Republican Reference - Area ( 3,287,263 - Population 1,189,172,906 - Capital New Delhi - Currency Indian Rupee - President Pratibha Devisingh Patil


















Books on India

Key Economic Data 
  2012 2009 2008 Ranking(2012)
Millions of US $ 1,825,000 1,296,085 1,159,170 10
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,530 1,170 1,040 164
Ranking is given out of 213 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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India has emerged as one of the dominant players in the international system and a regional power in the South Asian subcontinent. Located in the heart of South Asia, India is unique for its cultural heritage, geographical diversity, and democratic ethos. India's ancient history was marked by series of invasions and foreign rule beginning with the entry of the Aryans in 1500 B.C., the advent of the Mughals in A.D 1000, culminating in British imperial rule around 1858. During this period, India was one of the richest countries in the world. It was renowned for its international trade in spices and textiles. Along with its rich resources, India's geographical location made it an attractive colony. The British wanted to exploit India as a market for the sale of its manufactured goods. They set up a centralized form of administration, built an extensive network of highways, railroads and post and telegraph systems. They also imparted western education to the Indians which led to the emergence of a middle class conscious of their own rights.
To overthrow British tutelage, a section of erudite Indians led by Surendra Nath Banerjee established the Indian National Congress in 1885. The Indian nationalist movement evolved through different phases and the INC emerged as the single largest representative of the Hindus in India. It became an umbrella organization and leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai were at the forefront in India's struggle for independence. Of the most famous of India's "freedom fighters", was a man called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. In the struggle for liberation against British rule, Gandhi developed concepts like ahimsa (non violence), satyagraha (search for truth) and civil disobedience. As the national movement picked up momentum, British rule began to weaken. From the 1940s, the Muslim League, a party representing the Muslims of India, demanded the creation of a Muslim majority state. The Indian National Congress was ill-prepared for these demands and tensions brewed amongst members of both camps leading to large scale Hindu-Muslim rioting. Finally in 1947, the Congress leaders acceded to the division of the country along religious lines which led to the creation of the separate nation of Pakistan. Partition left a deep impact on the secular fabric of the country. Close to half a million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were killed. On August 1947, India gained independence from the British. Yet, the memories of partition remained etched in the minds of Hindus and Muslims and were soon to become the root of an intractable conflict over Kashmir. 
From the time of independence, India has fought four major wars with Pakistan (1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999) and one with China (1962). While India suffered a severe debacle at the hands of the Chinese in the 1962 war, the dispute over Kashmir with Pakistan remains unresolved and has led to incessant crises on both sides. The roots of the Kashmir dispute date back to partition and the events of 1947. The end of British rule had compounded the problem of achieving a unified India. In the months after partition, the prince of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh faced tremendous pressure from both India and Pakistan but refused to accede to either country. During the first week of October 1947, a tribal rebellion broke out in Poonch, a region in southwestern Kashmir. Sections of the Pakistani army aided the rebels with arms and men. Within two weeks, the insurgents were close to Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. At this point, Hari Singh appealed to India for protection against the intruders. India's Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to provide assistance to Hari Singh only if the Maharaja acceded to India and the accession was endorsed by Sheikh Abdullah, the political leader of Kashmir. Once the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession, Indian troops were airlifted into Kashmir. On 1 January 1948, India referred the Kashmir dispute to the UN Security Council by invoking articles 34 and 35 of the UN Charter. On 24 April, 1948, the UN Security Council passed a resolution stating that India and Pakistan should bring about a cessation of all hostilities and move towards the early restoration of peace in the region. It also urged both countries to conduct a free and fair plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmir people. This resolution was held as the principal term of reference for future negotiations between the two countries. However, the UN achieved little and the dispute continued to rock the relations between the two countries. The problem of Kashmir took on a different dimension from the late 1980s when there was a rise in insurgency within the state of Kashmir. This was the first time that India was witnessing the start of cross-border terrorism. Moreover, while Pakistan has repeatedly sought third party mediation and looked towards the United States to play such a role, India has reiterated its position of resolving the dispute bilaterally. 
India's relations with China took a downslide after the 1962 war and also when the Chinese tested their first nuclear device in 1964. However, India has not been engaged in any major conflict with China since 1962 but continues to be wary of the Chinese presence north of the Himalayas. Another one of India's concerns with regard to China has been the technical and material support that China provided to Pakistan in developing the latter's nuclear weapons arsenal. 
With regard to the United States, India has predominantly enjoyed a cordial relationship. During the height of the Cold war between the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union, India advocated a policy of non-alignment and sought to distance itself from the power struggle between the two super powers. The United States was not very interested in South Asia during the Cold War but was careful not to allow the spread of communism to the region. Most of America's strategic interests in the region during the Cold War were guided by its fear of communist expansion. America maintained stronger relations with Pakistan and established a military alliance with Pakistan in 1954. While the US provided military assistance to both India and Pakistan, by 1964, Washington was unhappy with both countries and began to withdraw itself from the region. It was only after 1979 and the early 1980s that Washington began again to take an interest in India. In the period after the Cold war, Washington was particularly concerned with the development of India's nuclear capabilities and pushed for non-proliferation efforts in the region. The conduct of India's nuclear tests in the summer of 1998, followed by the Kargil war of 1999 between India and Pakistan raised fears in the international community about the possibility of a nuclear war between the two adjacent neighbors. Since then, the United States has repeatedly urged both countries to exercise restraint.

