Overview | Government

This series of profiles of foreign nations is part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The profiles offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. Derived from The Library of Congress.


Government Overview: India is a democratic republic with a system of government legally based on the often-amended 1950 constitution. The central government is also known as the union government, and its structure is much like the British parliamentary system, with distinct, but interrelated executive, legislative, and judicial branches. State governments are structured much like the central government, and district governments exist in a variety of forms. The Indian parliament is a bicameral legislature composed of a lower house (the Lok Sabha or House of the People), with 543 popularly elected members and 2 members appointed by the president, and an upper house (the Rajya Sabha or Council of States), with 12 appointed members and 233 members elected by state and union territory assemblies. Lok Sabha members serve five-year terms, and Rajya Sabha members serve six-year terms, with one-third of members up for election every two years. The legislature passes laws on constitutionally specified matters, such as central government finances and constitutional amendments. The two houses have the same powers, but the Rajya Sabha’s power in the legislative process is subordinate to the Lok Sabha.

India has both a prime minister and a president. Members of parliament and state legislative assemblies elect the president, currently A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who was elected in 2002. Prime ministers are leaders of the majority party in parliament but are formally appointed by the president. In 2004 Manmohan Singh became prime minister when his Indian National Congress party defeated the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Singh’s predecessor as prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Over time, political power has become increasingly concentrated in the prime minister and Council of Ministers (cabinet), although they are responsible to the parliament. The president’s duties are mostly ceremonial, although the president formally approves the prime minister and also approves the Council of Ministers based on the prime minister’s advice. Furthermore, all bills require presidential approval before becoming law. The vice president is ex officio chairperson of the Rajya Sabha and acts in place of the president when the president is unable to perform his or her duties.

The Supreme Court is the top legal entity, and it is composed of a chief justice appointed by the president and 25 associate judges also appointed by the president in consultation with the chief justice. The Supreme Court has numerous legal powers, such as appellate jurisdiction over all civil and criminal proceedings, with the potential of influencing interpretation of the constitution. The parliament and Supreme Court have maintained a contentious relationship on issues related to judicial review and parliamentary sovereignty. Below the Supreme Court are high courts, followed by a hierarchy of subordinate courts, and some states also have panchayat (village-level) courts that decide civil and criminal matters. Some high courts serve more than one state, and all are independent of state legislatures and executives. The judiciary is regarded as slow and cumbersome but is also widely respected and often takes an activist role in protecting citizens’ rights.

Since independence, India has experienced a plethora of political successes and problems. Corruption, communal conflicts, and rural economic development remain difficult political issues. Furthermore, some analysts believe the government’s inclusive design could undermine governing capacity and national unity as political parties and social groups press for their respective parochial interests. Yet the country maintains a democratic system of government with civil liberties that are often lacking in many poor, ethnically diverse societies. India also has an impressive record of economic development and a demonstrable commitment to correcting traditional social oppression. A wide variety of social groups have held elected office, and women, Sikhs, Muslims, and dalits have served as either president or prime minister. In 2004 there were 45 women elected to the Lok Sabha, and both dalits and indigenous groups have a certain minimum number of reserved seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies based on their respective percentages of the population.

Administrative Divisions: There are twenty-eight states and seven union territories including the national capital territory of New Delhi. State boundaries are often based on language or other social characteristics, and union territories tend to be geographically smaller and less populous than states. States and union territories contain 601 districts that are further subdivided into townships containing from 200 to 600 villages. The union government exercises greater control over union territories than over states, but the division of power between the union and state governments can appear blurred and even chaotic at times. Relationships between some state governments and the union government have been contentious, particularly when state governments are run by political parties that oppose the governing party or coalition in parliament. The tremendous variations in economic and social development among states suggest that state governments can have a greater influence on their populations than the union government. However, the union government still exercises considerable influence on states through numerous financial resources and its authority to assume control of states during times of emergency (called President's Rule), which the union government has done nearly 100 times since 1947.

