(From Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia)


India, the world's second most populous nation (after China) and the seventh largest in area, is located in South Asia on the Indian subcontinent. It is about 3,000 km (1,865 mi) wide. Because of its peninsular shape, India has a shoreline of approximately 7,000 km (4,350 mi) along the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. Its land frontier of some 5,700 km (3,540 mi) is shared with Pakistan on the west; with China (mostly Tibet), Nepal, and >Bhutan on the north; and with Bangladesh and Myanmar on the east. India's seventh neighbor is the island nation of Sri Lanka, located off the southern tip of the peninsula. Northeast India is virtually isolated from the rest of the nation by the country of Bangladesh. Also part of India are the Laccadive Islands (Lakshadweep), off the southwestern coast, and the Andaman and Nicobar islands, located in the eastern portion of the Bay of Bengal.

India and Bharat are both official names of the country. The early settlers called their land "Bharat Varsha" or "Bharat." During medieval times it was known as "Hind." The name India derives from the Indus River. It was used by the ancient Greeks and Persians and came into wide usage during the colonial period.

Indian culture is of great antiquity. The earliest Indian civilization grew up in the Indus Valley from 4000 to 2500 B.C. Beginning in about 1500 B.C., Aryan invaders entered India from the northwest and intermingled with the local Dravidian population. The foundations of Indian society, including Hinduism and the caste system, were established from these two groups. Buddhism and Jainism also began in ancient India. The culture was subject to strong Islamic influences beginning in the 11th century and continuing under the Mogul empire (established 1526). After 1750 the subcontinent was absorbed piecemeal into the British Empire, the local princes and rulers retaining some of their autonomy.

India gained its independence from Great Britian on Aug. 15, 1947. At this time, two predominantly Muslim regions in the northwestern and northeastern corners of the subcontinent became the separate state of Pakistan. The modern country of India is a union of 28 states— Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, and West Bengal—and 6 union territories—Daman and Diu, Pondicherry, Andaman and Nicobar islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Halevi, and Lakshadweep. The National Capital Territory of Delhi is generally also classed as a state, although it lacks official statehood status. In 1956 the map of India was largely redrawn as provisions were made for reorganization of the states along linguistic lines; the goal of this reorganization was preserving regional cultures and aspirations. A policy of "democratic decentralization" provides states with a large measure of self-government. India's newest states—Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal, and Jharkhand—were carved out of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, respectively, in 2000.

Today India ranks among the top ten industrial nations in the world. The huge population is growing as rapidly as the economy, however. Therefore, the primarily rural population of this huge, developing nation has one of the world's lowest per-capita incomes. Despite the accompanying social and political stresses, and despite a brief period of authoritarian rule (1975–77) under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, India remains the world's largest democracy.


India can be divided into three main topographic regions: the Himalayan mountain system, on the north; the Northern Plains, drained by the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra rivers in north central India; and Peninsular India, in the south.

The Himalayas form parts of India's borders with Pakistan and Tibet in the west and with Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet in the east. The region is topographically complex and divided into prominent elongated valleys and mountain ranges. The highest mountains are in the Karakoram Range; there, more than 30 peaks rise above 7,300 m (24,000 ft). South of the Karakoram are the Great Himalayas; this range includes Nanda Devi (7,817 m/25,645 ft), the highest peak in the country. Between the two major ranges is the narrow valley of the Upper Indus River. Southwest of the Great Himalayas and between them and the lower front ranges of the mountain system is the 160-km-long (100-mi) Vale of Kashmir, which focuses on the town of Srinagar. To the east, the mountains form most of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Northern Plains are part of a vast lowland extending across the subcontinent from Pakistan in the west to Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) in the east. The plains are bordered on the north by the foothills of the Himalayas. South of the Bramaputra basin are the Khasi Hills and Shillong Plateau. South of the Indo-Gangetic Plain rise the uplands of Peninsular India. In India, this lowland has a length of about 1,600 km (1,000 mi) from east to west and a width of about 320 km (200 mi). It is drained in the west by the Beas and Sutlej rivers, which are tributaries of the Indus; in the east by the Brahmaputra; and in the rest of India by the Ganges and its many tributaries and distributaries. The Northern Plains are floored by alluvial deposits derived mainly from the Himalayas and deposited over the lowland by the major rivers.

Peninsular India is geologically the oldest part of India. Ancient crystalline and metamorphic rocks underlie most of the region; basaltic lavas (igneous rocks) cover parts of the Deccan Plateau. Topographically, the surface of the peninsula is tilted down toward the east and north, with a belt of prominent uplands along the western edge. These uplands, reaching more than 2,500 m (8,000 ft), include the Western Ghats and the Nilgiri Hills. The northern edge of the peninsula, although lower, is also prominent. It forms the Aravalli Range in the west and the jungle-covered Chota Nagpur Plateau in the east. Only a very narrow coastal plain lies between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. More extensive plains, including the deltas of the Cauveri, Krishna, Mahanadi, and Damodar rivers, line the east coast.


The four principal soil types in India are mountain (or immature) soils, alluvial soils, regur soils, and red soils. Mountain soils are found in upland areas too steep for regular soil development; they range in texture from sandy in the drier Aravallis to clays in the wetter Himalayas. Alluvial soils cover the broad floodplains of the Indo-Gangetic valley and the Brahmaputra basin, the smaller river valleys and deltas of the peninsula, and the coastal lowlands. These soils range from sandy loams to clays; they are generally fertile but are sometimes saline when improperly irrigated. The regur soils are rich, fertile black soils found in the sections of the peninsula covered with basaltic lavas; they also appear in some eastern and southern regions. Red soils cover most of the peninsula; they are less fertile, as are patches of nutrient-deficient lateritic soils.