Political Structure and Elections

India's political structure is modeled along the British parliamentary system. Under the Indian Constitution, executive power resides in the President who represents the symbolic head of the nation. The President is also the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. The Prime Minister is the executive head supported by a cabinet of ministers and is responsible for the actual execution of policy. The Indian Parliament consists of two houses: the Lok Sabha which is the lower house and is popularly called the House of the People and Rajya Sabha, the upper house. The members of the Lok Sabha are elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage directly from India's 25 states. The members to the Rajya Sabha are nominated by the President on the basis of their expertise in the fields of literature, science and social service. 

Since 1951, elections in India have witnessed the gradual decline of the Congress party and from the early 1990s the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). From 1989 to 1998, India has had four national elections and except for the period between 1996 and 1998, these elections produced unstable short term coalition governments. In the 1996 and 1998 elections, four distinct political groups emerged, namely the Congress and its allies; the BJP and its allies; the United Front and a large number of caste based and regional parties. In the 1998 elections, the BJP came to power and won 25.47 percent of the vote and 179 seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party still continues to be the dominant party at the Center and is heading a multi party coalition called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). 

In post independence India, there were major debates about the future of the Indian economy and the type of model India should adopt for economic reconstruction. India's Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was interested in building a strong decentralized state along socialist lines. In 1948, the Industrial Policy Resolution was passed which called for a mixed economy in which some industries like railroads and atomic energy would remain under the public sector while industries like coal, iron and steel and manufacturing would be open to private enterprise. As part of this model, India embarked on a set of Five Year plans which continued well into the mid 1960s. In the 1960s, India was faced with the challenge of liberalization and the Fourth Five Year Plan encompassed the need for allowing a more free hand for the market. From 1963 to 1973, a series of constitutional amendments were initiated to restructure the Indian economy. This was a period of structural reform in which Prime Minister Indira Gandhi nationalized a number of private sector banks and the government took over a large part of the private sector. From 1973 onwards, a second phase of liberalization began. However, even though the liberalization produced some changes, the Indian economy took a downslide and by the early 1990s India was practically bankrupt, forcing it to borrow loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This in turn unleashed a new spate of economic reforms and led to the complete liberalization of the Indian economy. Ever since then, different governments at the Center have dealt with the process of liberalization in various ways and it remains a fundamental bedrock of the Indian economy. Over the years, India has opened up its markets to numerous multi national corporations and has become a thriving market for the import and export of international products. 

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Update No: 110 - (26/11/13)

Summary: India witnessed tremendous political turmoil this year but also saw some landmark achievements in its history – a mission to Mars being one. However, India’s fascinating democratic process is in full swing at the moment. With national elections approaching in April-May 2014 the electorate stands divided and the debate has become very passionate. The debate is shaping in the form of ‘a choice between two evils’ i.e. a corrupt, dynastic but socially inclusive party (the Congress); and a relatively clean and performance-oriented but highly communal figure (Narendra Modi of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP). In addition to this, the ghost of the Sri Lankan civil war came to haunt India as PM Manmohan Singh got caught up in domestic political turbulence, over Colombo’s hosting of the 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM). With a tough history of military intervention, Sri Lanka remains critical to India’s strategic interests, however, Tamil political parties within India would want the central government to hold Colombo responsible for alleged human rights violations. Thirdly, and from a security perspective, India is bracing for more militancy in its northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), believing that fighters now focused on resisting US-led troops in Afghanistan will shift toward the Himalayan flashpoint with Pakistan. It is increasing its use of drones, thermal sensors and foot patrols as it tries to catch out any battle-hardened militants moving through the forested mountains near the turbulent frontier. Finally, The Indian Navy received a new aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, from Russia, boosting the number of carriers in its fleet to three. This will make it the third Navy in the world after US and Italy to operate more than one carrier.

