India is a land of dramatic contrasts. It has one of the world’s oldest cultures, yet it has been an independent state only since 1947. It is the world’s largest democracy, yet it has so many social divisions that it seems constantly to hover on the brink of disintegration. It is poor (with a per capita GDP of just under $2,000 and many of its people living in abject poverty) and crowded (with more than 1.3 billion people living in an area one-third the size of the United States), and yet it is a nuclear power with a bigger consumer market than that of any European country. It has a large and growing middle class, it not only feeds itself but is a net food exporter, and economic liberalization has led to accelerating industrial growth. Like China, India has the potential to become one of the economic superpowers of the 21st century.
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