India is a country in South Asia – it’s the seventh-largest country by area in the world, as well as the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people residing in it, and is the most populous democracy on the planet. India’s shores touch the Indian Ocean (south), the Arabian Sea (southwest), and the Bay of Bengal southeast); the country shares land borders with Pakistan (west), China, Nepal, and Bhutan (northeast), and Bangladesh and Myanmar (east). India shares a region of the Indian Ocean with Sri Lanka and the Maldives, as well as a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia through the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
India had the world’s sixth largest economy in 2017, as well as the third largest by purchasing power. It is considered a newly-industrialised country despite continuing to struggle with poverty, malnutrition, corruption and poor healthcare. India also boasts the second-largest standing army in the world and spends the fifth-highest amount on its military, as well as being a nuclear-capable state. Its federal government works within a parliamentary system and is composed of 29 states and 7 union territories.
How is government structured?
India is a parliamentary republic based on a system composed of multiple parties, seven of which are recognised national parties (there are also more than 40 regional parties in operation).
Much like Thailand, India’s government is based on the Westminster system. The government is made up of the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary, with all powers granted by the constitution to parliament, as well as the prime minister and supreme court. The Indian parliament is bicameral – the lower house is known as the Lok Sabha, and the upper house is called the Rajya Sabha, also known as the Council of States – its members are appointed by the president and elected by the state. The Lok Sabha is known as the House of the People.
All parliamentary laws in India are subject to judicial review under the Supreme Court, but parliament itself still retains some control over the executive. The members of the cabinet in the executive are chosen from parliament or elected to it within six months of taking office. The cabinet is responsible to the Lok Sabha, which can itself be dissolved when the party in power loses majority support. The Rajya Sabha, however, is a permanent house that can never be dissolved – its members are elected for a six-year term.
Who’s in charge?
The President of India is the highest authority in the country and wields considerable constitutional power, which he exercises directly or through officers. The president is advised by the prime minister, who leads the council of ministers, and is also the commander-in-chief of the Indian Armed Forces.
The power of the council of ministers is dependant on the ‘pleasure’ of the president, but in practice, the council must always have the support of the Lok Sabha. The council of ministers cannot, in effect, be dismissed if it retains majority support in the Lok Sabha.
The president appoints high officials in India, include the governors of the 29 states, the chief justice, the Attorney general and many others. As head of state, the president also receives ambassadors from foreign countries; the prime minister receives high commissioners from the Commonwealth.
The vice president is second in command in India, representing the nation in the president’s absence. He also acts as chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
The prime minister is the chief of the government, chief adviser to the president, head of the council of ministers and the leader of the majority party in the parliament – as such, he leads the executive of the government.
India’s governmental cabinet is composed of the prime minister and his ministers, with each member acting as a member of the houses of parliament. The cabinet is advised by the cabinet secretary, who is also the head of the Indian Administrative Service. All other ministers in the cabinet are either heads of various ministries or are ministers of state. Ministers can only vote in the house in which they are a member.
India's judicial system very much resembles that of Anglo-Saxon countries due to its British origin. The Indian Supreme Court is made up of the chief justice plus 30 associate justices, all of whom are appointed by the president.