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November 2008



India, slightly more than one-third the size of the United States, is located in Southern Asia, near the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Border countries include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, Nepal, and Pakistan. Kanchenjunga, the third tallest mountain in the world, lies on the border with Nepal. Although India occupies only 2.4% of the world's land area, it supports over 15% of the world's population. Only China has a larger population.

The major cities of India include: Mumbai (formerly Bombay - 16.4 million pop.), Kolkata (formerly Calcutta - 13.2 million), Chennai (formerly Madras - 6.4 million), Bangalore (5.7 million), Hyderabad (5.5 million), Ahmedabad (5 million), and Pune (4 million).

Mumbai has the only natural deepwater port in western India. India's diverse economy encompasses traditional village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range of modern industries, and a multitude of services. Services are the major source of economic growth, accounting for more than half of India's output with less than one third of its labor force. The economy has posted an average growth rate of more than 7% in the decade since 1997, reducing poverty by about 10 percentage points. India achieved 8.5% GDP growth in 2006, and again in 2007, significantly expanding production of manufactures.

The climate varies from tropical monsoon in the south to more temperate in north. The terrain consists of upland plains in the south, flat to rolling plains along the Ganges, deserts in the west, and the Himalaya Mountains in north.

India's natural resources include coal (fourth-largest reserves in the world), iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, titanium ore, chromite, natural gas, diamonds, petroleum, limestone, and arable land. Natural hazards consist of droughts, flash floods, as well as widespread and destructive flooding from monsoonal rains, severe thunderstorms, and earthquakes.

Though English is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; Hindi is the national language and primary tongue of 41% of the people. There are 14 other official languages: Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit; Hindustani is a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu spoken widely throughout northern India but is not an official language.

India is the home of more than 138 million Muslims--one of the world's largest Muslim populations. The population also includes Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, and Parsis.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; The Columbia Gazeteer, 11/2008; 06/2008; 11/2008

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