India – Quick facts
Situated in South Asia, The Republic of India is the seventh largest country by land mass, and the second largest by population. Sharing borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, India’s coastline is along the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The capital is New Delhi.
The Indian sub-continent was one of the earliest places to be populated by modern humans and is genetically diverse. India has been home to ancient civilizations and empires and the origin of languages and religions. Europeans, mainly British, began trading and then settling in the 1600s. By the mid-1800s, India was under direct British rule. Post-WWI the nationalist leader, Mahatma Gandhi began a series of non-violent protests and campaigns of inert non-cooperation against British rule. The 1930s witnessed crises which included British failed attempts at ‘reform’, an upsurge in Muslim nationalism and India’s participation in WWII. This culminated in the declaration of independence in 1947. India was however, partitioned into the states of India and Pakistan.
In 1950, India’s new constitution was complete, defining it as a secular and democratic republic. It is run as a parliamentary republic, with a multi-party system, divided into twenty-eight states and eight union territories. It is the world’s most populous democracy. Due to medical advances and increased agricultural productivity, people are living longer. In 2000 the population hit one billion, and the UN estimates that India’s population will be larger than China’s by 2028.
The economy has become one of the fastest growing in the world, pushed by the rise of a large, urban middle-class and an increased focus on the importance of education. Whilst national wealth has increased, the marked inequality and the disparity amongst the population has grown, and India is home to the largest number of people existing below the poverty line. The issues of extreme poverty, such as malnutrition and gender inequality, along with environmental issues, are challenges for the government.
Urbanisation has been a dynamic force in shaping modern-day India. Its economic success is driven by the service sector, which contributes well over half of GDP. The contribution made by agriculture has diminished but it is still a significant producer of tea, cotton, rice and sugar. Industry is the second most important sector and India’s telecommunications industry is the second largest in the world. It is an important player in the world of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, automotive, steel and textiles. Tourism is a steadily increasing contributor to the economy.
India’s cultural and spiritual influence is immense. Its ancient civilizations and empires have ensured a magnificent and diverse legacy of art, architecture, sculpture, music, dance, language and literature. India’s cinema industry “Bollywood” is respected and renowned around the world. Cricket is the most popular sport. Indian cuisine, and the wealth of flavours from different regions, is world famous.
On the world stage, India is geopolitically important. It is a regional superpower, with a space programme and one of the highest military investments. It is a member of the United Nations, G20, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations.