Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, or Jamhouri
is landlocked country, located in Central Asia. Pakistan
is to its east and south, Iran and Turkmenistan to its west,
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to its north. The country has a
small border with India and China to the north-east.
Kabul is the capital. The country is governed by an
Islamic Emirate Government. The predominant religion is
Islam (with 84% Sunni & 15% Shiite).
On April 18, 2002, former King of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir
Shah, returned to Kabul after 29 years in exile in Italy.
In June, Hamid Karzai, leader of the interim administration, was
elected in a landslide vote to be the next President.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. The principal
crops are wheat, cotton, fruits, wool, nuts. Animal
husbandry is important for meat, milk and wool. Chief mineral
resource is natural gas. The main industrial activity is
the manufacture of woolen and cotton textiles; traditional
handicrafts and woven carpets are important exports. Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium and a major
source of Hashish. Afghanistan produces 3400 tons of opium
worth US$ 1.2b in a year.
India provides humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and also
helps in establishing education centers, hospitals and other
amenities. Afghanistan has been the hotbed of Islamic
extremists like Taliban ('Students of Religion', created and nurtured
by the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan) and Islamic
terrorist organizations like Osama-bin-Laden's Al-Qaeda.
Hence relations with Afghanistan has been of security &
strategic importance to India.
People's Republic of Bangladesh, or Gana Prajatantri
Bangladesh, is surrounded by India, Myanmar and the Bay of
Bengal. Bangladesh was formerly East Pakistan, one of the
five provinces into which Pakistan was divided at its creation,
when Britain's former Indian Empire was partitioned in August
1947. East Pakistan became independent entity named
Bangladesh on December 16, 1971, following a civil war in which
India actively supported the East.
Bangladesh has Parliamentary form of Government, which is
located at Dhaka. The official religion is Islam (86.7% of
the population) and the other dominant religion is Hinduism
(12.1% of the population).
Bangladesh is the second largest Islamic country of the world,
in terms of population.
Dhaka, with 2000 mosques, is known as the City of Mosques.
The total for the country is over 200,000. There are an
estimated 1,200,000 tribal people in Bangladesh. Most of
them (700,000) are in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
Recently, with active involvement of ISI (Inter Services
Intelligence of Pakistan), many terrorist training camps have
come up in Bangladesh. India faces security problems due
to illegal immigration and smuggling from the country. In
this regard, India has been erecting fences along the border
with Bangladesh, which has been the cause of straining of
relations between the two countries. Lately, the Border
Rangers of Bangladesh has been assaulting the BSF (Border
Security Force) personnel of India.
Kingdom of Bhutan, or Druk-Yul, 'the land of the thunder
dragon' lies in the eastern Himalayas, bordered north by China
and on all other sides by India. It has very high
mountains, fertile valleys and thick forests.
Bhutan has a Democratic Monarchy form of Government and the
country's capital city is Thimphu. Buddhism is the
dominant religion (70% of population) followed by Hinduism (25%)
and Islam (5%).
By the Indo-Bhutan Treaty of Friendship of August 1949, Bhutan
agrees to seek the advice of the Government of India with
regards to its foreign relations, but remains free to decide
whether or not to accept such advice. King Jigme Dorji
Wangchuk was succeeded in 1972 by the Western-educated 16-year
old Crown Prince, Jigme Singye Wangchuk. Recent reports
indicate that the mountain kingdom is inching towards democracy.
A political transformation is under way, its main force being
the reformist monarch Jigme Wangchuk. A draft constitution
was released in December 2002.
Free education is available, but there are insufficient
facilities to accommodate all school age children. Many
students receive higher technical training in India.
Though Bhutan for long resisted the lure of tourism, it
is the principal source of foreign exchange now. The
Kingdom was opened to tourism in the autumn of 1974. Trade
with India dominates.
People's Republic of China, or Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe
is the most populous country in the world and the third largest
in area. China is made of 22 provinces, 5 autonomous
regions and four municipalities. It occupies most of the
habitable mainland of East Asia. Two-thirds of the
territory is mountainous or desert; only one-tenth is
cultivated. The eastern half of China is one of the
world's best-watered lands. Three great river systems (the
Chang or Yangtze, Huang or Yellow and Xi) provide water for the
Beijing is the capital city and the country is ruled by the
Communist Party. Religion: Officially atheist but major
traditional religions followed are Confucianism, Taoism, and
Buddhism. In 2002, with its 1.28 billion people but a GDP
of just $4600 per capita; China stood as the second largest
economy in the world after the US (measured on a purchasing
power parity basis).
Lately, China and India have started taking measures to improve
relations, primarily border issues. China has accepted
Sikkim to be part of India, and India has in turn accepted that
Tibet is autonomous region of China. Both countries
constituted Joint Committees to look into various.
Republic of the Maldives, or Divedhi Raajjeyge
lying about 675 km south-west of Sri Lanka, consists of more
than 1200 small coral islands (199 inhabited), grouped in 19
atolls, in the northern Indian Ocean.