The Rajasthan Desert in northwestern India has a semiarid climate. The majority of India, however, has a tropical monsoonal climate associated with a wind reversal between summer and winter. In summer low-pressure areas develop over the subcontinent as the land heats up, and summer monsoon winds are drawn onto the land from the surrounding seas. These moisture-laden winds release heavy rainfall when they reach the coast or are forced to rise over mountains. Summers (mid-June to mid-September) are accordingly wet and hot, with temperatures between 27° and 32° C (81° and 90° F). In winter high pressures build over the land; winds then blow predominantly from the land to the sea. Winter in India (mid-December to mid-March) is predominantly dry and cool, with temperatures averaging 21° C (70° F). Before the summer rains, a hot and dry premonsoonal season lasts from mid-March to mid-June; it is associated with temperatures between 38° and 43° C (100° and 110° F). A transitional postmonsoonal season occurs as the monsoons retreat (mid-September to mid-December); it is associated with light and sporadic rainfall and temperatures around 25° C (77° F). Cooler, more temperate conditions prevail in the Himalayas and decrease with altitude.

Precipitation ranges from almost zero in the Thar Desert to 10,870 mm (428 in) annually in the Shillong Plateau, which is one of the wettest places in the world. Rainfall is generally heaviest in coastal and highland areas and diminishes inland. Amounts vary widely from year to year, especially in inland areas. Dry years often cause widespread crop failures. In 2000, for example, western India suffered the worst drought in a century due to the failure of the 1999 monsoon rains. In the fall of 2000, unusually heavy monsoon rains in northwestern India led to the worst flooding in decades and displaced millions of people from their homes; more devastation took place in the summer of 2005, when more than 1,000 people died due to record-breaking rains in the state of Maharashtra that affected some 20 million people. Crop damage may also occur on a smaller scale in parts of eastern India when "nor-westers" and Bay of Bengal cyclones strike the land. Occurring most often in May and early June, they take the form of tornadoes, whirlwinds, hailstorms, and heavy downpours.


The principal river in India is the Ganges (Ganga). The Ganges rises in the Himalayas and flows across the Northern Plains in a broad, meandering course to reach the sea at the Bay of Bengal. Most of the Ganges reaches the sea through multiple distributaries in Bangladesh; its main distributary in India is the Hooghly River, which flows through Calcutta. The major tributaries of the Ganges are the Brahmaputra<, which joins the Ganges near its mouth in Bangladesh, and the Yamuna, Gogra, Gandak, and Kosi rivers. In northern India the major drainage basin is that of the Indus. Although most of the Indus basin lies in Pakistan, the headwaters of the Indus and two of its largest tributaries, the Sutlej and the Beas, are partly in India; they are used heavily for irrigation. The chief rivers of Peninsular India are the Chambal, Son, Mahanadi, Godavary, Krishna, Cauveri, Narmada, and Tapi. Principal lakes include the Chilka, Kolleru, Pulicat, Lonar, Pushkar, and Wular. A coastal swamp, the Sundarban, fringes the Ganges delta. The Rann of Kutch is a saline swamp in northwestern India and southern Pakistan, off the Arabian Sea coast.

The annual regime of river flow in India is controlled by climatic conditions. Rivers flowing from the Himalayas experience two high-water seasons. The first, in early summer, is caused by snowmelt in the mountains. The second, in late summer, is caused by runoff from monsoonal rains. Other rivers experience high waters only during the monsoon, followed by periods of diminished flow, when many of the smaller rivers run dry. To counteract this marked periodicity of river flow, groundwater wells and tube wells are widely used for irrigation in the Northern Plains and peninsular delta regions. Many dams have been built on major rivers to regulate river flow and distribute water for an intricate system of irrigation canals.

Vegetation and Animal Life. 

Seven vegetation regions are found in continental India, although the natural cover has been modified by several millennia of human occupation. In the western Himalayas vegetation changes with altitude from temperate deciduous forests at low elevations through coniferous forests to Alpine vegetation above the tree line. The eastern Himalayas have more extensive deciduous forest cover. In northeastern India, east of Bangladesh, vegetation cover ranges from tropical evergreen in the wet lowlands to temperate deciduous forest in drier and cooler areas. The semiarid Punjab-Rajasthan-Gujarat region supports mainly scrub vegetation cover. In the heavily cultivated Ganges Plain, islands of deciduous trees and tuft grasses remain among the agricultural fields. The peninsular uplands support tropical monsoonal deciduous and scrub forest. The wetter slopes of the Western Ghats support a tropical monsoonal deciduous forest, with an evergreen cover in some areas.

India's fauna includes about 500 species of mammals and more than 2,000 species of birds. The elephant, Indian bison, rhinoceros, and tiger live mainly in the wet, forested regions; the Himalayan markhor (ibex) and lion live in the Gir forest. Several of the roughly 90 national parks and numerous wildlife sanctuaries and zoological parks are concerned with conservation of wildlife. In 2002 the government announced a long-term plan to protect the nation's wildlife and its habitats, in part by providing employment for the inhabitants of areas surrounding protected forest areas and wildlife parks and sanctuaries.


India has a rich and varied mineral-resource base. Coal and iron ore are abundant and located close to each other in the Chota Nagpur Plateau in the eastern peninsula. Manganese, lignite, copper, bauxite, kyanite, fire clays, mica, and limestone are found in large quantities. Petroleum occurs offshore from Bombay and in Assam and Gujarat, but is not present in large amounts.

India also has vast land resources. Of the total land area, 23% is under forest, 57.1% is agricultural and under permanent cultivation, and 3.8% is in meadows and pastures. Irrigation is of great importance to the nation's farmers. India has the potential to irrigate 1.07 million km2 (410,000 mi2), but less than 60% of this land is currently irrigated. Canals from the principal rivers provide water to more than 40% of the irrigated area; wells supply water for more than 40%; and tanks service most of the remainder. In 2003 the government announced an ambitious plan to link nearly 30 of the country's rivers in an effort to divert water surpluses to drought-stricken areas.


India has one of the world's most diverse populations, with most of the major races represented. Over thousands of years, countless groups have migrated into the subcontinent. Many of these groups have maintained distinctive cultures down through the ages. India's tribal peoples and the large number of later migrant groups represent a wide variety of physical types and cultural traditions.

The earliest Indians may have migrated from Australia and the South Pacific islands. Most subsequent invading groups, however, entered the subcontinent through the mountain passes in the northwest. A great deal of ethnic, racial, and cultural intermingling occurred during these successive waves of migration. This directly contributed to the pluralistic nature of modern Indian society. Except in the case of isolated tribal groups, linguistic and cultural practices have become far more important bases of classification than racial criteria.


