Monday, March 14, 2011

India: Asia Country Study

Plagued by years of suspicion and hatred, rela...Image via Wikipedia

Geography and Demographics

India is located in Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and Pakistan. It is slightly more than one-third the size of the US. It is the 7th largest country in the world and has a total area of 3,287,263 sq km. The length of its coastline is 7,000 km and its total land boundary is 14,103 km. It is bordered by Bangladesh (4,053 km), Bhutan (605 km), Burma (1,463 km), China (3,380 km), Nepal (1,690 km), and Pakistan (2,912 km). The climate of India varies from tropical monsoon in south to temperate in the north. Terrains constitute upland plain (Deccan Plateau) in the south, flat to rolling plain along the Ganges, deserts in the west, and the Himalayas in the north. Geographically, India dominates South Asian subcontinent; it is near important Indian Ocean trade routes; Kanchenjunga, third tallest mountain in the world, lies on the border with Nepal.

History and Society

The history of India stretches back to 2500 B.C. when the inhabitants of the Indus valley practiced an urban culture based on commerce and sustained by agricultural trade. Unfortunately, this vibrant civilization declined around 1500 B.C., perhaps due to ecological collapse. Migrating from northwest into the Indian subcontinent, Aryan-speaking peoples settled in the middle Ganges River valley and thereafter adapted antecedent cultures during the second millennium B.C. The ancient and medieval political map of India had a display of myriad kingdoms with fluctuating boundaries. Unifying under the Gupta Dynasty, in a period known as the India’s Golden Age, northern India with its Hindu culture and political administration reached its new height in the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. Islam had great influence on India for over 500 years. In the 10th and 11th centuries, India was invaded by Turks and Afghans who established sultanates in Delhi. In a period lasting over 200 years, descendants of Genghis Khan swept over the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal (Mogul) Dynasty. However, in the southern part of India, different types of administrative systems flourished. Leaving behind lasting cultural legacies, Hindu and Islamic Dynasties intermingled in the 11th and 15th centuries. These were the dominant Hindu Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties.

In 1757, the British East India established its authority over India. Modern India proclaimed independence from England on August 15, 1947 after what was known as the Indian Subcontinent was split between India and Pakistan. India became a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic nation when its constitution came into effect on 26th January, 1950. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister of modern India. He served two terms. India and Pakistan fought three successive wars immediately after the tumultuous partition. The name Pakistan was originally derived from an idea suggested by a student called Chaudhuri Rahmat Ali in 1933. The name was formulated from: P for Punjab, A for the Afghanis of the north-west frontier, K for Kashmir, S for Sind and Tan denoting Baluchistan. The word also means land of the pure in Urdu. [1]

India and Pakistan fought a devastating war in 1971 over East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The fighting drove an estimated 10 million East Pakistanis to India. In support of the East Pakistanis, India invaded East Pakistan in December of 1971 forcing the Pakistani army to surrender at Dhaka. The subsequent surrender of the Pakistani army resulted in more than 90,000 troops becoming prisoners of war. East Pakistan became a sovereign republic on 6 December 1971. Post-independence India was famous for championing the cause of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that “had its origins in the 1947 Asian Relations Meeting in New Delhi and the 1955 Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Indonesia.” [2] India is the 2nd most populous country in the world after its neighbor China. It has a population of 1,173,108,018 (July 2010 est.). India’s ethnic groups include Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid and other 3% (2000).

Diplomacy and Domestic Politics

India is a nuclear power nation with diplomatic relations with the U.S. and other major European powers. The U.S. reached “full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India”. [3] Such nuclear cooperation was intended to boost U.S. strategic partnership with India, a partnership that was an important priority for the Bush administration.” [4] The transfer of civilian technology, such as nuclear energy reactors required amending U.S. laws and international guidelines that could weaken the global nonproliferation regime. The Bush administration’s negotiation with Indian counterparts has led to securing of nuclear restraints involving the separation of India’s civilian and military nuclear facilities.

Economic Situation

India has some viable economic resources that include coal (fourth-largest reserves in the world), iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, rare earth elements, titanium ore, chromites, natural gas, diamonds, petroleum, limestone, and arable land. Its cultivable arable land is 48.83%. According to 2011 Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation, India’s economic freedom score is 54.6, making its economy the 124th freest in the 2011 Index. Despite the challenging global economic environment, the Indian economy has recorded average annual growth of around 8 percent over the past five years, propelled by domestic demand and continuing strength in services and manufacturing. [5]

Protracted hunger looms wide in almost every Indian state, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute of 2008. The States of Bihar and Jharkhand rank lower than Zimbabwe and Haiti whereas Madhya Pradesh falls between Ethiopia and Chad. [6] However, on the side of industrial growth, India has immensely benefited from outsourcing of work from developed countries, and a strong manufacturing and export oriented industrial framework. The country’s public debt, according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has surged to over 50% of the total GDP and that RBI has started printing new currency notes.