The capital city of Maldives is Male, and the country has
Presidential form of Democratic Government. The predominant
religion is Islam.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has been the President of Maldives since
November 1978. The Indian Navy had launched Operation
Cactus in 1988-89 to rescue the then Male Government in the wake
of a coup. A state of emergency was declared in Maldives,
on August 14, 2004 after paramilitary forces moved in on
thousands of protesters who had gathered for hours in Male,
demanding change in the autocratic rule. India has the
best of relations with Maldives, though it holds the opinion
that the Gayoom regime should not do anything to stifle the
democratic aspirations of the people.
Recently, when Maldives was affected by the tsunami disaster,
India promptly dispatched relief aid and rescue teams.
Union of Myanmar, (formerly Burma) or Pyeidaungzu Myanmar
Niangangandaw, is located in East Asia, with a coastline along
the Bay of Bengal. It is flanked by India and Bangladesh
to its west, China to its north, Laos and Thailand to its east.
Yangon (formerly Rangoon), is the capital city and the country
is ruled by the Military. Buddhists constitute 85% of the
population, and remaining include Animists, Muslims &
In June 1990, in the first free elections in 30 years, the
National League for Democracy won by a big majority but the army
was reluctant to hand over power. Aung San Suu Kyi, the
leading opposition leader and winner of Nobel Peace Prize, is
kept under detention from 1989. India has been supporting
the democratic movement in Myanmar.
In 1987, UN bestowed the least developed country status on
Burma, which was once the richest nation in SE Asia.
Myanmar joined the regional group BISTEC in July '97, which was
then renamed BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka,
Thailand Economic Cooperation). Known as the 'rice bowl of the Far East', Myanmar also grows
sugarcane, peanuts and beans. It is the world's second
largest illicit producer of opium poppy (next to Afghanistan).
Kingdom of Nepal, or Nepal Adhirajya, is a landlocked
country in the Himalayan mountain range. It is bounded on
the north by Tibet (China) and India on all other
Kathmandu is the capital city and the Head of State is King
Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev. The country has
constitutional monarchy system of government, where the
Parliament has 205-member House of Representatives (Pratinidhi
Sabha). The State religion is Hinduism (followed by 89% of
the population). The other major religions are Buddhism
(5%) and Islam (3%).
Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries of the
world with nearly half of its population living below the
poverty line. Agriculture is mainstay of the economy,
providing a livelihood for over 80% of the population and
accounting for 41% of GDP. Industry contributes about 22%
of Nepal's GDP. The major trading partner is India.
Tourism is the second largest industry and is being promoted by
the construction of new tourist centres in the Kathmandu
valley. Major tourist attractions include Lumbini, the
birthplace of Buddha, and the Himalayan mountain range including
Mount Everest. About 30% of the tourists are from India.
In February 1996, India and Nepal signed two agreements
including an initiative for sharing of water and electricity
from Mahakali river.
Islamic Republic of Pakistan, or Islam-i Jamhuriya-e
Pakistan, is bordered in the west & north by
Afghanistan, south-west by Iran, and east by India.
Pakistan shares a small border with China.
Head of State is President (Gen.) Pervez Musharraf and the seat
of government is at Islamabad. The State religion is Islam
(followed by 97% of the population). The remaining include
followers of Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism &
Agriculture (including forestry and fishing) is the mainstay of
Pakistan's economy, employing about 50% of the working
population and providing about 26% of the country's GDP.
At the time of independence from the British empire, India was
divided into a secular India and an Islamic Pakistan, on the
basis of the Two-Nation Theory. Pakistan was supposed to include Kashmir
(the name Pakistan is a coinage representing 'Punjab, Afghan
border states, Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan'). However,
the state of Jammu & Kashmir had chosen to remain
independent. When there were tribal attacks from Pakistan,
the J&K state joined India. Ever since then, Pakistan
and India has been in conflict over the territory. The
Pakistan controlled Kashmir, also known as Pakistan-occupied
Kashmir (PoK), has its own Assembly, Council, High Court and
Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has created and
nurtured terrorist camps in Pakistan and PoK, to encourage
terrorist activities in India. The Pakistan-based training
camps has produced terrorist organizations that are active in
various parts of the world.
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, or Sri
Lanka Prajathanthrika Samajavadi Janarajaya, is an
island in the Indian Ocean about 80 km east of the southern tip
of India, separated by the Palk Strait.
The capital city is Colombo and there is a Republic form of
government, with Ms. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as the
President. The major religion followers are Buddhists
(73%), Hindus (15%), Muslims (7%) and Christians (5%).
Sri Lanka has been facing the Tamil insurgency in the north
since the late 1970s. The Tamils have been fighting for a
autonomous region. Initially, TULF - Tamil United
Liberation Front, spearheaded the agitation. Later more
militant organizations like LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam - and EPRLF - Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation
Front, joined the struggle. More than 54,000 have dies in
the civil war. Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was send
to the island in 1987 to end the hostilities and supervise
surrender of arms. After long period of bloody military
operation, the IPKF had to be pulled out.
Peace negotiations, brokered by Norway government, between the
Sri Lanka government and the Tamil organizations, has been going
for some time till emergency was declared by President
Kumaratunga. India has not been directly involved in these