December 9, 2006 2:32am CST
is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country, and the most populous liberal democracy in the world. India has a coastline of over seven thousand kilometres, bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east. India borders Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal and Bhutan to the north-east; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia. Home to the Indus Valley Civilization and a region of ancient trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent has a heritage that includes the decimal number system, the Buddhist art of Ajanta, and the Taj Mahal. Four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated here, while Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, arrived in the first millennium CE and shaped India's variegated culture. Colonised by the British East India Company in the 18th century and directly administered by Great Britain starting the mid-19th century, India became a modern nation-state in 1947 after a struggle for independence marked by widespread use of nonviolent resistance as a means of social protest. With the world's fourth largest economy in purchasing power and the second fastest growing large economy, India has made rapid progress in the last decade, most notably in information technology. A declared nuclear deterrent state, with an active space program, India is considered an emerging superpower. However, although its standard of living is projected to rise sharply in the next half-century, India currently battles high levels of poverty, persistent malnutrition, and environmental degradation. A multi-lingual, multi-ethnic society, India is home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.