More Information about India
Location: South Asia
Time: GMT + 5.5
Area: 3,166,414 sq km (1,222,582 sq miles)
Population: 1.1 billion (UN estimate 2005)
Population Density: 347 per sq km.
Capital: New Delhi. Population: 13.8 million (2001).
India is administratively divided into 28 states and 7 union territories. The states are broadly demarcated on linguistic lines. They vary in size; the larger ones are bigger and more diverse than some countries of Europe . The union territories are smaller than the states - sometimes they are just one city - and they have much less autonomy.
India shares borders to the northwest with Pakistan , to the north with China , Nepal and Bhutan , and to the east with Bangladesh and Myanmar . To the west lies the Arabian Sea, to the east the Bay of Bengal and to the south the Indian Ocean . Sri Lanka lies off the southeast coast, and the Maldives off the southwest coast. The far northeastern states and territories are all but separated from the rest of India by Bangladesh as it extends northwards from the Bay of Bengal towards Bhutan . The Himalayan mountain range to the north and the Indus River (west) and Ganges River (east) form a physical barrier between India and the rest of Asia . The country can be divided into five regions: Western, Central, Northern (including Kashmir and Rajasthan), Eastern and Southern.
Government: Republic since 1947. Head of State: President APJ Abdul Kalam since 2002. Head of Government: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since 2004. Recent history: In May 2004, Manmohan Singh became prime minister when the Congress Party won the general election. Singh took the position after the president of the party, Sonia Gandhi, widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, declined the post. The prime minister holds together a coalition which includes communist allies and ministers accused of corruption. His promise to raise the poorest citizens out of poverty has yet to be realised. The government has presided over GNP growth of over 8% per annum although the left-wing elements in the coalition are opposed to some aspects of economic reform. Meanwhile, Indian foreign policy continues to be dominated by relations with Pakistan . The main cause of friction is the status of Kashmir, most of which was awarded to India in 1947. Both sides claim the entire region. Historically, the USA and China had backed Pakistan while India had close relations with the Soviet Union . The demise of the Soviet Union has not, however, damaged India excessively. China has long viewed India as a rival; nevertheless the two governments have signed a major trade agreement and relations are steadily improving.
The main language is Hindi which is spoken by about 30% of the population; English is also enshrined in the constitution for a wide range of official purposes. In addition, 17 regional languages are recognised by the constitution. These include Bengali, Gujarati, Oriya and Punjabi which are widely used in the north, and Tamil and Telegu, which are common in the south. Other regional languages are Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi. The Muslim population largely speak Urdu.