Thursday, April 29, 2004

Country of the week #4

My son and I are doing a Jr detective based on the geography of certain countries. Each case is in a different country, and the case we are working on now is in India. India, I decided, is too big of a country (people, size, culture, history) to do with just one country of the week article, but I'll handle it superficially and then get it again some other time.

The Indus and Ganges River systems have housed civilizations for over 5000 years. Hinduism and Buddhismm have been running around since before Christ was born, and the Persian and Greek empires only grazed the surface of this area. The Muslims and Ottomans came through the area in the 8th and 12th centuries, so Islam has a long history here. In the 19th century, the English has established control of the area. It was the richest country ever controlled by a European power.

Mohandas Ghandi and Jawaharlal Nehru eventually led the Indians to independence in 1947 through some of the largest peaceful protests in the worlds history. The constitution was ratified on January 26, 1950, which is a national holiday (Republic Day).
India was split into two nations, one primarily Hindu and the other, Pakistan, primarily Islam. In 1971 there was a war between the two countries which ended up splitting Pakistan into two nations, the east part becoming Bangladesh.

India has the gamut of physical geography. From arid deserts in the west near Pakistan, to Jungles near Bangladesh and China, to large plains of agriculture. From flat plains to some of the tallest mountains in the world. The country is about one third the size of the United states, but has 4 times the population.

India is another secular (sort of) democracy, with three branches of government and a constitution. In the executive there is a President (Abdul Kalam) and Vice President and there is a council of Ministers with a Prime Minister (Atal Bihari Vajpayee). The President is the constitutional head of state, and the Prime Minister is to aid and advise the president on all matters, but since the president who "shall, in exercise of his functions, act in accordance of such advice." In other words, I think the Prime Minister is in charge and the President is just a day to day operations guy. In effect I think that is a lot like most public corporations these days. The president of the company is day to day stuff and the CEO is the real head of the company, but makes more "policy" like decisions.

The legislature has two houses, the Rajya Sabha (Council of states) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). The Rajya Sabha represent the states (like senate) and are elected by the legislatures of each state. The Lok Sabha are elected directly by the people of India. The more heavily represented political parties in office are the Bharatiya Janata (BJP) alliance and the Congress Alliance. Not sure what each party represents, but there are well over 20 political parties in India.

India also has a judicial system that is appointed by the president, but is independent from the executive branch.

The constitution declares India a sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic, and secures the rights of freedom of religion, expression and status, among other things. Despite the call to religious freedom there is much persecution in India for anyone who is Muslim or Christian. Pay attention to the reports of Government action and legislation. There have been movements in the past to push more Hindu culture into this "Secular" democracy, and it will probably continue.

The EU is advocating that India gets a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

There were just elections there and they are still counting the votes. The BJP, or Hindu Nationalists, who are currently the majority and the Prime Minister, are hoping for a mandate to expand the capitalization of the country. It looks like it might be a pretty tight race though.

You though China was where it was at in the new age of globalization? Check out India, on line to become the most populous country in the world and one of the biggest economic powers in Asia.

India wants to be a part of the peace process in the Middle East, but now England and the US are pressuring them to send troops to Iraq.

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