On August 15, 1947, at 11 p.m., the Indian government, also known as the constituent assembly, began a special parliamentary session. The session began when three women sang India’s national anthem. Then, the assembly president, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, addressed the members of the Indian government. During his speech, Dr. Prasad paid tribute to Mohandas (Mahatma) K. Gandhi calling him "our beacon light, our guide and philosopher during the last thirty years or more." After his speech, the entire assembly stood and observed two minutes of silence "in memory of those who died in the struggle for freedom in India and elsewhere." The Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru moved the resolution for the solemn oath all assembly members would take at midnight. The motion was seconded by an Indian Muslim, Chaudry Khaliquzzaman, leader of the Muslim League party, who promised loyalty on behalf of all of India’s Muslims to India.
At midnight, a member of the assembly blew a conch shell used in Hindu temples to summon the gods to witness a great event. At that moment a great cheer arose in the assembly, as the entire country marked its new-found freedom. All the assembly members stood and repeated the following oath in Hindi and in English as stated by Dr. Prasad:
At this solemn moment when the people of India, through suffering and sacrifice, have secured freedom, I, a member of the Constituent Assembly of India do dedicate myself in all humility to the service of India and her people to the end that this ancient land attain her rightful place in the world peace and the welfare of mankind.
10,000 Indian citizens crowded outside the building where the assembly was in session. The capital city of New Delhi was decorated with strings of the new national flag – saffron, white, and dark green, the colors of the All-India Congress Party, with the wheel of Emperor Ashoka in the middle. The British flag was lowered and India’s national flag put in its place. India had achieved its long sought-after freedom. 
The road to freedom was long and arduous. The British control of India began in the 1600’s when the East India Company,  which first began as a commercial venture, began to build up its political and military dominance. During the 1700’s, the Dutch, French, and Portuguese all had settlements in India but the British slowly drove them out and consolidated their power in India. Muslim rule in India through the Mughal empire came to an end in the early 1700’s with the death of Muslim ruler Aurangzeb, famous for his hatred toward Hindus and cruelty toward all. Thus, Hindus were freed from the clutches of the Mughal empire but had to deal with British colonial designs on their country. A series of devastating wars were fought between Britain and India between 1750-1858. The British won several important battles between 1757-1765 during which time they annexed the Indian state of Bengal, thus beginning their inroads into the country.
After these initial wars, British rule over India consisted primarily of increased commercial ventures. However, as the decades passed, Britain’s stranglehold over the country became stronger. The British sent larger armies to India, and the political aspirations of England began to dominate Indian society as well. A growing sentiment among the Indian people to overthrow Britain’s domination culminated in the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
During this year, a number of wars broke out with Indian soldiers rebelling against the British army. The fighting was intense, and Britain sent thousands of soldiers as reinforcements. As the British soldiers rode to the troubled areas where the fighting was occurring, they stopped off at villages suspected of being sympathetic to the freedom fighters and killed everyone. The fighting raged on for some time. Finally, the British put down the uprising. With stories emerging about alleged Indian atrocities against the British during the uprising, the British sought to crush further thoughts of freedom. After the mutiny was over, British soldiers went on a rampage for many months, killing Indian soldiers and villagers, raping women, and continually looting the cities they plundered.
After the Indian mutiny, the British wanted to ensure there would be no more rebellions again. Soldiers involved in the mutiny were sent to the gallows. From 1857 to the early 1900’s, people making speeches about freedom were immediately jailed. Advocating freedom from British colonial rule was against the law and many activists were sent to the gallows. The British began strict censorship of the Indian press to prevent the message of freedom reaching the masses.
Crushing taxes placed on the Indian people built up the coffers in England but pushed the Indian people toward poverty. During this time, millions of pounds of food were continually shipped to England even though people were starving to death during the terrible famines in India. Swami Vivekananda, an Indian freedom fighter, said the following in one of his speeches during the inaugural session of the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893:
Christians must always be ready for good criticism and I hardly think that you will mind if I make a little criticism. You Christians, who are so fond of sending out missionaries to save the soul of the heathen – why do you not try to save their bodies from starvation? In India, during the terrible famines, thousands died from hunger, yet you Christians did nothing. You erect churches all through India, but the crying evil in the East is not religion – they have religion enough – but it is the bread that the suffering millions of burning India cry out for with parched throats. They ask us for bread, but we give them stones [churches]. It is an insult to starving people to offer them religion; it is an insult to a starving man to teach him metaphysics. . . . I came here to seek aid for my impoverished people, and I fully realized how difficult it was to get help for heathens from Christians in a Christian land. 
