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India, officially the Republic of India, is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. It has achieved all-round socio-economic progress during the last 62 years of its Independence. India has become self-sufficient in agricultural production and is now one of the top industrialized countries in the world and one of the few nations to have gone into outer space to conquer nature for the benefit of the people. It covers an area of 32, 87,263 sq. Km, extending from the snow-covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.

Lying entirely in the northern hemisphere, the mainland extends between latitudes 80 4’ and 370 6’ north, longitudes 680 7’ and 970 25’ east and measures about 3,214 km from north to south between the extreme latitudes and about 2, 933 km from east to west between the extreme longitudes. It is bordered by Pakistan to the west, China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka, and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. It has a land frontier of about 15, 200 km. The total length of the coastline of the mainland, Lakshadweep Islands and Andaman & Nicobar Islands is 7, 516.6 km.

Home to the Indus Valley Civilisation and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history. Four major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated here, while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam arrived in the first millennium CE and shaped the region's diverse culture. Gradually annexed by the British East India Company from the early eighteenth century and colonised by the United Kingdom from the mid-nineteenth century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by widespread non-violent resistance.


India is a republic consisting of 28 states and seven union territories with a parliamentary system of democracy. As of 2008, with an estimated population of 1.13 billion, India is the world's second most populated country after the People's Republic of China. India occupies 2.4 percent of the world's land surface area but is home to 16.9 percent of the world's population.

The Indo-Gangetic plains have one of the world’s biggest stretches of fertile flat-deep alluvium and are among the most densely populated areas of the world. The eastern and western coastal regions of Deccan plateau are also densely populated regions of India. The Thar desert in western Rajasthan is one of the most densely populated deserts in the world. The northern and north-eastern states along the Himalayas contain cold arid deserts with fertile valleys. These states have less population density due to indomitable physical barriers. It has the world's twelfth largest economy at market exchange rates and the fourth largest in purchasing power.Economic reforms since 1991 have transformed it into one of the fastest growing economies, however, it still suffers from high levels of poverty, illiteracy, disease, and malnutrition. A pluralistic, multilingual, and multiethnic society, India is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats

FACTS
AT-A-GLANCE
Economy: Fast-growing economy; large, skilled workforce but widespread poverty
Politics: 344m people voted in 2009 election - Congress-led alliance of PM Manmohan Singh won second mandate
International: Ongoing dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir region; nuclear weapons state; world's most prolific film industry - Bollywood
  1. Full name: Republic of India
  2. Population: 1.2 billion (UN, 2009)
  3. Capital: New Delhi
  4. Most-populated city: Mumbai (Bombay)
  5. Area: 3.1 million sq km (1.2 million sq miles), excluding Indian-administered Kashmir (100,569 sq km/38,830 sq miles)
  6. Major languages: Hindi, English and at least 16 other official languages
  7. Major religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism
  8. Life expectancy: 62 years (men), 65 years (women) (UN)
  9. Monetary unit: 1 Indian Rupee = 100 paise
  10. Main exports: Agricultural products, textile goods, gems and jewellery, software services and technology, engineering goods, chemicals, leather products

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