2014 Elections and the challenge of Narendra Modi
India’s fascinating democratic process is in full swing at the moment. With national elections approaching in April-May 2014 the electorate stands divided and the debate has become very passionate. The current government led by PM Manmohan Singh has been reviled by many for being corrupt, ineffective, and lacking accountability. Moreover the leading political party i.e. the Congress, known for promoting political dynasties i.e. the Gandhi family, has come under tremendous criticism for fielding Rahul Gandhi, son of former PM Rajiv Gandhi and the strong current chief of the Congress, Sonia Gandhi. The challenge for the incumbent comes from the Hindu ultra right-wing leader Narendra Modi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and three times Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat. Modi himself is a highly polarising figure and has been accused of orchestrating the carnage of more than 2000 Muslims in the infamous Gujarat riots of 2002. The debate is thus shaping in the form of ‘choosing between two evils’ i.e. a corrupt, dynastic but socially inclusive party (the Congress) and a relatively clean and performance-oriented but highly (religious) communal figure (Modi). According to some, the contest is between Narendra Modi and Congress, and not between Congress and BJP per se, reflecting the authoritarian nature of Modi. While the popular sentiment remains staunchly against the Congress, people are taking Modi’s development driven agenda with scepticism, particularly as communal tension recently heightened in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) – which is the largest Indian state and most crucial in terms of Parliamentary representation. There remains a small third camp within the electorate, which is hoping for a third alternative that is both secular and non-corrupt, but the possibility of the same remains bleak.

In addition to corruption and secularism the debate has expanded to issues such as economic growth and development, as well as foreign policy. While Congress-led governments have traditionally spearheaded economic reforms in India, the slump in growth rate from approx. 10 per cent per annum to a bit over 4 per cent per annum, shocked many. Even though the current government says that it fared well, relative to Western countries that were hit hard by the global recession, it has failed to convince many. Economic anxieties were fuelled by the crash of the Indian Rupee in the global market, where its value fell from approx. Rs. 45 per US$ to Rs. 63 per US$ and is expected to fall further to Rs. 78 per US$, within a span of two months. Even though Modi has not articulated any particular plans to reverse the economic tide, his election agenda is loaded with rhetoric of growth and development. Having attracted the big Indian corporate and even mid-sized businesses, Modi has popular support from the print and electronic media. However, critics have targeted him for not enunciating a clear economic policy. In the meantime the Congress-led government have been actively introducing populist policies to catch the imagination of the voter. These include the Food Security Bill, a specialist report on oil and gas prices – to put a cap on them – called the Rangarajan Committee Report among others. Finally, regardless of their political and economic advocacies, both Modi and Gandhi face the challenge of working in a group. While it is well known that regional political parties are wary of forming a coalition with Modi due to his authoritarian style, there has been tremendous criticism of even Rahul Gandhi for being rigid and unaccommodating of regional political interests.

India’s Sri Lanka Dilemma
Caught in domestic political turbulence over Sri Lanka’s hosting of the 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo on from 15-17 November, PM Manmohan Singh refused to participate in the meeting. Instead, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid represented India and ultimately expressed regret that the PM could not attend. While proponents of national and strategic interests pushed for PM Manmohan Singh to attend the meeting, various human rights activists and political parties from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu actively discouraged him to visit Colombo. The reason was simple – Sri Lankan government and armed forces have been accused of committing gross human rights violations against Tamil minorities, in their fight against the militant Tamil nationalist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The LTTE had been seeking secession of the Tamil-dominated northern parts of Sri Lanka since 1976. With roots in social fragmentation – Sri Lanka has a Sinhalese majority and a sizeable Tamil minority – the island nation witnessed a bloody civil war from 1983 to 2009. According to various human rights organisations, the Sri Lankan army used massive force not just against the LTTE cadres and fighters but also Tamil civilians in its 2009 Northern Offensive – which led to the final defeat of the LTTE. Often, allegedly, firing in No-Fire zones meant for relief purposes, the offensive led to the death of more than 40,000 civilians and many more were displaced. Interestingly, India has had its own historical trajectory of involvement with the Sri Lankan conflict and actively – militarily and politically – supported the Sri Lankan government in its 2009 operations.

