A chronology of key events:
India has been home to several ancient civilisations and empires, some dating back to more than 2,000 BC. Culture and religions have flourished over the millennia, and foreign influence has ebbed and flowed.
British Government In & Out
1858 – India comes under direct rule of the British crown after failed Indian mutiny.
1885 – Indian National Congress founded as forum for emerging nationalist feeling.
1920-22 – Nationalist figurehead Mahatma Gandhi launches anti-British civil disobedience campaign.
1942-43 – Congress launches “Quit India” movement.
1947 – End of British rule and partition of sub-continent into mainly Hindu India and Muslim-majority state of Pakistan.
1947-48 – Hundreds of thousands die in widespread communal bloodshed after partition.
1948 – Mahatma Gandhi assassinated by Hindu extremist.
1948 – War with Pakistan over disputed territory of Kashmir.
1951-52 – Congress Party wins first general elections under leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru.
1962 – India loses brief border war with China.
1964 – Death of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
1965 – Second war with Pakistan over Kashmir.
1966 – Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi becomes prime minister.
1971 – Third war with Pakistan over creation of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan.
1971 – Twenty-year treaty of friendship signed with Soviet Union.
1974 – India explodes first nuclear device in underground test.
1975 – Indira Gandhi declares state of emergency after being found guilty of electoral malpractice.
1975-1977 – Nearly 1,000 political opponents imprisoned and programme of compulsory birth control introduced.
1977 – Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party loses general elections.
1980 – Indira Gandhi returns to power heading Congress party splinter group, Congress (Indira).
1984 – Troops storm Golden Temple – Sikhs’ most holy shrine – to flush out Sikh militants pressing for self-rule.
1984 – Indira Gandhi assassinated by Sikh bodyguards, following which her son, Rajiv, takes over.
1984 December – Gas leak at Union Carbide pesticides plant in Bhopal. Thousands are killed immediately, many more subsequently die or are left disabled.
1987 – India deploys troops for peacekeeping operation in Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict.
1989 – Falling public support leads to Congress defeat in general election.
1990 – Indian troops withdrawn from Sri Lanka.
1990 – Muslim separatist groups begin campaign of violence in Kashmir.
1991 – Rajiv Gandhi assassinated by suicide bomber sympathetic to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers.
1991 – Economic reform programme begun by Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao.
1992 – Hindu extremists demolish mosque in Ayodhya, triggering widespread Hindu-Muslim violence.
BJP to the fore
1996 – Congress suffers worst ever electoral defeat as Hindu nationalist BJP emerges as largest single party.
1998 – BJP forms coalition government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
1998 – India carries out nuclear tests, leading to widespread international condemnation.
1999 February – Vajpayee makes historic bus trip to Pakistan to meet Premier Nawaz Sharif and to sign bilateral Lahore peace declaration.
1999 May – Tension in Kashmir leads to brief war with Pakistan-backed forces in the icy heights around Kargil in Indian-held Kashmir.
1999 October – Cyclone devastates eastern state of Orissa, leaving at least 10,000 dead.
Population: 1 billion
2000 May – India marks the birth of its billionth citizen.
2000 – US President Bill Clinton makes a groundbreaking visit to improve ties.
2001 January – Massive earthquakes hit the western state of Gujarat, leaving at least 30,000 dead.
2001 April – 16 Indian and three Bangladeshi soldiers are killed in border clashes.
A high-powered rocket is launched, propelling India into the club of countries able to fire big satellites deep into space.
2001 July – Vajpayee meets Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the first summit between the two neighbours in more than two years. It ends without a breakthrough because of differences over Kashmir.
2001 September – US lifts sanctions which it imposed against India and Pakistan after they staged nuclear tests in 1998. The move is seen as a reward for their support for the US-led anti-terror campaign.
Kashmir tensions rise
2001 October – India fires on Pakistani military posts in the heaviest firing along the dividing line of control in Kashmir for almost a year.