More than 200 languages are spoken in India. This linguistic diversity is a key factor in understanding Indian civilization. Four principal language groups are represented. The most important of these are the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European group (the major linguistic family of Europe) and the Dravidian language group. Hindi, the fourth most widely spoken language in the world, is the language of 30% of the population and the official language of India. Hindi and the other Indo-Aryan languages—including Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, and Urdu—are spoken mainly in the northern part of the country; their script is derived from ancient Sanskrit, which is no longer a spoken language (with the exception of Urdu, which is written in Perso-Arabic script). The leading Dravidian languages—Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada—are spoken in four southern states. Sino-Tibetan and Austroasiatic languages generally survive only in small and isolated regions.

India's state boundaries are drawn largely along linguistic lines. The constitution recognizes 14 regional languages in addition to Hindi and English. English is spoken by nearly 20% of the population; it remains important in government, business, education, and science.


India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Today it is a secular state. Its constitution guarantees religious tolerance to all groups. Hinduism's adherents constitute more than 80% of the population. Another 13% are followers ofIslam. India is therefore one of the four largest Muslim nations in the world, although Muslims generally lag behind Hindus by most social and economic measures. Christians make up roughly 2% of the population; Sikhs, 2%; and Jains and Buddhists, just over 1%. Aside from the Sikh concentration in the Punjab and Parsis> (who practice Zoroastrianism) in the Bombay area, there is no marked regional distribution of religious groups.

The Indian caste system, a prominent facet of Hinduism, is a major social system that groups people according to birth. Although caste should not be confused with class, lower caste groups do perform much of the manual labor and fill most unskilled jobs in the economy. Dalits, formerly known as Untouchables, have traditionally occupied the lowest rung of the social ladder. The Indian constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste; it reserves special quotas in schools, the legislature, and employment for Dalits (some 15% of the population) and tribal peoples (7%). Nevertheless, caste consciousness remains important.


India is the second most populous nation in the world after China; it celebrated the birth of its billionth citizen in May 2000. The population tripled between 1952 and 2000 and continues to increase by more than 15 million a year. Although the birthrate has stabilized, it remains double that of China. Better health care has lowered the death rate and increased life expectancy. In 1998 experts predicted that India would replace China as the world's most populous country by the year 2050 due to its higher birthrate, pointing out that India currently contributed about 20% of the world's annual population growth.

Most of India's people live in more than 500,000 villages where the primary source of livelihood is agriculture. As a result of a British policy that encouraged migration from urban to rural areas, India is more rural today than it was during the height of the Mogul empire. During the colonial period new cities based on trade became the largest cities in India. These newer cities include, in order of population, Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi, Calcutta (Kolkata), and Madras (Chennai). Other cities with populations exceeding 1 million are Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmadabad, Kanpur, Nagpur, and Poona (Pune). Some 2,500 towns and cities have populations exceeding 20,000.

An estimated 25 million people of Indian origin live abroad. In 2006 the government agreed to grant overseas Indian citizenship to the members of this diaspora. This gave them most of the same rights as Indian nationals; they will not, however, be allowed to vote in Indian elections.

Education and Health. 

India's literacy rate more than doubled between 1950 and 1988 and continues to increase. The 2001 census showed a decline in the total number of Indians unable to read and write for the first time since independence. Literacy is higher among men than among women; it is also much higher in urban areas than in rural ones. Education is the responsibility of both the central and state governments. The national government sets major policies, and the states are accountable for their implementation. The education system is free and open to all children through the university level. It provides for eight years of primary education, two years of lower secondary education, and two years of upper secondary education. In all but two states, education is compulsory for children aged 6 to 14, although not all children are able to take advantage of this opportunity. In 2006 a proposed new law reserved nearly 25% of all seats in privately financed schools and colleges for Dalits and other socially and economically disadvantaged groups; such schools had previously been attended mostly by middle- and upper-class children. The plan was subsequently held up in the courts, however. India's universities are generally large, with clusters of affiliated colleges. About 3% of all Indians of the appropriate age attend the nation's more than 11,000 colleges and universities, many of which are overcrowded.

In general, the state governments provide health-care facilities and the national government sponsors and finances programs dealing with epidemic diseases and diseases resulting from traditional deficiencies. In the past two decades, major epidemic diseases such as smallpox have been eliminated and cholera is far less widespread. Inadequate sanitation and nutrition remain primary public-health problems. The number of people infected with the AIDS virus is also increasing dramatically. The total number of those affected (some 5.7 million by the end of 2005) recently surpassed that of South Africa. Nevertheless, it is a much smaller percentage of the total national population (less than 1% as opposed to 18.8% of South Africa's adult population). Some experts predict that AIDS, if unchecked, will infect as many as 25 million Indians by 2010 as it extends beyond high-risk groups. If so, AIDS will likely overwhelm the country's already strained health-care system. Although India is a leading global supplier of generic HIV/AIDS drugs, few Indians are able to afford them.

Western medicine is practiced all over India. Nevertheless, advanced health care is far more available in large cities. Many Indians are still treated by indigenous traditional methods. Family planning, with an emphasis on birth control, has been encouraged by the central government since independence. After widespread public protests over forced sterilizations during 1975–77, though, the government greatly reduced its commitment to the family-planning program.

The Arts. 

Independence has been accompanied by a vigorous promotion of the arts. In the visual arts a revival of Indian folk painting has occurred. There is also new interest in the traditions of the Ajanta-Ellora, Rajasthan, Deccani, Mogul, and Kangra schools of painting. Architecture and sculpture, building on their magnificent ancient and medieval traditions in India, are finding new expressions as Western influences are combined with the old. Traditional handicrafts, such as the textiles, wood- and ivory-carving, metalware, and pottery sought by 18th-century European traders, are being revived for the export market.

In the performing arts a vigorous strengthening of classical Hindustani and Karnatic music has occurred. Many regional dance forms, such as bharata natyam and kathak, have received new recognition. Modern Indian theater stresses regional languages and experiments with new themes and forms; it often emphasizes the stress of modern living and the influence of Western traditions. A strong revival of folk music, dance, and drama has paralleled a rise in the popularity of Western music and dance forms, radio, and television. Perhaps the most popular art form today is motion pictures. Today India has the world's largest filmmaking industry, centered in Bombay and Madras.

