One-third the area of the United States, the Republic of India occupies most of the subcontinent of India in southern Asia. It borders on China in the northeast. Other neighbors are Pakistan on the west, Nepal and Bhutan on the north, and Burma and Bangladesh on the east.
The country can be divided into three distinct geographic regions: the Himalayan region in the north, which contains some of the highest mountains in the world, the Gangetic Plain, and the plateau region in the south and central part. Its three great river systems—the Ganges, the Indus, and the Brahmaputra—have extensive deltas and all rise in the Himalayas.
One of the earliest civilizations, the Indus Valley civilization flourished on the Indian subcontinent from c. 2600 B.C. to c. 2000 B.C. It is generally accepted that the Aryans entered India c. 1500 B.C. from the northwest, finding a land that was already home to an advanced civilization. They introduced Sanskrit and the Vedic religion, a forerunner of Hinduism. Buddhism was founded in the 6th century B.C. and was spread throughout northern India, most notably by one of the great ancient kings of the Mauryan dynasty, Asoka (c. 269–232 B.C. ), who also unified most of the Indian subcontinent for the first time.
In 1526, Muslim invaders founded the great Mogul Empire, centered on Delhi, which lasted, at least in name, until 1857. Akbar the Great (1542–1605) strengthened and consolidated this empire. The long reign of his great-grandson, Aurangzeb (1618–1707), represents both the greatest extent of the Mogul Empire and the beginning of its decay.
Principal languages: Hindi 30%, English, Bengali, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Kannada, Assamese, Sanskrit, Sindhi (all official); Hindi/Urdu; 1,600+ dialects
Ethnicity/race: Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid and other 3% (2000)
Religions: Hindu 81%, Islam 13%, Christian 2%, Sikh 2% (2001)
National Holiday: Republic Day, January 26
Literacy rate: 61% (2005 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $2.989 trillion; per capita $2,700. Real growth rate: 9.2%. Inflation: 6.4%. Unemployment: 7.2%. Arable land: 49%. Agriculture: rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, potatoes; cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, poultry; fish. Labor force: 516.4 million; agriculture 60%, services 12%, industry 28% (2003). Industries: textiles, chemicals, food processing, steel, transportation equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery, software. Natural resources: coal (fourth-largest reserves in the world), iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, titanium ore, chromite, natural gas, diamonds, petroleum, limestone, arable land. Exports: $140.8 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): textile goods, gems and jewelry, engineering goods, chemicals, leather manufactures. Imports: $224.1 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): crude oil, machinery, gems, fertilizer, chemicals. Major trading partners: U.S., UAE, China, Germany, UK, Singapore (2006).
Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 49.75 million (2005); mobile cellular: 166.1 million (2006). Radio broadcast stations: AM 153, FM 91, shortwave 68 (1998). Television broadcast stations: 562 (of which 82 stations have 1 kW or greater power and 480 stations have less than 1 kW of power) (1997). Internet hosts: 2.306 million (2007). Internet users: 60 million (2005).
Transportation: Railways: total: 63,221 km (16,693 km electrified) (2006). Highways: total: 3,383,344 km; paved: 1,603,705 km; unpaved: 1,779,639 km (2002). Waterways: 14,500 km; note: 5,200 km on major rivers and 485 km on canals suitable for mechanized vessels (2006). Ports and harbors: Chennai, Haldia, Jawaharal Nehru, Kandla, Kolkata (Calcutta), Mumbai (Bombay), New Mangalore, Vishakhapatnam. Airports: 346 (2007).
International disputes: China and India launched a security and foreign policy dialogue in 2005, consolidating discussions related to the dispute over most of their rugged, militarized boundary, regional nuclear proliferation, Indian claims that China transferred missiles to Pakistan, and other matters; recent talks and confidence-building measures have begun to defuse tensions over Kashmir, site of the world's largest and most militarized territorial dispute with portions under the de facto administration of China (Aksai Chin), India (Jammu and Kashmir), and Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas); in 2004, India and Pakistan instituted a cease fire in the Kashmir and in 2005, restored bus service across the highly militarized Line of Control; Pakistan has taken its dispute on the impact and benefits of India's building the Baglihar dam on the Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir to the World Bank for arbitration; UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) has maintained a small group of peacekeepers since 1949; India does not recognize Pakistan's ceding historic Kashmir lands to China in 1964; disputes persist with Pakistan over Indus River water sharing; to defuse tensions and prepare for discussions on a maritime boundary, in 2004, India and Pakistan resurveyed a portion of the disputed boundary in Sir Creek estuary at the mouth of the Rann of Kutch; Pakistani maps continue to show Junagadh claim in Indian Gujarat State; discussions with Bangladesh remain stalled to delimit a small section of river boundary, to exchange 162 miniscule enclaves in both countries, to allocate divided villages, and to stop illegal cross-border trade, migration, violence, and transit of terrorists through the porous border; Bangladesh protests India's attempts to fence off high-traffic sections; dispute with Bangladesh over New Moore/South Talpatty/Purbasha Island in the Bay of Bengal deters maritime boundary delimitation; India seeks cooperation from Bhutan and Burma to keep Indian Nagaland and Assam separatists from hiding in remote areas along the borders; Joint Border Committee with Nepal continues to demarcate minor disputed boundary sections; India has instituted a stricter border regime to keep out Maoist insurgents and control illegal cross-border activities from Nepal.