2001 December – Suicide squad attacks parliament in New Delhi, killing several police. The five gunmen die in the assault.
2001 December – India imposes sanctions against Pakistan, to force it to take action against two Kashmir militant groups blamed for the suicide attack on parliament. Pakistan retaliates with similar sanctions, and bans the groups in January.
2001 December – India, Pakistan mass troops on common border amid mounting fears of a looming war.
2002 January – India successfully test-fires a nuclear-capable ballistic missile – the Agni – off its eastern coast.
2002 February – Inter-religious bloodshed breaks out after 59 Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya are killed in a train fire in Godhra, Gujarat. More than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, die in subsequent violence. Police and officials blamed the fire on a Muslim mob, but a 2005 government investigation said it was an accident. In 2012 a court convicts 32 people over the Naroda Patiya riots in Ahmedabad.
2002 May – Pakistan test-fires three medium-range surface-to-surface Ghauri missiles, which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. War of words between Indian and Pakistani leaders intensifies. Actual war seems imminent.
2002 June – UK, US urge their citizens to leave India and Pakistan, while maintaining diplomatic offensive to avert war.
2002 July – Retired scientist and architect of India’s missile programme APJ Abdul Kalam is elected president.
2003 August – At least 50 people are killed in two simultaneous bomb blasts in Bombay.
Kashmir ceasefire, Congress in power
2003 November – India matches Pakistan’s declaration of a Kashmir ceasefire.
2003 December – India, Pakistan agree to resume direct air links and to allow overflights.
2004 January – Groundbreaking meeting held between government and moderate Kashmir separatists.
2004 May – Surprise victory for Congress Party in general elections. Manmohan Singh is sworn in as prime minister.
2004 September – India, along with Brazil, Germany and Japan, launches an application for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
2004 November – India begins to withdraw some of its troops from Kashmir.
2004 December – Thousands are killed when waves of the Asian Tsunami devastates coastal communities in the south and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
2005 7 April – Bus services, the first in 60 years, operate between Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir and Muzaffarabad in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
2005 July – More than 1,000 people are killed in floods and landslides caused by monsoon rains in Mumbai (Bombay) and Maharashtra region.
2005 October – Bombs kill 62 people in Delhi. A little-known Kashmiri group says it is behind the attacks.
2006 February – India’s largest-ever rural jobs scheme is launched, aimed at lifting around 60 million families out of poverty.
2006 March – US and India sign a nuclear agreement during a visit by US President George W Bush. The US gives India access to civilian nuclear technology while India agrees to greater scrutiny for its nuclear programme.
2006 11 July – More than 180 people are killed in bomb attacks on rush-hour trains in Mumbai. Investigators blame Islamic militants based in Pakistan.
2006 8 September – Explosions outside a mosque in the western town of Malegaon kill at least 31 people.
2006 November – Hu Jintao makes the first visit to India by a Chinese president in a decade.
2006 December – US President George W Bush approves a controversial law allowing India to buy US nuclear reactors and fuel for the first time in 30 years.
2007 18 February – 68 passengers, most of them Pakistanis, are killed by bomb blasts and a blaze on a train travelling from New Delhi to the Pakistani city of Lahore.
2007 February – India and Pakistan sign an agreement aimed at reducing the risk of accidental nuclear war.
2007 March – Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh state kill more than 50 policemen in a dawn attack.
2007 April – India’s first commercial space rocket is launched, carrying an Italian satellite.
2007 May – At least nine people are killed in a bomb explosion at the main mosque in Hyderabad. Several others are killed in subsequent rioting.
2007 May – Government announces its strongest economic growth figures for 20 years – 9.4% in the year to March.
First woman president
2007 July – Pratibha Patil becomes first woman to be elected president of India.
2008 July – Congress-led coalition survives vote of confidence brought after left-wing parties withdraw their support over controversial nuclear cooperation deal with US.
2008 July – Series of explosions kills 49 in Ahmedabad, in Gujarat state. The little-known militant Islamist group Indian Mujahideen claims responsibility.