Economic Activity

Since independence the Indian government has attempted to pursue a mixed economic policy; it combines features of both a free market and socialist planning. Chief industries such as railroads, automobile manufacturing, and banking are government run. At the same time, many consumer-goods industries and agriculture are in private hands. Under India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, central economic planning emphasized heavy industry, often at the expense of agriculture. Today India ranks among the top ten industrial nations of the world. It has an increasingly powerful middle class, most of whose members live in the largest cities. Many of the country's gains have been absorbed by the expanding population, however.

Since 1991, when the nation faced its worst balance-of-payments crisis since independence, the government has instituted a variety of free-market economic reforms and courted foreign investment. These reforms have still done little to improve the living standards of the poor. By 1998, when the World Bank found that India had become the world's 11th-largest economy, the government announced a major project to improve the nation's infrastructure and provide jobs. There were also efforts to remove government subsidies on basic commodities such as rice, sugar, and flour (which posed a drain on the government budget and reduced the income of farmers); these efforts faced widespread opposition because of their impact on the poor. Some of the U.S. economic sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan after they conducted nuclear tests in May 1998 were lifted in November of that year. More recently, the country's large number of well-educated, English-speaking workers has led many U.S. financial and technical companies to outsource jobs to India.

India's middle class is expanding rapidly; the 20 million households estimated to have incomes exceeding $20,000 in 2000 was expected to increase to 45 million by 2010. But in 2002 it was estimated that 25% of all Indians still remained below the poverty level—although that was down from 40% just four years earlier. With poverty greatest in rural areas, the government launched a huge food-for-work program in late 2004. Under its framework, qualifying farmers in 150 of India's poorest districts would be provided with grain and a small amount of cash for constructing roads, bridges, flood-prevention projects, and other infrastructure. The following year the government introduced a bill that would guarantee 100 days of work annually to one member of each of India's 60 million rural households. The 2006 budget set a growth target of 10%; it called for sizable increases in spending on rural infrastructure, education, and health care. Growth for that year was actually 9%.

Manufacturing and Mining. 

Under British rule, industrial growth in India was inhibited. Since independence, however, the country has achieved near industrial self-sufficiency. Today India produces most of its own chemicals, automobiles, steel, textiles, and even computers and television sets. The rapidly growing high-tech industry is centered on the Bangalore/Madras/Hyderabad area in the south, with other concentrations in New Delhi, Bombay, and Pune. In 1998, India's software exports were valued at $2.7 billion, up from only $150 million in 1991. They continued to grow at a rate of about 50% annually until 2001; after a brief slowdown, growth later resumed. Steel production has more than doubled since 1960. India is self-sufficient in iron and coal but is heavily dependent on foreign oil. The economy was dealt a serious blow in January 2001 when Gujarat, one of India's most heavily industrialized states, was struck by a devastating earthquake; the disaster temporarily shut down many of the country's pharmaceutical and petrochemical plants, refineries, and textile and steel mills. In an effort to provide new jobs for the huge numbers of young people entering the work force each year, the government has encouraged investment in the manufacturing sector, particularly in factories producing goods for the domestic market. It has also promoted the expansion of roads and other infrastructure needed to support industrial growth. Nevertheless, by 2006 the nation's exports of manufactured goods were valued at $71 billion, compared with $713 billion for China.


India's chief energy sources are coal and petroleum. Some 630.6 billion kW h of electricity were generated in 2004, which is still far short of demand. Many villages are still not electrified, and electrical outages are a common feature of big-city life.

The leading sources of power are thermal and hydroelectric. Most hydropower installations are located in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh; facilities there already generate almost two-thirds of the country's hydroelectric power, and great potential remains. India's largest-ever hydroelectric power plant, the Nathpa Jhakri complex in Himachal Pradesh, became operational in 2003; the controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River in Gujarat became operational in early 2007. India must import about 70% of its petroleum and 50% of its natural gas, which has put it into competition with China for energy sources needed to fuel economic growth. Discussions are under way concerning construction of a 2,600-km (1,620-mi) natural-gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan, another from Turkmenistan via Pakistan and Afghanistan, and a third from Myanmar through Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the nation's largest-ever domestic natural-gas discovery was made in 2005 off the coast of Andhra Pradesh.

The government has also made a commitment to nuclear energy. Supplemented by an existing large-scale uranium mine in Bihar, new uranium deposits discovered in 2000 in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were expected to provide for the nation's nuclear-power needs for the next 20 years. In March 2006, during U.S. president George W. Bush's first visit to India, the leaders of the two countries finalized a controversial nuclear accord that gave India access to civilian U.S. nuclear technology in exchange for India's opening its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection. Although France and India had signed a similar civilian nuclear-energy cooperation agreement the previous month, the plan raised concerns because India still refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty as was normally required. By that time its 16 nuclear reactors were providing 3% of its electric power.


The majority of Indians earn their livelihood from the land. Agriculture accounts for approximately 20% of national income. Roughly 55% of the land is arable, and two crops are normal where water and climate permit. The chief summer monsoon (kharif) crops are rice and millet. The major winter (rabi) crops are wheat and pulses. India is the world's second-largest rice producer, after China; it ranks fourth in wheat production. In addition to food crops, commercial crops such as cotton, jute, sugarcane, tea, coffee, oilseeds, and tobacco are grown. India is the world's leading producer of tea and sugar. The country also has the world's biggest cattle population, reflecting the revered status of the cow in Hinduism. Although Indian cattle are poor producers, they still make India the largest Asian producer of milk, butter, and hides. The nation's poultry industry was threatened by an outbreak of avian influenza in 2006 that swiftly killed tens of thousands of birds and led to the slaughter of many more.

The so-called green revolution, which introduced new seed varieties and farming techniques (including irrigation and the intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides) to increase yields, has had a major impact on Indian agriculture since 1967. Total food grain production for 2000 was 239.8 million metric tons (264.3 million U.S. tons), and India remains self-sufficient in food production despite two recent monsoon failures. Wheat production in Punjab and Haryana is the highest per hectare in the world. The effects of the green revolution in rice production have been less spectacular, partly because Indians still prefer the older rice varieties in their diet.