India provided covert support in terms of training and supplies to the Tamil rebels between 1983-1987 and played an important role in the creation of the LTTE, against the Sri Lankan government. Most Sri Lankan Tamil groups – political and militant – had developed deep links with India’s own Tamil political parties since early 1970s. The idea was to maintain pressure on a pro-American Sri Lankan government within the Cold War context. However, in 1987, under the leadership of the then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J R Jayawardene, the India-Sri Lanka Peace Accords were signed. While most Tamil militant groups agreed to give up arms and participate in provincial elections, the LTTE refused to abide by the Accord. As a result, India moved in its armed forces, called the Indian Peacekeeping Forces (IPKF), in July 1987 to North Sri Lanka. Mandated with ensuring a ceasefire between the rebels and government forces and helping Colombo organise provincial elections, the IPKF was also to disarm and demobilise the rebels. However, instead of achieving either of the two, India got sucked into a bloody conflict itself with the LTTE when the latter declared war against the IPKF. Lasting till March 1990, IPKF intervention in Sri Lanka cost the Indian Army 1,200 soldiers and more than 3,000 were wounded – LTTE lost more than 8,000 people. In a shocker, an LTTE suicide bomber assassinated the then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi during a political rally in Tamil Nadu on 21 May 1991. India, including its Tamil politicians (tacitly though), by now had turned decisively against the LTTE and provided critical military and naval support to Sri Lanka in 2009 to wipe out the LTTE.

Sri Lanka’s alleged human rights violations in 2009 not only sparked international outrage but also made the issue of political consequence in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Tamil political parties in India – such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (AIADMK) who are part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government – have been pressuring PM Manmohan Singh to boycott Sri Lanka and initiate an international inquiry into war crimes. With national Indian elections at the doorstep (April-May 2014) a strong alliance with these parties is crucial for the Congress to challenge the momentum of its Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rival Narendra Modi. This anti-Sri Lanka advocacy was matched by a strong ‘engage-Sri Lanka’ advocacy across the country. While the former had political interests, the latter wanted India to stand by its decisions and not allow China to make gains in post-war Sri Lanka, which not only has a wealth of natural resources but is important for India strategically. Interestingly, British PM David Cameron’s visit to Jaffna, the region where the civil war was most acute, made international headlines, much to the embarrassment of many in New Delhi, who wanted PM Manmohan Singh to undertake a similar visit.

India expects more militants in Kashmir as US quits Afghanistan
India is bracing for more militancy in its northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), believing that fighters now focused on resisting US-led troops in Afghanistan will shift toward the Himalayan flashpoint between India and Pakistan. According to security experts, increased violence in the recent months along the Line-of-Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan proves that the shift is already underway. While it is unclear which side started the firing, both the countries have suffered losses due to exchange of fire in the recent months. India is increasing its use of drones, thermal sensors and foot patrols as it tries to catch out any battle-hardened militants moving through the forested mountains near the turbulent frontier. At the same time, Indian troops have increasingly been engaging in skirmishes with Pakistan's military.

According to an Indian Army commander in J&K, the militants are ‘making their presence felt by launching audacious attacks’. There has also been an increase in recruitment of disenchanted and radicalised youth. According to experts the main anti-India terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as we had forecast, have already started operating from training camps within Afghan territory. There has also been an increase in training local Kashmiri youth that have become extremely radicalised over the last few years. India has also increased its engagement with the US to address this upcoming challenge and the two countries are regularly in touch over security matters. According to Admiral Samuel Locklear of the US Navy, ‘we are thinking about it more and more each day, and this includes dialogue with our partners in India and Pakistan’. India has long accused Pakistan of arming and training militants who fight in J&K, a charge Pakistan vehemently denies. Pakistan has consistently said it gives the rebels only moral and diplomatic support but Pakistan’s government and institutions are so fragmented, that is still unconvincing.

Indian Navy gets new aircraft carrier
The Indian Navy received a new aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, from Russia, boosting the number of carriers in its fleet to three. This will make it the third Navy in the world after US and Italy to operate more than one carrier. The aircraft carrier was commissioned into the Indian Navy at a Russian shipyard recently, ending a five-year delay to the US$ 2.33 billion project. The 44,570-tonne carrier, which will operate supersonic MiG-29K fighters and Kamov-31 helicopters from its deck, is the largest-ever warship to be inducted by India, as also the most expensive single military platform ever bought. India's solitary carrier till now, the 55-year-old INS Viraat, will now be a poor second at 28,000-tonne. Formerly called Admiral Gorshkov (Kiev-Class carrier for Soviet Navy), the INS Vikramaditya was commissioned at the Sevmash Shipyard in the northern Arctic at a ceremony attended by defence minister A K Antony, Russian deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin,’ and senior officials of the two countries. The warship, with its array of fighters, helicopters and other weapon systems, will go a long way in bolstering the Navy's blue-water capabilities, and is already being described as “a game-changer” in the region. Given the delay in the delivery of the carrier many Indians had started worrying that they may not receive the war-ship at all. With geopolitical competition with China on the rise, the INS Vikramaditya is supposed to give India an advantage in the Indian Ocean vis-ŕ-vis China.


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