Security Situation

India launched a security and foreign policy dialogue with China in 2005. The dialogue pertained to dispute over a rugged, militarized boundary, and regional nuclear proliferation. However, India believes China has in the past transferred missiles to Pakistan. Since the October 2005 earthquake in the region, various talks and confidence-building measures have been held between India and Pakistan to defuse tensions over Kashmir. Still, Kashmir remains the most contentious issue since it is the site of the world's largest and most militarized territorial dispute having portions under the de facto administration of China (Aksai Chin), India (Jammu and Kashmir), and Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas).

India and Pakistan still maintain the 2004 cease fire in Kashmir. The two nuclear neighbors have initiated discussions on defusing the armed stand-off in the Siachen glacier region. The government in Islamabad has voiced its concerns at New Delhi’s fencing of the highly militarized Line of Control and construction of the Baglihar Dam on the Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir which is part of the larger dispute on water sharing of the Indus River and its tributaries. Since 1949, a UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) has maintained a small group of peacekeepers. India refuses to recognize the historic Kashmir lands ceded to China in 1964 by Pakistan.

To defuse tensions and prepare for discussions on a maritime boundary, the two nuclear powers seek technical resolution on the disputed boundary in Sir Creek estuary at the mouth of the Rann of Kutch in the Arabian Sea. Pakistani maps display claim on Junagadh in the Gujarat State of India. Discussions with Bangladesh have been stalled to demarcate a small section of river boundary. Territorial swap of 51 Bangladeshi exclaves in India and 111 Indian exclaves in Bangladesh remain stalled. India feels the territorial exchange will pave way for divided villages and eventually bring an end to illegal cross-border trade, migration, violence, and transit of terrorists through the porous border. On the other hand, Bangladeshis bitterly protest India's attempts to fence off high-traffic sections of the border. India is seeking 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 examine contested boundary sections, including the 400 square kilometer dispute over the source of the Kalapani River. India maintains a strict border regime to keep out Maoist insurgents and control illegal cross-border activities from Nepal.

Critical Current International Issues

India is engaged in unrelenting rivalry with China. It is a dispute related to contentious border issues and territorial claims. The two nations’ territorial disputes lack historical record when it comes to demarcating the borders. [7] China’s occupation of Lhasa in 1962 and India’s subsequent retaliatory occupation of the Tawang region resulted in prolonged and unsolvable simmering of tensions. China was alarmed by India’s signing of nuclear cooperation with the U.S. China’s feels it is being encircled and in imminent danger. Besides, India has problems with Maoists rebels who claim to be fighting for the rights of the poor. It is believed that the rebels control large parts of the state of Chhattisgarh and that they are active in more than two-thirds of the country. Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minister, described the Maoist rebels as India’s greatest internal security challenge. [8]

Currently, India is confounded by deforestation; soil erosion; overgrazing; desertification; air pollution from industrial effluents and vehicle emissions; water pollution from raw sewage and runoff of agricultural pesticides; tap water is not potable throughout the country; huge and growing population is overstraining natural resources. It is a party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements. India is the world's largest producer of licit opium for the pharmaceutical trade. An undetermined quantity of opium is diverted to illicit international drug markets. India is the transit point for illicit narcotics produced in neighboring countries and throughout Southwest Asia. India is vulnerable to narcotics money laundering through the hawala system. India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.


[1] Retrieved January 29, 2011 from

[2] Library of Congress Country Studies, Retrieved January 29, 2011 from

[3] “Joint Statement between George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” Office of the Press Secretary, the White House, Washington, D.C., July 18, 2005.

[4] This priority was outlined well before the Bush administration entered office. Condoleeza Rice, “Promoting the National Interest,” Foreign Affairs 79:1 (January/February 2000).

[5]Heritage Foundation, India Information on Economic Freedom, Retrieved January 25, 2011 from

[6] Comparisons of Hunger Across States: India State Hunger Index, International Food Policy Research Institute
Retrieved January 25, 2011 from

[7] India-China Relations: Current Issues and Emerging Trends, Atlantic Council, January 25, 2010, Mohan Guruswamy, Chairman of the Center for Policy Alternatives in New Delhi, discussed India-China relations with the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center
Retrieved January 24, 2011 from

[8] Profile: India’s Maoist Rebels, Retrieved January 25, 2011 from

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