Theoretically, landlordism has been abolished, and there are ceilings on landholdings in most states. Government attempts at land reform, however, have been largely circumvented by the entrenched and politically powerful landlord class created by the British. The traditional hereditary jajmani system, in which landless laborers exchanged their services for food and other benefits, has eroded. In addition, the major gains of the green revolution have accrued to large landowners with the capital to take advantage of the new seeds and techniques. Poorer farmers are often unable to afford costly fertilizers and lack access to irrigation systems. As village agriculture becomes increasingly mechanized, more small farmers will lose their land and join the millions of landless migrants already flocking to such cities as Calcutta, Bombay, and Delhi each year in a largely unsuccessful search for employment.

Forestry and Fishing. 

Forestry and fishing account for less than 3% of the national income but are locally important in some states. Forests are not accessible for commercial development, and the government is currently attempting to increase the forested area to 33.3% and improve lumber output. Fishing is locally important in Kerala and in some deltaic areas. Fish production has tripled since 1947 because of mechanization, introduction of deep-sea fishing vessels, and better preservation and marketing techniques.


The volume of railroad and road traffic has burgeoned since independence. Road and air service remains underdeveloped. The antiquated state-operated railroad system, one of the biggest in the world, is the country's leading single employer. By the turn of the 21st century, the railway system was transporting more than 11 million passengers each day; in addition, one of the nation's largest-ever road-building projects, involving the construction of superhighways linking India's principal cities, was well under way. Inland navigable waterways are also vital avenues of transportation.

Air services now reach most major cities. Government-owned Air India was founded in 1932. A regularly scheduled international airline, it has steadily lost market share to foreign competitors since the 1990s; in 2007 it merged with government-owned Indian Airlines, which had taken over many of Air India's relatively short-haul international routes. The new entity continues to face growing competition on its domestic and international routes from several privately owned airlines. The airports in New Delhi and Bombay, which account for almost two-thirds of India's international traffic, were leased in 2006 to private companies that were to modernize them. Direct commercial air service between China and India was inaugurated in March 2002.

The first commercial bus service between India and Pakistan, linking New Delhi and Lahore, was inaugurated in 1999. That same year the first direct bus service between India and Bangladesh, from Calcutta to Dhaka, was also established. All ground and air transportation links between India and Pakistan were suspended on Jan. 1, 2002, as tensions between the two countries escalated, but many of them were subsequently restored. A rail link between India's Rajasthan state and Pakistan's Sindh province that had been inactive since 1965 reopened in 2006; it joined the sole existing cross-border rail route in the Punjab. In 2003 bus service between Dhaka and Tripura was initiated. This provided a direct overland route connecting India's remote and long-isolated eastern states to Calcutta and Delhi via Bangladesh.


The government has fostered international trade and moved away from the export of agricultural commodities and raw materials associated with the colonial economy toward the export of manufactured goods. Primary exports include cotton goods, iron, raw jute and jute products, coffee, electrical goods, leather, handicrafts, diamonds, and chemicals. India is now the world's leading importer of rough diamonds and exporter of gem diamonds. The Indian software industry, which accounts for almost 2% of the country's gross domestic product, is perhaps the fastest-growing export sector. In recent years India has also exported engineers and technicians (especially to the Middle East) and thousands of medical doctors and nurses serving in hospitals in the United States and Great Britain. Trade with the former Soviet Union declined dramatically after that nation's 1991 breakup, although moves to increase bilateral trade with Russia were subsequently made. The country's principal imports include heavy machinery, petroleum, copper, and zinc.

As is characteristic of most recently independent nations, India has not yet achieved a favorable balance of trade. In an effort to open its markets the government announced the removal of import curbs on hundreds of consumer goods in 2001. Late in 2002, India held its first-ever summit with the leaders of ASEAN, during which they agreed to try to negotiate a free-trade accord between India and Southeast Asia within the next ten years; as a first step, India and Thailand signed a free-trade accord. At its long-delayed summit in January 2003, the member states of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) agreed to establish a free-trade zone; this came into effect in 2006.

By 2004 the Indian economy had become one of the fastest-growing in the world, particularly in terms of professional services. In terms of foreign investment, infrastructure, and export-oriented manufacturing, however, its rate of growth continued to fall further and further behind that of its chief rival, China. In 2003, China received more than 12 times as much direct foreign investment and exported more than 4 times as much as did India. The new government that came to power in 2004 was reluctant to privatize profitable state-run companies. It nevertheless attempted to cut the bureaucratic red tape that deterred foreign businesses by creating special investment zones offering 15-year tax breaks and lifted many regulations for foreign investors. In exchange, the investors were responsible for providing premises-related infrastructure such as utilities, transportation services, and offshore banking in the new zones. More than 170 of these special economic zones, to be built on land set aside by the government outside many cities, had been approved by late 2006. But they faced opposition from a broad cross section of domestic and foreign critics because they would be built on prime agricultural land without adequate compensation paid to farmers.


The constitution adopted in 1950 provides for a federal system with a parliamentary form of government. Sovereignty is shared between the central government and the states, but the national government is given far greater powers. The office of president is largely ceremonial. Real authority is vested in a prime minister and council of ministers responsible to Parliament. The president, however, has constitutional authority to impose president's rule should a state government appear unable to maintain order and to declare a national state of emergency and supersede parliamentary rule. President's rule was invoked in a number of states in the 1970s and 1980s; emergency national rule was imposed in 1975 at the urging of then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Parliament consists of two houses, the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). Real power resides in the Lok Sabha, whose members are elected directly by all eligible voters; they sit for 5 years unless Parliament is dissolved earlier.

