "outstanding universal value".[208]

India's culture is marked by a high degree of syncretism[209] and cultural pluralism.[210] India's cultural tradition dates back to 8000 BCE[211] and has a continuously recorded history for over 2,500 years.[212] With its roots based in the Indus Valley Tradition, the Indian culture took a distinctive shape during the 11th century BCE Vedic age which laid the foundation of Hindu philosophy, mythology, literary tradition and beliefs and practices, such as dhárma, kárma, yóga and mokṣa.