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Countries : Asia : India Last Updated: 25 Mar. 2008 - 7:18:47 PM

Posted in: India
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21 Jun. 2006 - 7:30:00 PM

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India has a vast population, now in excess of a billion, and is the largest democracy in the world. India and Pakistan were separated in 1947 when the British partitioned India prior to independence. Currently (2002) the world has again focused on the hostility between the two countries, both of which are now nuclear powers. Pakistan, by permitting terrorists from Afghanistan to enter Kashmir, has made a bad situation worse. Kashmir now represents a situation which would try the abilities of the best negotiators.

The Age of Kali by William Dalrymple is the best recent book on India which I have read, I strongly recommend it.

For westerners India is often seen as a romantic place where you can see the exotic, live cheaply and see colorful people going about their lives. This is also linked to the idea, which goes back at least to the 1960s, that Indians are very religious and can show westerners that material possessions are relatively unimportant.


India has developed a diversified industrial base and a large financial sector. The World Bank says that "improving the living standards of the poor remains one of India's most pressing challenges. With a per capita gross national product (GNP) of US$440 in 1999, India continues to have the highest concentration of poverty of any country. According to World Bank figures, India currently has some 433 million people living on less than US$1 a day."

India also has a large and competitive IT sector, centred around Bangalore. India also produces aircraft under licence and has a range of high tech capabilities. The country is also a producer of basic products like steel, consumer goods and automobiles for the large domestic market. One of India's competitive advantages is the strength of its education system and the wide use of English. Indian programmers have been especially welcomed in Silicon Valley. Indian business-people are competitive and Indian businesses lose no opportunity to promote themselves.


The Washington Post reported 15 September 2002 that "Eager to develop a transportation system worthy of its globalizing and increasingly information-driven economy, India is in the throes of a massive highway-building binge that government officials describe as the largest public works initiative since independence from Britain in 1947."

"Funded by the World Bank and a new fuel tax, among other sources, the project's first phase consists of a 3,698-mile "Golden Quadrilateral" running along existing corridors between New Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. Foreign and Indian contractors have completed more than 600 miles of the intercity network, ..... In the second and most ambitious phase, still largely in the planning stages, contractors will lay 4,536 miles of highway in a cross-shaped pattern across the breadth and length of the country, from Kashmir's Himalayas to the subcontinent's southern tip."

Internal Disputes

India, although largely Hindu, was created as a secular state, and it has a large Muslim population. There have been community problems, most notably in Gujarat. "Many believe that the attacks on Muslims by Hindus in Gujarat amounted to 'state-sponsored violence'", Alex Spillius reported from Ahmedabad for the Daily Telegraph 18 June 2002, he also said that the atrocities had the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing. Gujarat also suffered from a terrible earthquake in 2001 which killed at least 30,000 and left a million people homeless. Human Rights Watch reported caste and communal discrimination in the distribution of relief and rehabilitation, corruption in the handling of aid, and political squabbling. Dalits ("untouchables") and Muslims fared less well than their neighbors and were kept inseparate camps, the government provided far superior shelter and basic amenities to upper-caste populations. William Dalrymple in the The Age of Kali gives other examples of community conflict.


India has the second largest HIV positive population in the world, 4 to 5 million people are infected with HIV, although this is still a relatively small percentage of the total population. In India, unlike most countries, more women than men die before the age of 35. India's maternal mortality rates are very high, particularly in rural areas, ranging from 440 to 580 deaths per 100,000 live births.


30 July 2002 The Daily Telegraph reported that India has agreed a price for the purchase of 66 Hawk trainer jets from British-based BAe Systems, a deal worth $1.5 billion.

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