Provincial and Local Government: Union territories have a council of ministers, a legislature, and a high court, but they are largely governed by the central or union government through a lieutenant governor or chief commissioner appointed by the prime minister. The structure of state governments largely mirrors that of the union government, with each state having a legislative assembly, chief minister, and high court. State government policies are largely implemented through state-level agencies, but union government agencies are also prevalent at local levels. District and local governments are generally weak, although some states have attempted to establish traditional village councils (panchayats) to address local matters.

State legislatures are usually unicameral with a legislative assembly composed of members elected for five-year terms. Bicameral state legislatures also have a legislative council that is largely advisory in its capacities, with members directly elected, indirectly elected, or nominated. States’ chief ministers are the leaders of majority parties in state legislatures, and just as the prime minister is accountable to parliament, chief ministers are answerable to state legislatures. However, the popularity and party support of some chief ministers enable them to have some autonomy from their state legislature and a degree of influence that rivals that of the union government. States also have governors that are appointed by the president and accountable to the dominant political party in parliament. Although the position is largely honorific, governors do have important powers such as formal approval of chief ministers and their cabinets as well as the authority to recommend that the union government take control of a state government during times of emergency (President’s Rule).

Judicial and Legal System: The legal system is derived from English common law and based on the 1950 constitution. Judges decide cases, and there is no trial by jury. Defendants can choose counsel independent of the government, and the government provides free legal counsel for defendants unable to afford such. The judiciary enforces the right to fair trial, and there are effective channels for appeal, but the judicial system is so overburdened with a case backlog that some courts barely function. In non-criminal matters, the government does not interfere with the personal status laws of Muslims and other communities on matters dealing with family law, inheritance, divorce, and discrimination against women.

The Indian constitution contains civil liberties called Fundamental Rights that are guaranteed to all citizens and include equality before the law and freedoms of speech, expression, religion, and association. Freedom of the press is not explicitly stated but is widely interpreted as included in the freedoms of speech and expression. The Fundamental Rights were also created with the objective of addressing historical social injustices and legally prohibit bonded labor, human trafficking, and discrimination based on religion, sex, race, caste, and birthplace. Still, the government has the authority to limit civil liberties in order to preserve public order, protect national security, and for other reasons.

Electoral System: The Election Commission is the independent government body that supervises parliamentary and state elections, which are massive and sometimes marred by violence. Elections for state assemblies and the Lok Sabha are held every five years unless called earlier, such as through a no-confidence vote of the government by the Lok Sabha. Indeed, elections are often held before the five-year limits because governments have often had difficulty staying in power for the full five-year term. In the 2004 general elections, there were more than 687,000 polling stations and 671.5 million voters. Since 1952, there have been 14 general elections, with voter turnout ranging from 55 to 64 percent of eligible voters. The legal voting age is 18. National and state legislative elections are similar to the British House of Commons and United States House of Representatives, in which members gain office by winning a plurality of votes in their local constituency. There are 543 parliamentary constituencies. The number of constituencies for state legislatures ranges from 32 to 403, with a total of 4,120 state constituencies nationwide.

Politics and Political Parties: From independence (1947) until 1989, the left-of-center Indian National Congress and its factions dominated national politics. In the 1990s, the center-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the centrist Janata Dal emerged as influential political parties, although Congress returned to power in May 2004 with Manmohan Singh as prime minister. There are numerous national and state parties. Among the best known and most prominent are: Akali Dal, All-India Anna DMK (AIADMK), Asom Gana Parishad, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Indian National Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party, Samata Party, Shiv Sena, and Telugu Desam.

Since the late 1960s, minority parties in Parliament have often been majority parties in state legislatures. Since 1989, single political parties have generally failed to win a parliamentary majority. As a result, parliament is often run by coalitions of political parties. It is believed that the emergence of multiparty governments is caused by voters’ frustration with political corruption and the fragmentation of electorate support among the growing number of political parties that represent specific parochial or local interests. Thus, those parties have strong support only in particular states. Furthermore, lower castes and other social groups have become more involved in politics as both voters and politicians. It remains to be seen if these trends are indicative of increasing social fragmentation as parties attempt to advance parochial interests or simply the result of a socially diverse population’s increasing participation in politics.

