Background: The Indus Valley civilization, one of the world's oldest, flourished during the 3rd and 2nd millennia B.C. and extended into northwestern India. Aryan tribes from the northwest infiltrated onto the Indian subcontinent about 1500 B.C.; their merger with the earlier Dravidian inhabitants created the classical Indian culture. The Maurya Empire of the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. - which reached its zenith under ASHOKA - united much of South Asia. The Golden Age ushered in by the Gupta dynasty (4th to 6th centuries A.D.) saw a flowering of Indian science, art, and culture. Islam spread across the subcontinent over a period of 700 years. In the 10th and 11th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded India and established the Delhi Sultanate. In the early 16th century, the Emperor BABUR established the Mughal Dynasty which ruled India for more than three centuries. European explorers began establishing footholds in India during the 16th century. By the 19th century, Great Britain had become the dominant political power on the subcontinent. The British Indian Army played a vital role in both World Wars. Nonviolent resistance to British rule, led by Mohandas GANDHI and Jawaharlal NEHRU, eventually brought about independence in 1947. Communal violence led to the subcontinent's bloody partition, which resulted in the creation of two separate states, India and Pakistan. The two countries have fought three wars since independence, the last of which in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. India's nuclear weapons tests in 1998 caused Pakistan to conduct its own tests that same year. In November 2008, terrorists allegedly originating from Pakistan conducted a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India's financial capital. Despite pressing problems such as significant overpopulation, environmental degradation, extensive poverty, and widespread corruption, rapid economic development is fueling India's rise on the world stage. In January 2011, India assumed a nonpermanent seat in the UN Security Council for the 2011-12 term.
note: English enjoys the status of subsidiary official language but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; Hindi is the most widely spoken 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 (2001 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 61%; male: 73.4%; female: 47.8% (2001 census);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $4.046 trillion (2010 est.); $3.736 trillion (2009 est.); $3.478 trillion (2008 est.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate): $1.43 trillion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 8.3% (2010 est.); 7.4% (2009 est.); 7.4% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $3,400 (2010 est.); $3,200 (2009 est.); $3,000 (2008 est.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 16.1%; industry: 28.6%; services: 55.3% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 25% (2007 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3.6%; highest 10%: 31.1% (2005);
Labor force: 478.3 million (2010 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 52%; industry: 14%; services: 34% (2009 est.);
Unemployment rate: 10.8% (2010 est.); 10.7% (2009 est.);
Budget: revenues: $170.7 billion; expenditures: $257.4 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: textiles, chemicals, food processing, steel, transportation equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery, software, pharmaceuticals;
Industrial production growth rate: 9.7% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 723.8 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 568 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - exports: 810 million kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - imports: 5.27 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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Village-scale solar-powered minigrids are the most promising path for India to meet its linked aims of GDP growth and access to electricity for all.
Solar power is now priced competitively with traditional forms of energy, which makes new nuclear power plants financially unviable.
In its recent defense technology deal with the U.S., India has laid the groundwork for creating a robust long-term defense industrial base.
At upcoming multilateral summits, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an opportunity to expand India's regional position and economic links, and address issues such as terrorism and a rising China.