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2000 B.C. It is generally accepted that the Aryans entered India c. 1500 B.C. from the northwest, finding a land that was already home to an advanced civilization. They introduced Sanskrit and the Vedic religion, a forerunner of Hinduism. Buddhism was founded in the 6th century B.C. and was spread throughout northern India, most notably by one of the great ancient kings of the Mauryan dynasty, Asoka (c. 269-232 B.C.), who also unified most of the Indian subcontinent for the first time. In 1526, Muslim invaders founded the great Mogul Empire, centered on Delhi , which lasted, at least in name, until 1857. Akbar the Great (1542-1605) strengthened and consolidated this empire. The long reign of his great-grandson, Aurangzeb (1618-1707), represents both the greatest extent of the Mogul Empire and the beginning of its decay. Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, landed in India in 1498, and for the next 100 years the Portuguese had a virtual monopoly on trade with the subcontinent. Meanwhile, the English founded the East India Company, which set up its first factory at Surat in 1612 and began expanding its influence, fighting the Indian rulers and the French, Dutch, and Portuguese traders simultaneously. Bombay, taken from the Portuguese, became the seat of English rule in 1687. The defeat of French and Mogul armies by Lord Clive in 1757 laid the foundation of the British Empire in India . The East India Company continued to suppress native uprisings and extend British rule until 1858, when the administration of India was formally transferred to the British Crown following the Sepoy Mutiny of native troops in 1857-1858. After World War I, in which the Indian states sent more than 6 million troops to fight beside the Allies, Indian nationalist unrest rose to new heights under the leadership of a Hindu lawyer, Mohandas K. Gandhi, called Mahatma Gandhi. His philosophy of civil disobedience called for nonviolent noncooperation against British authority. He soon became the leading spirit of the Indian National Congress Party, which was the spearhead of revolt. In 1919, the British gave added responsibility to Indian officials, and in 1935, India was given a federal form of government and a measure of self-rule. In 1942, with the Japanese pressing hard on the eastern borders of India , the British War Cabinet tried and failed to reach a political settlement with nationalist leaders. The Congress Party took the position that the British must quit India . Fearing mass civil disobedience, the government of India carried out widespread arrests of Congress Party leaders, including Gandhi. Gandhi was released in 1944 and negotiations for a settlement were resumed. Finally, in Aug. 1947, India gained full independence. The victory was soured,
however, by the partitioning of the predominantly Muslim regions of the north into the separate nation of Pakistan . The Muslim League, led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, demanded a separate nation for the Muslim minority to prevent Hindu political and social domination. Indian Hindus, however, had hoped for a unified rather than balkanized Indian subcontinent. Lord Mountbatten as viceroy partitioned India along religious lines and split the provinces of Bengal and the Punjab , which both nations claimed. The partition of Pakistan and India led to the largest migration in human history, with 17 million people fleeing across the borders in both directions to escape the bloody riots occurring among sectarian groups. Armed conflict also broke out over rival claims to the princely states of Jammu and Kashmir . Jawaharlal Nehru, nationalist leader and head of the Congress Party, was made prime minister. In 1949, a constitution was approved, making India a sovereign republic. Under a federal structure the states were organized on linguistic lines. The dominance of the Congress Party contributed to stability. In 1956, the republic absorbed former French settlements. Five years later, the republic forcibly annexed the Portuguese enclaves of Goa, Damao, and Diu . Nehru died in 1964. His successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, died on Jan. 10, 1966. Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, became prime minister, and she continued his policy of nonalignment. In 1971, the Pakistani army moved in to quash the independence movement in East Pakistan that was supported by India , and some 10 million Bengali refugees poured across the border into India , creating social, economic, and health problems. After numerous border incidents, India invaded East Pakistan and in two weeks forced the surrender of the Pakistani army. East Pakistan was established as an independent state and renamed Bangladesh . In May 1975, the 300-year-old kingdom of Sikkim became a full-fledged Indian state. Situated in the Himalayas, Sikkim was a virtual dependency of Tibet until the early 19th century. Under an 1890 treaty between China and Great Britain , it became a British protectorate and was made an Indian protectorate after Britain quit the subcontinent. In the summer of 1975, the world's largest democracy veered suddenly toward authoritarianism when a judge in Allahabad , Indira Gandhi's home constituency, found Gandhi's landslide victory in the 1971 elections invalid because civil servants had illegally aided her campaign. Amid demands for her resignation, Gandhi decreed a state of emergency on June 26 and ordered mass arrests of her critics, including all opposition party leaders except the Communists. Despite strong opposition to her repressive measures, particularly resentment against compulsory birth control programs, in 1977 Gandhi announced