Mass Media: India has more newspapers than any other nation, and newspaper readership annually grows by millions. There are a few state-run newspapers, but most print media are privately owned. There are more than 5,600 daily newspapers and more than 46,000 non-daily newspapers and print periodicals. In 2002 the government allowed print media to be up to 26 percent foreign owned, but the most powerful publishers are joint stock companies that frequently have other commercial and industrial holdings. Government authorities control most television channels, yet the growth of private FM and television stations has marked a shift away from mostly state-run electronic media such as Doordarshan (television) and All India Radio. Foreign television channels are available through cable television or Indian broadcasters. An estimated 42.3 percent of Indian households have a television, and 52.2 percent of those have cable or satellite transmission. Similarly, the number of Internet users has rapidly to an estimated 18.4 million users in 2003. Article 19 of India’s constitution ensures freedom of speech and expression, but Article 19 also allows the government to place “reasonable restrictions” on the exercise of those rights under various circumstances, such as maintenance of public order, state security, and public morality. India does have a high degree of press and speech freedom, and the nation is not generally regarded as a major violator of civil liberties by international human rights organizations. However, the government and police have been accused of violating journalists’ civil liberties.

Foreign Relations: India’s Ministry of External Affairs is the governmental body that is officially responsible for making and implementing foreign policy, although India’s prime ministers have often exercised substantial influence in foreign policy decision making. India’s parliament and armed forces historically have had very limited roles in the formulation of foreign policy.

India’s relations with all major nations traditionally have been based on principles of nonalignment and India’s own economic development. The overlapping domestic and external dimensions of India’s economic development continue to illustrate that many matters related to India’s ongoing formation as a nation have international security implications. Attempts to promote economic growth have pushed India from its previous emphasis on domestic self-sufficiency to a major promoter of free trade and economic liberalization. Nonalignment, however, has been seriously tested as a viable basis for foreign policy with the erosion of U.S. and Soviet tensions and with India’s interest in playing an influential role in regional and world politics. The demise of India’s long-term ally the Soviet Union cost India precious military and financial aid as well as international leverage. Some analysts argue that India’s demonstration of nuclear capabilities in 1998 was driven as much by domestic desires to protect Indian influence and prestige internationally as by regional security concerns. Post-Cold War shifts in military power and concerns with terrorism have led India to create stronger bilateral relations with China, Israel, the United States, and other nations.

The Ministry of External Affairs has generally been most concerned with relations with neighboring Nepal, Sri Lanka, and particularly Pakistan on issues concerning unresolved borders, natural resource distribution, immigration, and insurgent activity. India has often tried to use treaties, alliances, and economic coercion to counter actions by neighbors that India regards as security threats, although China and Pakistan have generally thwarted such attempts. Indeed, India’s security concerns have been most pronounced with Pakistan, as exemplified by the two countries’ newfound nuclear rivalry, the 1999 Kargil War in Jammu and Kashmir, and the 2001 terrorist attack on India’s parliament, which Pakistan is suspected of supporting. In spite of these difficulties, tensions between India and Pakistan have periodically thawed, and in late 2004 the two countries demonstrated surprising public interest in resolving their enduring dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.

Membership in International Organizations: India is a member of numerous international organizations including: African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (dialogue partner), Bank for International Settlements, Colombo Plan, Commonwealth, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Group of Six, Group of 15, Group of 24, Group of 77, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Chamber of Commerce, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, International Development Association, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Hydrographic Organization, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Olympic Committee, International Organization for Migration (observer), International Organization for Standardization, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, International Telecommunication Union, Interpol, Nonaligned Movement, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Organization of American States (observer), Permanent Court of Arbitration, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, United Nations, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Universal Postal Union, World Confederation of Labor, World Customs Organization, World Federation of Trade Unions, World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, World Meteorological Organization, World Tourism Organization, and World Trade Organization.