The Indian National Congress is the party most identified with the Indian nationalist movement. It remained in control of the central government for all but three of the years from independence to 1996, despite two major party splits in 1969 and 1978 (both led by Indira Gandhi) and many victories by various state and local parties in regional elections. In addition, one family provided India's prime ministers for all but five years between 1947 and 1989. Congress (I) failed to win a legislative majority in the 1989 and 1991 elections, although it regained the prime ministership in 1991. In 1996, Congress (I) won only 25% of the legislative seats. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) briefly formed a minority government in May, but leadership passed to a United Front–led minority government on June 1. After the collapse of that and another coalition government in 1997, elections early in 1998 brought the BJP back to power. This coalition also collapsed in April 1999, and another BJP coalition was installed following new elections later that year. In elections called six months earlier than necessary in 2004, the BJP government suffered an unexpected defeat. A Congress-led coalition then assumed power.

State government resembles the federal system. The governor of each state is appointed by the president. A chief minister and a council of state hold executive authority; they are responsible to the state legislative assembly.

India has no common civil legal code. Instead, the constitution allows members of the country's various faiths to follow the laws of their own religions. The constitution does allow for the creation of a uniform civil code, however; in fact, in July 2003 the Indian Supreme Court called for the adoption of such a code as an instrument of national integration. Religious minorities have generally opposed a uniform code, saying that it would fail to protect their religious rights.

History since 1947

The history of India as a sovereign state under its own constitutional government began on Aug. 15, 1947, when the subcontinent was partitioned into the two states of India and Pakistan. Pakistan became an Islamic state, while India opted to become a secular state. The decision to partition British India and turn over power to the new nations within a period of six months left bloody turmoil in its wake. Following independence, some 17 million Hindus and Muslims were uprooted and began the long march to their respective new homelands. There were at least 1 million casualties in the ensuing sectarian violence despite efforts to restore calm by Mahatma Gandhi, the revered father of modern India. Gandhi himself was assassinated on Jan. 30, 1948, by a militant Hindu who believed him to be too kind to Muslims.

Nationalist leader Jawaharlal Nehru assumed the prime ministership in 1947 and held the post until his death in 1964. The new government succeeded in integrating more than 500 princely states into the new nation (which was proclaimed a republic on Jan. 26, 1950). It finally absorbed the last vestiges of empire in 1962 by taking over Portuguese Goa, Daman, and Diu and the French territories of Pondicherry, Karikal, Mahe, and Yanam. Nehru launched India on the path of economic self-sufficiency. He won it an international role far out of proportion to its power by championing a nonaligned foreign policy that was to become the model for many newly independent nations. Territorial disputes with China escalated into a brief border war in 1962, however, and the Nehru government was unable to promote cordial relations with its new neighbor, Pakistan. The struggle for Kashmir, a northern princely state with a Hindu maharaja and a largely Muslim population, led to the first (1947–49) of several armed conflicts between the two countries. In addition, more than 40% of the population remained below the official poverty level.

Nehru was succeeded as prime minister by Congress party leader Lal Bahadur Shastri. In 1966, shortly after a peace treaty ending a second war with Pakistan over Kashmir was signed, Shastri died suddenly. Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter, emerged as a compromise candidate. She surprised the old-guard Congress leaders with her determined leadership. Gandhi, a strong nationalist, was somewhat more realistic than her father about the nature of Indian society; she grew in popularity with the working classes and small farmers. She continued to pursue the ideals of nonalignment while moving closer to the USSR, partly because of a 1954 U.S. decision to provide significant military assistance to Pakistan as part of cold-war strategy. Relations between India and the United States reached a low point in 1971, when India supported East Pakistan (now the independent nation of Bangladesh) in the Pakistani civil war. During Gandhi's first decade in office, agricultural production increased; India exploded (1974) its first nuclear weapon; and Sikkim became (1975) a state of India. Seemingly intractable economic and social problems contributed to the growth of Marxist-based parties (which gained control of the governments of Kerala and West Bengal) and spotty support for the extreme Maoist Naxalite party. After Gandhi's reelection in 1971, opposition leaders such as Jayaprakash Narayan accused her of corruption and misgovernment. They staged protest marches and threatened civil disobedience. In June 1975, Gandhi persuaded President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to invoke a state of emergency that gave her near-dictatorial powers. Opposition leaders were jailed without trial, and many constitutional freedoms were curtailed.

In March 1977, Gandhi suddenly called new elections, perhaps to legitimatize the powers she had taken under the emergency. Surprisingly, a coalition of parties ranging in ideology from socialists to conservative Hindus (the Janata party) won control of the Lok Sabha. Morarji Desai, a longtime opponent of Gandhi, became prime minister. President Ahmed died that same year, and Neelam Sanjavi Reddy was elected president. The Janata party almost immediately began to break apart, and Desai resigned as prime minister in July 1979. His successor, Charan Singh, resigned in August but headed a caretaker government until January 1980. New elections that month returned Gandhi to power.

In 1982, Zail Singh (d. 1994) was elected president; he was the first Sikh to serve in that office. His election occurred at a time when Sikhs were calling for more autonomy in Punjab and radical Sikh youths were resorting to violence in an attempt to win a separate Sikh state (Khalistan). Several years of Sikh violence culminated in the invasion of the Golden Temple at Amritsar by Indian troops in June 1984 and the assassination of Gandhi by her own Sikh bodyguards on Oct. 31, 1984. As the government tried to respond to the growing political crisis in Punjab, Gandhi's formerly apolitical older son, Rajiv Gandhi, was thrust into the prime ministership.

The youthful Gandhi had an auspicious beginning. His party won the December 1984 general elections by a landslide. Allegations of corruption involving some of his close associates began to grow, however. Increasing cynicism about government was apparent. In 1987, Ramaswami Venkataraman was elected president of India, and the country celebrated its 40th anniversary of independence. Successive bad monsoon years in 1987 and 1988 caused India's worst drought of the century, although accumulated food reserves helped the nation weather the drought years. Gandhi's sending of peacekeeping forces to Sri Lanka (1987–90) and his decision to intervene militarily to foil a coup in Maldives in 1988 were criticized by some of his neighbors. Violence by Sikh and Kashmiri Muslim separatists continued even after the central government imposed harsh police measures. Ethnic groups in other parts of India were also calling for greater autonomy. The government created the new ethnic states of Nagaland and Mizoram in the northeast, but tribal peoples in the region continued to agitate for a new state of "Jharkhand." Citizens of Tamil Nadu sought greater autonomy; tribal groups in Assam fought migrants from Bangladesh; and an often-violent struggle between landlords and lower castes took place in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Other political parties demanded advantages for indigenous groups. In general, nationalistic feelings seemed to be giving way to communal, religious, and caste divisions.

