India is physically and socially diverse. This is not surprising given the scale of the country. It is the seventh largest country in the world, not including Antarctica, in terms of land area. It covers over three million square kilometres — almost all of which is land mass. In comparison, the former colonial power, the United Kingdom, has only 7 per cent of India’s land mass, and India’s main rival, Pakistan, only 24 per cent. While large in comparison to most countries in Europe, India is only about one third the size of the US. But even in relation to the US, India is huge when it comes to population size, which passed the billion mark around the turn of the century and was projected to be 1.176 billion by 2010 (Government of India, 2001b). The only country with a larger population is China (2009 estimates are 1,339 million). Experts disagree as to the precise date, but by all estimates India is set to become the country with the largest population in the world in the next few decades. India is also one of the most linguistically and religiously diverse countries in the world, and is also divided by region and caste. The diversity, large size and geographical spread of its population structures the challenges that face India. India’s human geography is also diverse, with notable differences in religious, linguistic and ethnic identities.
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