Major International Treaties: India is a signatory to numerous international treaties including: the Antarctic Treaty, Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Substances, Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention, Conference on Disarmament, Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, Convention on Migratory Species, Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, Geneva Protocol, International Atomic Energy Association Safeguards Agreement, International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, International Plant Protection Convention, International Tropical Timber Agreement 1983, International Tropical Timber Agreement 1994, Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone layer, Nuclear Safety Convention, Partial Test Ban Treaty, Protocol of 1978 Relating to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. India is not a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) or the Missile Technology Control Regime. Indian governments have argued that the NPT does not reduce nuclear weapons proliferation by states already possessing nuclear weapons and that the NPT denies non-nuclear states the right to have nuclear weapons.


Armed Forces Overview: The prime minister and Council of Ministers formulate national security policy. Below this level is the civilian bureaucracy, which exercises important influence, primarily through the Defence Minister’s Committee of the cabinet. The third tier of defense policy making is the Chiefs of Staffs Committee. These three levels are supported by intelligence organizations, scientific and technical advisory committees, defense production, and research and development groups. There are three military services—army, navy, and air force—and a number of paramilitary and reserve forces. The army has been the dominant service in terms of both percentage of budget allotted to the armed forces and percentage of persons serving in the armed forces.

The military has undergone tremendous change since the early 1990s, and the government and military have seriously appraised the military’s capabilities and organization. India’s great-power aspirations have been continually hindered by its capabilities, but the situation has changed with India’s emergence as a nuclear power after successful nuclear tests in May 1998 (India has since pledged a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing). The armed services’ goals of force modernization (particularly the navy and air force) through new arms acquisitions and a “Revolution in Military Affairs” via information technology are constrained by budgetary, bureaucratic, personnel, and technological obstacles. Although the military has long desired to rely on domestically produced military goods, much matériel is imported. Indeed, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the arm of the Department of Defence responsible for providing military hardware, has been criticized by both parliament and the military for failing to provide even basic equipment, and several DRDO projects have been behind schedule. The 1984 merger of the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Defence Supplies has not yet led to reliance on domestic production of military hardware.

Service chiefs and military officers continually suggest that the military should have greater input into defense policymaking and national security, and generally such a role is not viewed as a threat to civilian control of the military. Since 2001, the government has established the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC, which now controls the DRDO), and the National Security Council (NSC), which suggests that India has rethought its defense policymaking structure. The government has also proposed creating a Chief of Defence Staff. However, these changes have yet to make a major impact. Indeed, the NSC issued the draft nuclear doctrine but has not otherwise played an important role in defense policymaking and is criticized as an ad hoc organization.

In 2004 there were approximately 1,325,000 active-duty personnel, with 1,100,000 in the army, 55,000 in the navy (5,000 in naval aviation and 1,200 marines), and 170,000 in the air force. Reserve forces personnel totaled 535,000, and there were fourteen paramilitary forces (including the coast guard) under the control of various ministries with a total strength of 1,089,700 in 2004.

Foreign Military Relations: India’s most important bilateral relationship was with the Soviet Union, whose breakup cost India both a consistent soft-currency supplier of arms and a guardian of its interests in international forums. Since the late 1990s, arms purchases from Russia have increased, and military relations between the countries have changed from a buyer-seller relationship to collaborative development of military systems and occasional joint military exercises. Furthermore, in 2000 India and Russia signed a Declaration of Strategic Relationship that addresses military and technical cooperation and “deepening service to service cooperation.” India has strengthened bilateral defense links with France, Israel, Poland, South Africa, and the United States through various combinations of military acquisitions, agreements, and joint exercises. India has also attempted to project its influence beyond South Asia by engaging in occasional joint operations with Indian Ocean nations and participating in its first summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in November 2002.

Furthermore, Indian peacekeeping forces have been sent to Sri Lanka from 1987 to 1990 and to the Maldives in 1988. Since 1950 Indian military and police contingents have participated in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces in Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Gaza, Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq, Korea (during the Korean War), Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Vietnam, West New Guinea (West Irian), Yemen, and Yugoslavia. India has also provided police personnel and monitors for UN peacekeeping operations in Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Haiti, Kosovo, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Western Sahara.

Foreign Military Forces: The only foreign military forces in India are with the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which has 45 military observers from 9 countries stationed in Jammu and Kashmir.