2008 October – Following approval by the US Congress, President George W Bush signs into law a nuclear deal with India, which ends a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with Delhi.
India successfully launches its first mission to the moon, the unmanned lunar probe Chandrayaan-1.
2008 November – Nearly 200 people are killed and hundreds injured in a series of co-ordinated attacks by gunmen on the main tourist and business area of India’s financial capital Mumbai. India blames militants from Pakistan for the attacks and demands that Islamabad act against those responsible.
2008 December – India announces “pause” in peace process with Pakistan. Indian cricket team cancels planned tour of Pakistan.
2009 February – India and Russia sign deals worth $700m, according to which Moscow will supply uranium to Delhi.
2009 May – Resounding general election victory gives governing Congress-led alliance of PM Manmohan Singh an enhanced position in parliament, only 11 seats short of an absolute majority.
2009 July – Pakistani, Indian premiers pledge to work together to fight terror irrespective of progress on improving broader ties.
A Dehli court rules that homosexual intercourse between consenting adults is not criminal, overturning a 148-year-old colonial law.
2009 December – The government says it will allow a new state, Telangana, to be carved out of part of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Violent protests for and against break out.
2010 February – Bomb explosion in a restaurant popular with tourists in Pune, in the western state of Maharashtra, kills 16 people.
2010 May – The solve surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Amir Qasab, is convicted of murder, waging war on India and possessing explosives.
2010 June – A court in Bhopal sentences eight Indians to two years each in jail for “death by negligence” over the 1984 Union Carbide gas plant leak. Thousands died in this, the world’s worst industrial accident.
2010 September – Allahabad High Court rules that the disputed holy site of Ayodhya should be divided between Hindus and Muslims; the destruction of a mosque on the site by Hindu extremists in 1992 led to rioting in which about 2,000 people died.
2011 March – Results of 2011 census put India’s population at 1.21 billion, an increase of 181 million over ten years.
2011 August – Prominent social activist Anna Hazare stages 12-day hunger strike in Delhi in protest at state corruption.
2011 November – Fourteen people, including a government minister, go on trial on charges for under-selling mobile phone licenses in return for bribes, in one of India’s biggest ever corruption scandals.
2012 January – British author Sir Salman Rushdie cancels an appearance at a literary festival in India in response to threats from Islamic extremists who object to his book The Satanic Verses.
2012 June – Police in Delhi arrest Abu Hamza, also known as Syed Zabiuddin – allegedly a key figure in planning the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
2012 July – Pranab Mukherjee from the ruling Congress party is elected president, comfortably beating his rival P.A. Sangma.
2012 August – Court convicts 32 people over the 2002 religious riots in Gujarat, including former state minister Maya Kodnani.
2012 November – Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the sole surviving gunman of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, is executed in Pune prison. The Supreme Court upheld his death sentence in August.
2013 February – Two explosions in crowded Dilsukhnagar area of central Hyderabad kill 16 people. Police suspect the Indian Mujahideen Islamist armed group.
2013 September – A court sentences four men to death for the gang rape and murder of a student in Delhi the previous December – a case that led to violent protests across India and new laws against rape.
2013 December – The Supreme Court reverses a 2009 Delhi High Court order decriminalising homosexual acts, saying parliament, not the courts, must resolve the issue.
BJP back in power
2014 May – The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its candidate for prime minister, Narendra Modi, win parliamentary elections by a landslide.
2014 September – Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi unveil landmark economic deals. China says it plans to build two industrial parks in India, as part of overall investment of twenty billion dollars in the next five years.
2014 December – India’s governing BJP emerges for the first time as a major political player in the disputed Kashmir region after local elections, doubling its seats in the state assembly.
2015 February – The anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), headed by Arvind Kejriwal, wins a stunning victory in Delhi state elections, marking the BJP’s first big setback since it triumphed in the 2014 general election.
2015 June – India arrests Naga separatist leader Khumlo Abi Anal over killing of 20 soldiers in ambush on Burmese border.
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