Mahatma Gandhi (right) with Jawaharlal Nehru, 1937. Nehru would go on to become India's first prime minister in 1947.
In the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress (INC) and other political organisations. Several Indian radical revolutionaries, such as Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh, led an armed rebellion against the British Raj.However, the defining aspect of the Indian independence movement was the nonviolent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi and the INC. Under the leadership of Gandhi, millions of Indians participated in the Quit India civil disobedience movement against the British Raj.
In September 1939, India declared war on Germany and at the height of the World War Il, more than 2.5 million Indian soldiers were fighting against the Axis powers. The Indian Army was one of the largest Allied forces contingents which took part in the North and East African, Western Desert and the Italian Campaign and played a crucial role in halting the progress of Imperial Japan in the South-East Asian theatre. However, certain Indian nationalists collaborated with the Axis powers to overthrow the British Raj. The Indian National Army (INA), led by Bose, forged an alliance with the Axis powers and fought an unsuccessful military campaign against British India.
In 1943, a perceived shortage of food leading to large-scale hoarding and soaring food prices coupled with poor food distribution mechanism and inadequate response of the British officials resulted in a catastrophic famine in the Bengal region which killed about 1.5 to 3 million people. After World War II, a number of mutinies broke out in the Air Force and Navy and the INA trials caused considerable public unrest.
Independence and afterwards
On 15 August 1947, the British Indian Empire was dissolved following which the Muslim-majority areas were partitioned to form a separate state of Pakistan. The partition led to a population transfer of more than 10 million people between India and Pakistan and the death of about one million people. On 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a new constitution came into effect under which India was established as a secular and a democratic state.
Since independence, India has faced challenges from religious violence, casteism, naxalism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies, especially in Jammu and Kashmir and northeastern India. Since the 1990s, terrorist attacks have affected many Indian cities. India has unresolved territorial disputes with the People's Republic of China, which, in 1962, escalated into the Sino-Indian War, and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999.
India is a state armed with nuclear weapons; having conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, followed by another five tests in 1998.From the 1950s to the 1980s, India followed socialist-inspired policies. The economy was shackled by extensive regulation, protectionism and public ownership, leading to pervasive corruption and slow economic growth. Beginning 1991, significant economic reforms have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, increasing its global clout.