External Threat: External security threats come from neighboring countries and insurgents using foreign border areas as havens for activities in India. Countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka present no conventional military threat to India, but their inability to police and control areas bordering India has provided Indian insurgents with havens. Indian government and military officials have publicly expressed concern about the political instability in Nepal posed by the Maoist insurgents. As far as external threats posed by other countries, popular opinion tends to regard Pakistan as the principal enemy, largely because of the Kashmir conflict and Pakistan’s suspected links to numerous South Asian militant groups. However, the defense establishment generally regards China as the chief external threat, because of perceived Chinese attempts to isolate India militarily and diplomatically from the rest of Asia and perceived Chinese efforts to prevent India from becoming a permanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council. While China-India border issues remain unresolved from the Indian point of view, Sino-Indian relations have improved as China has adopted a less intimate relationship with Pakistan.

Defense Budget: India’s defense budget has grown tremendously since the early 1990s, and India accounts for more than two-thirds of South Asian military spending. India’s defense budget was approximately US$16.6 billion in 2003, about 2.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and the 2004 defense budget is US$19.1 billion. By contrast, the 1994 defense budget was US$7.6 billion, which was also 2.5 percent of GDP in 1994. Interestingly, as a result of inefficient equipment procurement processes, defense expenditures are often less than the defense budget (around 5 percent less).

Major Military Units: The army has an estimated 800,000 active-duty troops and 300,000 reserves. The army is structured as 12 corps, 4 field armies, and 3 armored divisions under central control and organized into 5 regional commands. The Northern regional command consists of three corps with eight infantry and five mountain divisions; the Western regional command has one armored, five infantry, and three “RAPID” divisions; the Central regional command has one corps with one armored, one infantry, and one RAPID division; the Eastern regional command has three corps with one infantry and seven mountain divisions; and the Southern regional command has two corps with one armored and three infantry divisions. The navy has an estimated 55,000 persons on active duty and an equal number of reserve troops. Navy units are structured into three area commands, and there are six naval bases with three more under construction. The air force has an estimated 170,000 active forces and 140,000 reserves. Air force units are under five regional air commands.

Major Military Equipment: The army’s main equipment includes an estimated 3,898 main battle tanks, 1,600 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 317 armored personnel carriers, 4,175 towed artillery, 200 self-propelled artillery, 150 multiple rocket launchers, 2,424 air defense guns, and 100 helicopters. The navy’s arsenal is composed of 1 aircraft carrier, 18 submarines, 8 destroyers, 16 frigates, 26 corvettes, 7 amphibious ships, 88 fixed-wing aircraft, and more than 100 helicopters. The air force’s principal equipment consists of 679 combat aircraft of various types and 40 armed helicopters. India and its perennial rival, Pakistan, have developed nuclear weapons, ostensibly to deter foreign hostility, yet periodic fighting in Kashmir—such as the 1999 Kargil War—suggests that the theoretical logic of deterrence has not yet taken hold.

For decades, the military has aspired to domestic production of most items, but it relies heavily on imports of both simple items, such as clothing, and complex weapons systems. Observers contend that India has not done well with the production of tanks, helicopters, and submarines, but has fared better with missiles, small arms, and naval craft. Moreover, India’s substantial spending on defense has stirred some debate about how much the defense industry should be privatized in order to avoid a collapse similar to that suffered by the Soviet Union. However, it is believed that the Ministry of Defence’s civilian bureaucracy opposes privatization in order to protect employment in an overstaffed state bureaucracy. There has been some consideration of exporting arms to make up for budget shortfalls, but exports—and concrete efforts to increase them—remain minimal.

Military Service: The minimum age of service is 16, and the mandatory age for retirement for officers varies from 48 to 60 depending on rank. The military has expressed concern about its increasing age profile and a shortage of officers. Formal military service is completely on a volunteer basis, and India does not have—and never has had—conscription. However, a 2004 public opinion poll suggests that the Indian public is in favor of conscription.