In the November 1989 elections Congress (I) lost its parliamentary majority. Gandhi resigned and the National Front, led by V. P. Singh, formed a minority government. Singh resigned on Nov. 7, 1990; he was succeeded by Janata Dal dissident Chandra Shekar. During new elections in May–June 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. His successor as Congress (I) leader, P. V. Narasimha Rao, became prime minister on June 21. S. D. Sharma was elected president of India in 1992. The destruction of a mosque in Ayodhya by Hindu extremists in December 1992 sparked India's worst communal violence since independence. Tensions in Kashmir also increased. Rao introduced free-market reforms, but their benefits fell unevenly. His Congress (I) party lost the May 1996 elections, and he stepped down as party leader in September.

Rao's successor as prime minister, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, resigned after only 13 days in office. He was succeeded by H. D. Deve Gowda of the left-center United Front coalition. Gowda's coalition government lost its majority in April 1997, when Congress (I) withdrew its support and Gowda was forced to resign. He was succeeded by Inder Kumar Gujral of the United Front. In July of that year, K. R. Narayanan became the first Dalit to be elected president of India. The nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence at midnight on August 14.

Gujral's government fell on Nov. 28, 1997, when Congress (I) again withdrew its support. In new elections held in February–March 1998, no one party won a majority. The Bharatiya Janata party secured the largest number of seats, followed by Congress (I) and its allies and the United Front. BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee then formed a new coalition government, becoming prime minister on March 19. Although he moderated his party's controversial Hindu nationalist goals, he aroused international concern by stating that India would develop nuclear weapons to counter military buildups in neighboring China and Pakistan. In May 1998 his government conducted a series of underground atomic bomb tests—India's first since 1974. The Indian government said that the tests had been designed to bolster national security and morale. But the tests provoked international condemnation and inflamed regional tensions. Furthermore, they triggered the imposition of economic sanctions by the United States and a series of nuclear tests later that month by neighboring Pakistan. In the first post-test peace talks between India and Pakistan, held in October 1998, the two nations agreed to work to reduce the risks of conflict between them but made no specific nuclear-related commitments.

The state elections in November 1998 were seen as a measure of the popularity of the BJP. The party suffered serious losses, due in large part to popular discontent over rising food prices. In 1999, Russia and India signed a strategic partnership pact. Relations with Pakistan suffered another setback in April 1999 when India test-fired a longer-range ballistic missile believed capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to any part of Pakistan and much of China. Later that month the BJP coalition collapsed. Vajpayee remained head of a caretaker government pending new elections—India's third in three years. In these elections, the BJP and its allies won a clear legislative majority; the Indian National Congress suffered its worst defeat since independence. Vajpayee was sworn in for a third term as prime minister on Oct. 13, 1999. Later that month, his government faced criticism for failing to respond promptly to a devastating cyclone that was estimated to have killed as many as 20,000 people in Orissa and left millions more without food, shelter, or power. An October military coup in Pakistan further raised tensions between India and Pakistan.

By the late 1990s, India was experiencing a new wave of sectarian violence by Hindu extremist groups against Christians and other minorities. This included numerous attacks on Christian schools and churches, especially in rural areas of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra states. In August 1999, separatists in Assam blew up the key railroad and road bridges linking the seven states of northeastern India to the rest of the country.

In March 2000, Bill Clinton became the first U.S. president to visit India in 22 years. Later that year, China and India initiated negotiations aimed at resolving their long-standing border disputes. Pakistan set aside its differences with its larger neighbor in January 2001 to provide aid to the victims of a massive earthquake in the state of Gujarat; the quake was estimated to have killed some 14,000 people and that had left another 1 million homeless. Nevertheless, discord between the two over Kashmir continued.

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States further depressed the already weak Indian economy. Subsequently, the United States dropped the last of the sanctions it had imposed on both India and Pakistan following their testing of nuclear weapons in 1998. In December 2001, 14 people (including the 5 perpetrators) were killed during an unprecedented attack on the Indian legislative building in New Delhi. The attackers were alleged to have links to Muslim extremist groups based in Pakistan. The incident therefore increased tensions between India and Pakistan to the highest levels since their 1971 war.

In February 2002, weakened by losses earlier that month in crucial state elections, Vajpayee's ruling party was forced to deal with the nation's worst religious violence in many years. More than 700 people, most of them Muslims, died in the western state of Gujarat at the hands of Hindu mobs. The mobs were avenging the firebombing by Muslims of a train carrying Hindu hard-liners returning from the disputed religious site of Ayodhya. Some Muslim leaders charged that the anti-Muslim violence had been supported by the state government. The following month the Indian legislature passed a controversial antiterrorism bill that opponents feared might be misused to limit the freedoms of ordinary people and carry out political vendettas. Almost immediately, a number of Kashmiri political leaders were arrested under the provisions of the bill. In May, India and the United States held their first-ever joint army war games, in Agra; the event provided further evidence of improving ties between the two nations after decades of estrangement.

Controversy over the Indian government's handling of the crisis in Gujarat continued. Gujarat's chief minister resigned in July 2002, but the BJP administration was returned to power in a landslide victory when state elections were finally held in December. The victory strengthened the hand of the militant Hindu nationalists within the BJP. In May 2002 the lower house of India's legislature had selected Manohar Joshi of the Hindu extremist Shiv Sena party as its new speaker; the move was seen as an effort by the BJP to appeal to its traditional Hindu base of support. The same was true of Vajpayee's appointment of Hindu nationalist Lal Krishna Advani to the post of deputy prime minister and heir apparent.

By June 2002, following a period of escalating rhetoric on both sides that raised worldwide fears of a nuclear confrontation, tensions between India and Pakistan began to ease. An estimated 1 million troops were still massed along the border between the two countries, however. A deadly mid-July attack by suspected Muslim militants that killed 27 Hindu civilians on the outskirts of Jammu overshadowed the July presidential poll. In that election the apolitical retired missile scientist Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, considered the father of India's missile program, was elected overwhelmingly by the national and state legislatures. In August, India celebrated the 55th anniversary of its independence from British rule.

