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Geography - note: dominates South Asian subcontinent; near important Indian Ocean trade routes

total: 3,287,590 sq km
land: 2,973,190 sq km
water: 314,400 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly more than one-third the size of the US

Climate: varies from tropical monsoon in south to temperate in north

Terrain: upland plain (Deccan Plateau) in south, flat to rolling plain along the Ganges, deserts in west, Himalayas in north

Natural resources: coal (fourth-largest reserves in the world), iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, titanium ore, chromite, natural gas, diamonds, petroleum, limestone

Environment - current issues: 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 rapidly growing population is overstraining natural resources

Population: 966,783,171 (July 1997 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 35% (male 173,420,822; female 163,433,648)
15-64 years: 61% (male 304,048,569; female 281,625,342)
65 years and over: 4% (male 22,536,104; female 21,718,686) (July 1997 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.72% (1997 est.)

Birth rate: 26.19 births/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Death rate: 8.87 deaths/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 65.5 deaths/1,000 live births (1997 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 62.41 years
male: 61.68 years
female: 63.18 years (1997 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.29 children born/woman (1997 est.)

Ethnic groups: Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid and other 3%

Religions: Hindu 80%, Muslim 14%, Christian 2.4%, Sikh 2%, Buddhist 0.7%, Jains 0.5%, other 0.4%

Languages: English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication, Hindi the national language and primary tongue of 30% of the people, Bengali (official), Telugu (official), Marathi (official), Tamil (official), Urdu (official), Gujarati (official), Malayalam (official), Kannada (official), Oriya (official), Punjabi (official), Assamese (official), Kashmiri (official), Sindhi (official), Sanskrit (official), Hindustani a popular variant of Hindu/Urdu, is spoken widely throughout northern India

note : 24 languages each spoken by a million or more persons; numerous other languages and dialects, for the most part mutually unintelligible

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 52%
male: 65.5%
female: 37.7% (1995 est.)

National capitol:  New Delhi

Independence: 15 August 1947 (from UK)

Constitution: 26 January 1950

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Political parties and leaders: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), A. B. VAJPAYEE; Congress (I) Party, Sitaram KESRI, president; Janata Dal Party, Laloo Prasad YADAV; Janata Dal (Ajit), Ajit SINGH; Communist Party of India/Marxist (CPI/M), Harkishan Singh SURJEET; Tamil Maanila Congress, G. K. MOOPANAR; Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (a regional party in Tamil Nadu), M. KARUNANIDHI; Samajwadi Party (SP), Mulayam Singh YADAV(president), Om Prakash CHAUTALA, Devi LAL; Telugu Desam (Naidu) (a regional party in Andhra Pradesh), Chandrababu NAIDU; Communist Party of India (CPI), Indrajit GUPTA; Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), Tridip CHOWDHURY; Asom Gana Parishad, Prafulla Kumar MAHANTA; Congress (Tiwari), Arjun SINGH and N.D. TIWARI; All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), Prem Dutta PALIWAL (chairman), Chitta BASU (general secretary); Muslim League, G. M. BANATWALA; Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress, Madhavro SCINDIA; Karnataka Congress Party, S. BANGARAPPA; Shiv Sena, Bal THACKERAY; Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Kanshi RAM; Communist Party of India/Marxist-Leninist (CPI/ML), Vinod MISHRA; Akali Dal factions representing Sikh religious community in the Punjab; National Conference (NC; a regional party in Jammu and Kashmir), Farooq ABDULLAH; Bihar Peoples Party, Lovely ANAND; Samata Party (formerly Janata Dal members), George FERNANDES; Indian National League, Suliaman SAIT; Kerala Congress (Mani faction), K. M. MANI

note: subsequent to the election, the following parties were dissolved - Congress (Tiwari), Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress, and Karnataka Congress Party

Economy - overview:  India's economy is a mixture of traditional village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range of modern industries, and a multitude of support services. A large share of the population, perhaps as much as 40%, remains too poor to afford an adequate diet. The policy in the 1980s of fueling economic growth through high government expenditure proved unsustainable, however, and in the wake of an international payments crisis in 1991 India has been transforming its semi-socialist, insular economy into a more open, market-oriented economy. Production, trade, and investment reforms since 1991 have provided new opportunities for Indian businesspersons and an estimated 200 million plus middle class consumers. New Delhi has stimulated exports, attracted foreign investment, and revived confidence in India's economic prospects. GDP growth exceeded 6% in 1995 and in 1996. Most of the country's external fundamentals - including the current account balance and reserves (now about $19 billion) - are healthy. Even so, the Indian Government needs to restore the early momentum of reform, especially by continuing reductions in the extensive remaining government regulations. The government will also have to deal with rising government expenditures and higher debt servicing which could create a debt trap by the turn of the century. Even if a series of weak coalition governments come to power in the next few years and are unable to push reforms aggressively, parts of the economy that have already benefited from deregulation will continue to grow. Moreover, the country can build on other strengths, including its diverse industrial base, large scientific and technical pool, its well-developed legal system, and its large middle class.

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 30%
industry : 28%
services: 42% (1993/94)

Agriculture - products: rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, potatoes; cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, poultry; fish catch of about 3 million metric tons ranks India among the world's top 10 fishing nations

total value : $30.5 billion (f.o.b., 1995)
commodities: clothing, gems and jewelry, engineering goods, chemicals, leather manufactures, cotton yarn, and fabric partners: US, Japan, Germany, UK, Hong Kong

total value: $34.5 billion (c.i.f., 1995)
commodities: crude oil and petroleum products, machinery, gems, fertilizer, chemicals
partners: US, Germany, Saudi Arabia, UK, Belgium, Japan

Debt - external: $97.9 billion (March 1995)

Currency:  Rupee

Military manpower - availability:  males age 15-49: 258,172,895 (1997 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service: males : 151,693,072 (1997 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure: $8 billion (FY95/96)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2.7% (FY95/96)

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