Are Indians in every country on earth

India: a country full of contrasts

Ursula Bauer-Hailer / Hans Ulrich Wezel

India, named after the Indus River, is a land of contrasts and extremes. In addition to slums, dynamic economic centers such as Bangalore or Mumbai / Bombay are developing. State-of-the-art technologies meet centuries-old traditions.

India, not so long ago regarded as an exotic third world country, is politically and economically on the way to becoming an internationally sought-after great power: The Indian stock exchanges are setting records, purchasing power is increasing, investors are pouring into the country and in April this year is India has even been the partner country of the world's largest industrial fair in Hanover. Anyone who has so far only associated the rise of Asia with the growth of China will be taught better. India is coming to the fore and is now the most important growth market in Asia alongside China.

The history of Indian culture goes back to 2500 BC. At that time, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, the Indus Valley civilization, emerged. The 19th century was a decisive historical turning point. The disunity of the various Indian kingdoms and principalities prepared the ground for the colonization of India by the British. The first half of the last century was marked by non-violent resistance against British colonial rule. In 1947 India gained independence, thanks largely to Mahatma Gandhi. The country was divided into India and into West and East Pakistan (Bangladesh).

India is a parliamentary democracy and therefore the largest democracy on earth. The Indian Parliament consists of two chambers: the Lower House (Lok Sabha) and the Upper House (Rajya Sabha). The lower house is elected for five years according to the principle of majority voting. Every citizen who has reached the age of 18 is entitled to vote. The most common religion in India is Hinduism. More than 80% of the population profess this religion. It is followed by the Muslims with around 10% of the population. Other religions such as Christianity or Buddhism only play a subordinate role.

With an area of ​​3.3 million km², India is the seventh largest country in the world. Only Russia, Canada, the USA, China, Brazil and Australia are larger in area. Its area is exceeded by the EU-25 by just under 20%, while the area of ​​Baden-Württemberg is only 1% of the Indian area (table). The relief of India is shaped by the Himalayan mountains in the north, the Gangetic Plain in the east, deserts in the west and the Deccan highlands in the south. The tropical to subtropical climate is largely determined by the monsoon, which dominates the vegetation and agriculture with its seasonal alternation from dry and rainy seasons.

India is the second most populous country in the world after the People's Republic of China. Officially, the billion mark was exceeded on May 11, 2000. At the beginning of 2005 there were already almost 1.1 billion inhabitants, more than twice as many as in the European Union. Thus about every sixth inhabitant of the world lives in India. According to estimates by the United Nations, India will hardly slow down its population growth over the next few decades and will have replaced the People's Republic of China as the most populous country on earth by 2045. The population growth is explained not only by a high birth rate (almost 3 children per woman), but also by the increase in life expectancy in recent decades. This is due, among other things, to improvements in health care and the fight against malnutrition. In the future, India will probably not only be the most populous country on earth, but also one of the countries with the youngest population. Already today only 5% of the people in India are older than 65 years, but a third are under 15 years. This means that there are almost 7 boys compared to one elderly person. While the proportion of young to old is still in balance in the EU-25 average, in Germany and Baden-Württemberg the balance shifts significantly in favor of the elderly.

Unlike most other countries in the world, the average life expectancy for men and women in India is almost identical. While the life expectancy of men was around 60 years in 2001, Indian women were only 2 years older on average. Life expectancy in Baden-Württemberg is much higher than in India, and women in Baden-Württemberg outlive men on average by over 5 years. In contrast to the EU-25, there are more men than women in India.

The gender ratio has developed so unfavorably in recent years, as the birth of a girl is still seen as a burden by many Indian families. As a result, parents often prefer to terminate a pregnancy than have a girl. This practice is one of the reasons for the women deficit that prevails in most regions of India1.

The population density of India is almost 330 inhabitants per km² and is three times as high as in the European Union and also higher than in Baden-Württemberg with 300 inhabitants per km². Since large parts of the country such as the large desert areas and the high mountains are almost uninhabitable, a large part of the population is concentrated on the fertile Ganges plain and the cities.

After the reforms introduced in 1991, India is on the way to becoming a social market economy. Since then, the country has experienced great growth and has benefited in particular from globalization due to its high wage cost advantages. India is now the tenth largest economy in the world with a gross domestic product in 2004 of almost 560 billion euros. While Germany, with a gross domestic product four times higher than India, took third place in the world ranking after the USA and Japan in 2004, Baden-Württemberg achieved 17th place of all national economies with an economic output of 320 billion euros. However, Baden-Württemberg had a per capita income that was sixty times higher than that of India. With a per capita income of 500 euros, India is still one of the developing countries.

Even a booming economy with annual growth rates of around 6% since 1990 could not get the country out of the group of developing countries. The discrepancy between lagging rural development - over two thirds of the population lives in rural areas - and ultra-modern economic areas persists.

India is still an agrarian country. Over half of the population is employed in agriculture, but its share in economic output has fallen sharply. 50 years ago the primary sector contributed more than half of the gross value added, in 2004 it was just a fifth (table). The large-scale introduction of high-yielding varieties, the use of fertilizers and pesticides have contributed to the fact that the country is largely self-sufficient today, but India's agriculture is still comparatively inefficient.

The engines of Indian growth are the manufacturing industry and the service sector. The pharmaceutical industry and information technology deserve special mention. While industry contributed a good quarter to economic output in 2004, the share of services rose steadily to more than 50%, which is only 10 percentage points less than in Baden-Württemberg. The economic structure of India shows a clear shift from the primary to the secondary to the tertiary sector.

In relation to its economic strength, India's foreign trade links are rather low. This is largely due to the strong domestic market orientation in the decades after independence. However, since the economic opening of India in the early 1990s, foreign trade has seen a significant upturn. Nevertheless, the share of imports and exports in the gross domestic product was only slightly more than a quarter, almost half the share of the EU-25.

India's most important trading partner is by far the USA, followed by China and the United Kingdom. While oil is clearly the most important import commodity, precious stones, jewelry and textiles are the most important export commodities of India. Baden-Württemberg's exports to India are developing very dynamically; they have more than doubled since 2000. In 2005 they amounted to almost 700 million euros, roughly as much as after Ireland or Norway. Thus India occupied 32nd place in the ranking of the most important countries for Baden-Württemberg exports with a share of 0.6% of total exports. The country's most important export goods to India were machines, medical, measurement and control technology products, and motor vehicles.

The largest democracy in the world lures with political stability and a huge reservoir of well-trained workers. But not all that glitters is gold in India either. A rapidly growing population, poverty - around one in four people in India lives below the poverty line and has to get by on less than one US dollar a day - AIDS, environmental and natural disasters are just some of the problems.

In order to realize the potential of the Indian market, the country must continue and accelerate its economic reforms. Import tariffs and hidden trade barriers must be reduced, and labor law in industry must be made more flexible. It is also important to liberalize the framework for investments from abroad. The considerable deficits in the infrastructure - not exactly inviting for foreign investors - must be reduced.

If the framework conditions are set correctly, India will derive considerable benefit from the fact that, for example, between 75 and 110 million Indians will enter the labor market in the next decade alone. According to the International Monetary Fund, not only would Indian economic output benefit from this, but also the prosperity of the majority of the population would increase considerably.

1 German Foundation for World Population, DSW data report 2005.