Paramilitary Forces: Police are under the control of state governments, and the central government can assist states by providing central paramilitary forces as deemed necessary, particularly to guard coasts, borders, and sensitive military areas and to aid local police forces against insurgencies. There is also a great deal of interest in improving paramilitary training, hardware, and domestic intelligence, as paramilitary forces are often outdone by insurgents in both combat and the use of sophisticated hardware and weapons. There are 1,089,700 active paramilitary personnel (including police) and 1,027,000 voluntary reserves. The Ministry of Home Affairs controls the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF; 167,400 active); Assam Rifles (52,500); Border Security Force (BSF; 174,000); Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP; 32,400); and National Security Guard, which is composed of elements of the armed forces, CRPF, and BSF (NSG; 7,400). Other paramilitary forces include the Central Industrial Security Force (95,000), Special Protection Group (3,000), Special Frontier Force (9,000), Defence Security Corps (31,000), Railway Protection Forces (70,000), and Coast Guard (more than 8,000 with 34 patrol craft). Voluntary forces include the Home Guard (574,000) and Civil Defence (453,000). Voluntary forces typically have little military training and are used for civil disturbances and relief work.

Police: As of October 2002, there were 1,015,416 police officers in India for a national average of 1 police officer per 125 persons. Police are under the control of state governments, and, with central government permission, states are allowed to create police reserve battalions; all 13 reserve police battalions are in insurgent-prone northeastern states. State police are often assisted by—and some say depend upon—paramilitaries and the armed forces for the maintenance of internal security. An August 2000 government report on police reforms suggested that the Indian police should improve their relations with civilians, place a higher priority on crime prevention, and obtain improved infrastructure. The previous review of the nation’s police was conducted in the late 1970s, and its recommendations are as yet unimplemented.

Internal Threats and Terrorism: India’s top security concerns are mostly internal. Indeed, much of the national security apparatus is directed to maintaining territorial integrity as dozens of groups push for varying degrees of political or social autonomy, sometimes violently. India treats separatism with extreme concern given the possibility that successful separatism may establish a precedent that other groups might seek to follow. Internal threats can be categorized as religiously oriented conflict or ethnic violence, usually with separatist objectives. The 10-year Khalistani separatist conflict in Punjab terminated in 1994, but separatist violence periodically escalates in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir. Numerous separatist insurgent groups are active in the northeast, and India has periodically expanded its military efforts in Assam against groups such as the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), and Bodo Security Force (BSF). Other rebel groups in Assam observe cease-fire agreements with the government. The decades-long separatist conflict in Nagaland continues with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khapland (NSCN-K), although peace talks have occurred with another faction, the NSCN-IM (Isaac Muivah), after the government lifted its previous ban on the organization. In Tripura, various insurgents continue to target Bengali immigrants and Indian security forces.

Religiously oriented violence has occurred, principally among Hindus and Muslims and most notably in Ayodyha (in Uttar Pradesh) and urban areas of Gujarat and Maharashtra. While less common than separatist violence, these conflicts prompt greater popular debates on Indian history, society, and politics; there are allegations that national and state-level politicians with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have facilitated such conflicts.

Human Rights: Although human rights problems exist in India, the country is generally not regarded as among the world’s serious human rights violators. Human rights problems appear to be acute in areas and periods of communal violence, and security forces, insurgents, and various ethnic-based groups have all been accused of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and various northeastern states. Furthermore, Hindu organizations have been accused of attacking religious minorities—particularly Muslims and Christians—and of receiving deferential treatment and even outright support from some political parties. Both international human rights organizations and India’s National Human Rights Commission have questioned the impartiality of police and judicial authorities in various locales.

On the other hand, human rights groups have praised India’s September 2004 repeal of the 2002 Prevention of Terrorism Act, which both the newly elected government and international organizations criticized as enabling human rights abuses by security forces. Indian media routinely address controversial issues, such as political corruption and discrimination against women, sexual minorities, indigenous peoples, and “untouchables.” However, the government has been accused of harassing and jailing journalists who investigate topics such as corruption and the situation in Kashmir. Moreover, in response to cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism perpetrated by parties in both India and Pakistan, India passed the Information Technology Act of 2000, which allows cybercafés and Internet users’ homes to be searched without warrants at any time as part of criminal investigations.

Index for India:
Overview | Government


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