parliamentary elections for March. At the same time, she freed most political prisoners. The landslide victory of Morarji R. Desai unseated Gandhi, but she staged a spectacular comeback in the elections of Jan. 1980. In 1984, Gandhi ordered the Indian army to root out a band of Sikh holy men and gunmen who were using the most sacred shrine of the Sikh religion, the Golden Temple in Amritsar , as a base for terrorist raids in a violent campaign for greater political autonomy in the strategic Punjab border state. The perceived sacrilege to the Golden Temple kindled outrage among many of India 's 14 million Sikhs and brought a spasm of mutinies and desertions by Sikh officers and soldiers in the army. On Oct. 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two men identified by police as Sikh members of her bodyguard. The ruling Congress Party chose her older son, Rajiv Gandhi, to succeed her as prime minister for four years. While running for reelection, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 22, 1991, by Tamil militants who objected to India 's mediation of the civil war in Sri Lanka . The ruling Congress Party lost the parliamentary elections of May 1996, and its waning resulted in a period of political instability. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) then became the dominant force in politics, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister. In May 1998, India set off five nuclear tests, surprising the international community, which widely condemned India 's pronuclear stance. Despite international urging for restraint, Pakistan responded by conducting several nuclear tests of its own two weeks later. India has resisted signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for nuclear weapons and has been slapped with sanctions by the U.S. and other countries. Less than a year later, in April 1999, both India and Pakistan tested nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. India and Pakistan have held various talks about the disputed territory of Kashmir , which is the issue at the base of their chronic antagonism and their displays of nuclear strength. India controls two-thirds of this Himalayan region, which is the only Indian state that is predominantly Muslim. The Indian Air Force launched air strikes on May 26, 1999, and later sent in ground troops against Islamic guerrilla forces in Kashmir . India blamed Pakistan for orchestrating violence in Kashmir by sending soldiers and mercenaries across the so-called Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan . Pakistan countered that the guerrillas were independent Kashmiri freedom fighters struggling for India 's ouster from the region. Most international sources agreed with India 's assumption that Pakistan was arming the soldiers. In Aug. 1999, Pakistan was forced to withdraw, but fighting continued sporadically during the coming year.
In Oct. 2001, violence again broke out in the region when a suicide bombing by a Pakistan-based militant organization killed 38 in India-controlled Kashmir . India retaliated with heavy shelling across the Line of Control. India , angered by Washington 's sudden coziness with Pakistan following the Sept. 11 attacks, took the opportunity to point out that, while Pakistan might be helping the U.S. fight terrorism on the Afghan front, it was simultaneously supporting terrorism on its own borders with India . On Dec. 13, 2001, suicide bombers attacked the Indian parliament, killing 14 people. Indian officials blamed the deadly attack on Islamic militants supported by Pakistan . Violent clashes between Muslims and Hindus rocked the state of Gujarat in late February and early March 2002 after a Muslim mob fire-bombed a train, killing 58 Hindu activists. Hindus retaliated, and more than 500 people died in the bloodshed. Hope for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Kashmir was raised in Nov. 2002, when a newly elected coalition government in India-controlled Jammu and Kashmir vowed to reach out to separatists and to improve conditions in the state. But hopes were dashed in March 2003, following the slaughter of 24 Hindus in Kashmir . Officials blamed the massacre on Islamic militants. Days after the violence, both India and Pakistan test-fired short-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Two bombs exploded in Mumbai ( Bombay ) in August, killing more than 50 people and injuring about 150. Indian officials blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant Islamic group. But in Nov. 2003, India and Pakistan declared their first formal cease-fire in 14 years. The cease-fire applied to the entire Line of Control dividing Kashmir . Relations between the two countries have continued to thaw, though no real progress has been made. In one of the most dramatic political upsets in modern Indian history, the Indian National Congress Party, led by Sonia Gandhi, prevailed in parliamentary elections in May 2004, prompting Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to resign. Although the country prospered economically under Vajpayee's rule, a substantial number of India 's poor felt they had not benefitted from India 's economic growth. Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, dealt a further shock to the country when she refused to become prime minister. The BJP had vociferously protested Gandhi's expected elevation to prime minister because of her foreign birth. The Congress Party instead chose former finance minister Manmohan Singh, who became India 's first Sikh prime minister. On Dec. 26, 2004, a tremendously powerful tsunami ravaged 12 Asian countries. Nearly 11,000 people perished in India . President Bush announced in March 2005 that he would allow American companies to provide India with several types of modern combat weapons,
including F-16 and F-18 fighter jets. The announcement was seen as an attempt to balance Bush's offer to sell Pakistan about two dozen F-16s. Monsoon rains in late July and early August 2005 caused devastating landslides and floods that killed about 900 people in and around Mumbai. An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 struck Pakistani-controlle d Kashmir on October 8, 2005. More than 81,000 people were killed and 2.5 million left homeless. India suffered about 1,300 casualties. In March 2006, President Bush and Prime Minister Singh agreed to a controversial civil nuclear power deal that permitted the sale of U.S. nuclear technology to India despite the fact that India has never signed the international Nuclear Nonproliferation agreement. Since 1998, the U.S. has imposed sanctions on India for undertaking nuclear tests. Critics of the deal, which must be approved by Congress, contend that allowing India to circumvent the international treaty will make it more difficult to negotiate with Iran and North Korea and their nuclear ambitions. On July 11, more than 200 people died and hundreds more were wounded when a series of bombs exploded on commuter trains in Mumbai during the evening rush hour. Islamic terrorists were suspected.
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