India. On August 15, India celebrated the 70th anniversary of the cessation of British colonial rule. In a speech in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged to continue the fight against corruption, against caste thinking and for better opportunities for farmers, women and young people.
|Land area||3,287,263 km²|
|Residents per km²||403.4|
|Official language||Hindi and English|
|Income per capita||$ 7,200|
|ISO 3166 code||IN|
|Time zone UTC||+05: 30|
|Geographic coordinates||20 00 N, 77 00 O|
According to Countryaah.com, the country received its second dalit, that is, castless, as head of state when Ram Nath Kovind swore presidential oath in July. He was nominated by Modi’s Hindu Nationalist Party BJP (Indian People’s Party) and got about two-thirds of the electoral votes.
In March, Modi and BJP cashed in on the state election in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state with over 200 million residents. In what could be seen as a kind of vote of confidence on Modi, the BJP and its support parties won 325 out of 403 seats in the state parliament. Modi’s appointment of Yogi Adityanath as chief minister brought some bad blood as he made himself known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The BJP also retained power in Gujarat, Modi’s home state during the December elections. But despite its own majority, the BJP lost a mandate to the Congress party. The success was important for Rahul Gandhi who took over as Congress Party leader on December 11. He succeeded his mother, Sonia Gandhi, who held the post for 19 years.
Murder of several journalists and attacks on religious minorities in several parts of the country were other worrying signs of reduced tolerance. Several reports appeared that militant Hindus lynched Muslims accused of eating beef or damaged cows, a sacred animal within Hinduism. Modi’s government was criticized for not condemning the attacks sufficiently forcefully.
The criticism of the chaos that arose at the end of 2016, when high-value banknotes were abolished to fight tax fraud and other financial crime, did not appear to strike Modi either. The BJP appears to be strong ahead of the 2019 federal elections.
A much-talked-about national tax on goods and services was introduced in July. But it quickly received criticism for being too complicated. An adjustment was made in November and a few hundred products were eliminated from the highest tax rate, including makeup and wristwatches. Small business owners were also promised relief in tax reporting.
Economic growth was dampened in the wake of the turmoil surrounding the reforms. Modi responded by reforming his government in September. Among other things, a new Minister of Trade and Industry was appointed. In October, however, the International Monetary Fund reduced its growth forecast for fiscal year 2017 by half a percentage point to 6.7%. The Indian central bank’s forecast was similar.
In June, Modi met US President Donald Trump at the White House. India signed a deal to buy US drones and the leaders also talked about trade and the economy where Trump pleaded for “fair conditions” and the need to fight terrorism. They avoided publicly touching on Trump’s decision to leave the Paris agreement. Trump praised India’s economic development in November and met Modi in connection with a regional summit in the Philippines. It was seen that the United States sought to bring India with it to counterbalance China’s growing influence.
Tensions between China and India rose in June when China began to build a road in the disputed border area of Doklam or Donglang in the Himalayas, which both China and Bhutan claim. Construction was halted in August and India withdrew troop reinforcements shortly before Modi traveled to a summit in China with the emerging economies of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa).
In the disputed Kashmir, several Indian and Pakistani troops were killed in firefights across the border between the countries. Indian security forces were also involved in fighting with suspected separatists. Eight Indian police officers and three separatists were killed in August in southern Kashmir. The incident was the bloodiest since an army raid was attacked in Uri 2016. In October, a former chief of the intelligence service was mandated to try to start a dialogue with various parties in Kashmir, including separatist leaders.
However, India’s growth has a price. Air pollution and other environmental problems caused over 2.5 million deaths in India in 2015, according to a study published in October in the medical journal The Lancet. In November, schools in the capital New Delhi were closed and vehicular traffic was limited to cope with widespread smog problems.
In May, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences of four men convicted of a conspicuous group rape and murder in 2012 on a young female student. Several group and assault rapes were reported in 2017, reflecting continued problems with female violence. Victims also testified about problems in persuading police to investigate crimes.