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India

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India is located in South Asia, between Pakistan and Myanmar. India is one of the world’s largest nations, slightly larger than one-third of the United States. The country’s population, the second largest in the world, numbers around 1.1 billion people.

India’s terrain is fairly diverse with plains in the south, deserts in the west, and the great Himalayas in the north. The country’s climate ranges from tropical in the south to temperate in the north. India enjoys many natural resources including enormous reserves of coal (fourth largest in the world), iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, titanium ore, natural gas, diamonds, limestone, petroleum, and a large amount of arable land.

India’s enormous population is made of a few main ethnic groups. Seventy-two percent are Indo-Aryan, 25 percent are Dravidian, and three percent are Mongoloid or another ethnicity. The vast majority of Indians are Hindu, but 13.4 percent are Muslim, 2.3 percent are Christian, and 1.9 percent are Sikh. Forty-one percent of the people speak Hindi, but there are 14 other official languages as well.

India is home of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, one of the world’s oldest and most majestic. Much more recently, Arabs invaded India in the 8th century A.D. and the Turks did so in the 12th century. European traders then began to find their way to India in the 15th century. By the 19th century the British Empire had assumed complete political control over India. The famous, nonviolent efforts of Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru helped win independence for the nation in 1947. The subcontinent was divided into the secular state of India (although predominantly Hindu) and the Muslim state of Pakistan. Today, India is a foremost economic and political power in the world.

Despite its newfound economic and political prowess, India faces enormous challenges. It possesses the largest concentration of poor people in the world and has an extremely high rate of malnutrition among children under age 4. Extensive poverty also persists in India, with 25 percent (of 1.1 billion people) living under the poverty line. Environmental degradation and governmental corruption also pose significant problems for the country.