In October 2002, India finally began withdrawing its troops from the border with Pakistan, but not from the cease-fire line in Kashmir. Pakistan then instituted a similar pullback. Nonetheless, fears of a new confrontation heightened after the coalition of Islamist parties that had gained control of the legislatures in two of Pakistan's four provinces released many of the Muslim militants who had previously been detained. Unlike India, much smaller Pakistan still refused to rule out first use of its nuclear weapons in the event of a major war. Both countries conducted a series of nuclear-capable missile tests in early 2003.

In February 2003 the entire nation mourned the death of Indian-born Kalpana Chawla, who was among the seven astronauts who died when the U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry on February 1. The following month, the Indian government advised Indian nationals to leave the Persian Gulf region due to the looming conflict in Iraq.

On Apr. 18, 2003, before the military phase of that war had even ended, Vajpayee launched a dramatic thaw in India's relations with Pakistan while visiting Kashmir, where he proposed new talks between the two nations. Pakistan responded favorably. The two agreed to restore full diplomatic relations and reopen the transportation links that had been suspended in December 2001. Pakistan also called upon India to participate in the mutual destruction of their nuclear arsenals, but India rejected the nuclear-disarmament offer. Despite these developments, continuing violence in Kashmir still threatened the improved relations between the two countries. India charged that Pakistan was not doing enough to end the infiltration of Islamic militants from Pakistan into Indian-controlled Kashmir, although it agreed to Pakistan's offer of a cease-fire along their borders in Kashmir in November 2003.

In January 2004 the leaders of the two countries held their first direct talks in more than two years while attending a long-delayed summit of SAARC in Islamabad, Pakistan. They issued a joint statement in which Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf pledged not to allow his country to be used as a haven for terrorism and India promised to hold further talks to try to resolve the long and bitter dispute over Kashmir. High-level Indian-Pakistani talks on all issues affecting ties between the two nations were held in Islamabad in mid-February. They were designed to pave the way for full peace negotiations following what appeared to be a recognition by both sides that the Kashmir conflict could not be settled militarily.

With the economy growing at an estimated 8% annually and the BJP ousting the opposition in three of four December 2003 state elections, Vajpayee decided to dissolve Parliament on Feb. 6, 2004, to prepare for early national elections to be held in four rounds between April 20 and May 10. The result of the elections—the first ever in which all ballots were cast electronically—was a stunning defeat for his government. Early results announced on May 13 showed the Congress party alliance with a majority of seats in Parliament. Vajpayee resigned that day. The Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, ultimately refused the prime ministership, although she remained Congress party leader. Manmohan Singh was named to head a new center-left coalition government. Hindu nationalist Advani became parliamentary opposition leader for the BJP.

Congress had focused its campaign on the millions of poor people in India who still lacked basic services and thus had not benefited from the economic successes touted by the BJP government. The new government pledged to continue Vajpayee's peace overtures to Pakistan but to be more attentive to minority rights. As finance minister, Singh had overseen the nation's first wave of economic liberalization in the early 1990s; he promised to extend the reforms' economic gains beyond the middle class and the elite to India's impoverished majority. His 2004 budget increased taxes to fund education, health care, infrastructure, and other benefits for the poor; modernize India's armed forces; and reduce the deficit.

India and Pakistan held new bilateral talks in June 2004 in which they agreed to extend the moratorium on nuclear-weapons testing instituted in 1998. India also continued to build a security fence along the 1972 Kashmir cease-fire line similar to the one already erected along the Indian-Pakistani border. In the fall of 2004, dozens of people died in a series of attacks by separatists in the isolated and impoverished northeast, where non-Hindi ethnic groups have long resisted the central government and demanded independent homelands. The 1986 peace accord in the state of Mizoram still held, however. Negotiations between the government and the strongest of the Nagaland rebel groups also continued.

India suffered well over 10,000 fatalities—mostly along the southeastern coast and in the Andaman and Nicobar islands—in the devastating tsunami that followed a 9.15-magnitude earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004, off the coast of Indonesia. Nevertheless, it declined international aid. Instead, it offered assistance to Sri Lanka and other countries that had been even more severely affected by the tragedy.

In 2005, in what was seen as a new sign of improving relations as the United States became India's biggest trading partner, the two nations signed a ten-year pact to strengthen defense ties. They agreed to joint weapons production, cooperation on missile defense, and the transfer of technology. In July of that year, during a state visit by Singh to the United States, they agreed to further cooperation on fighting terrorism and AIDS and on promoting peace and democracy, trade, investment, and technological collaboration, including on nuclear energy. This met India's long-standing demand for recognition as a responsible nuclear state; however, it strained what had been India's improving relations with Pakistan by threatening to overshadow that country's long-established alliance with the United States. Nevertheless, India and Pakistan signed new accords in October to promote economic cooperation and provide each other with advance warning of ballistic missile tests; they also pledged to resolve their confrontation on the Siachen glacier by January 2006. Another major Indian foreign-policy objective, a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, remained unmet.

While Pakistan was hit hardest by a 7.6-magnitude earthquake that struck on Oct. 8, 2005, India did not escape its impact. The earthquake, centered in Pakistani-administered Kashmir and the rugged North-West Frontier province, was felt as far away as New Delhi and Kabul, Afghanistan. There were more than 1,400 casualties in Indian-administered Kashmir, where thousands of homes were destroyed. Landslides blocked the key highway connecting Srinagar with the rest of India, and buildings collapsed in several nearby Indian states. Putting political differences aside in the face of tragedy, India swiftly offered help to its smaller neighbor.

In November 2006, Chinese president Hu Jintao (Hu Chin-t'ao) became the first Chinese head of state to visit India in ten years. The two nations pledged to double trade between them by 2010 and continue efforts to resolve various border issues. The previous year, China had formally recognized the state of Sikkim as part of India.

On July 25, 2007, former Rajasthan state governor Pratibha Patel was sworn in as president. She thus became India's first female head of state since the nation gained independence.

C. D. Deshpande

Reviewed by Donald Johnson


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