It is now estimated that during British colonial rule, 25 million people died from starvation due to the famines that swept through India. Further, the English built up a steady indictment of the people of India, criticizing Indian society, customs, and particularly built up enmity and hatred toward the people of India, particularly Hindus, because they followed different religions from Christianity. With a view to "civilize" the Indian people, who were referred to as "heathens" or "savages", the British systematically destroyed Hindu temples and employed Christian missionaries to convert Hindus. In 1812 there were only 6,000 Christian missionaries from America in India. By 1912 however, there were more than 100,000 missionaries. The attempts to proselytize ranged from the subtle to the extreme. At one end Christians built churches and schools to slowly change Hindus to the Christian mindset. At the other end, violence was used by the British such as massacres of civilians and the destruction of Hindu temples. British soldiers routinely captured Hindu women to rape them and use them as sex slaves for the British soldiers in their camps before killing them. Hindu women began to carry small vials of cyanide underneath their saris so when the soldiers invaded, they could commit suicide and not suffer such an ignoble death. They would often administer the poison to their small children if they had any because the British would also use the children as slaves. Entire families could be wiped out by suicide. As a result, many of the young men who fought in the numerous wars between 1857-1900 were young widowers, their wives and children either captured and killed by the British, or their families destroyed by suicide to preserve the family honor. The British won numerous wars through their advanced weaponry and use of massive armies, and it was this military dominance that kept India down.
England continued to build up its economy through trade in India. Exports from India were minimized, but British goods were continually sold in India. England began to modernize as the industrial age came about, but India was kept down, its economy only in existence to strengthen England’s economy and military. In the 1700’s, India’s manufacturing output may have been as high as 25% of the world’s total output. However, from 1850 to 1900, India’s economy only grew at 1-2% a year. Thus, India’s economy was in a state of disrepair at the time of independence, and India had to rebuild its economy during the post-World War II era having missed the industrial revolution. Unquestionably, England’s economy benefited greatly from colonial rule during the 18th and 19th centuries, a critical time in western civilization when social and economic changes took place due to the industrial revolution.
With the tremendous burden of taxes, massacres of innocent civilians during the fight for independence, social and religious discrimination primarily against Hindus, and outright wars, British colonial rule over India was not a period conducive for higher learning for the Indian people. The British wanted to educate only the upper echelons of Indian society so they could further the British dominion over India. Thus, education was only provided to the social elite. Whenever education was provided, churches were always built with schools to indoctrinate students into Christianity along with a curriculum strictly controlled by the British. At the time of independence in 1947, the literacy rate in India was only 14%.
Although the British formally abolished slavery in 1833, ships carrying Indian people as "indentured laborers" sailed to the Fiji islands, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, and Guyana. The British used these laborers to work in their colonies. The formal end of slavery did not occur out of any compassion or belief that slavery was wrong. It meant the British could continue to ship Indian people to work in their colonies and the British could not be accused of slavery since it had been legally abolished. Although Mahatma Gandhi worked hard to end this practice of indentured servitude it was not formally abolished until 1923.
Under this regime where the freedom of the press, the freedom of religion, and the freedom of assembly were restricted, Mohandas (Mahatma "The Great Soul") K. Gandhi rose as a leader to take the entire country of India from one extreme of servitude, to the other of freedom. Born on October 2, 1869, he became an attorney and traveled to South Africa to assist the Indian community and other Asians struggling against racism and apartheid. He opened a law office in Johannesburg in 1903 and was sentenced to imprisonment numerous times because he openly advocated freedom in a nonviolent manner. He left South Africa in 1914 and went to England. He then returned to India and began to mobilize the Indian masses with his idea of a nonviolent resistance against British rule. He began civil disobedience marches, especially after the massacre of more than 400 people in March 1919 by British troops, who fired upon several thousand unarmed Indian men, women, and children, sitting on the ground demonstrating peacefully against British rule. He also fasted for days at a time to protest British rule over India.
He was arrested many times but continued to push for India’s independence between 1915 and 1945. Independence finally came on August 15, 1947. Two and a half years later, after studying a number of other constitutions and governments, India adopted a parliamentary system similar to England’s and embraced constitutional freedoms similar to that of America’s. Many judges and legal scholars in India studied America’s constitution and found the freedoms enshrined there similar to the ones they wanted protected in India. Thus, on January 26, 1950, India formally became a republic and after August 15, 1947, this is the second most important day in India’s political history because it marks India’s beginning as a formal democracy. Unfortunately, Gandhi did not live to see the first Republic Day, as he was assassinated shortly after Independence on January 30, 1948, at the age of 78. 
India’s road to freedom was long but successful. Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance to British rule inspired Dr. Martin Luther King’s ideology during the American civil rights movement in the 1960’s. Gandhi did not advocate overthrowing the British using force because this would only continue the cycle of violence. Instead, he sincerely believed nonviolence was the only way to secure true freedom. His mental tenacity and persistence in this belief despite being jailed over and over again separated him from other leaders. Gandhi had a burning desire that the people of India should be free to map their own destiny. This desire drove him to become one of the world’s most famous leaders. Gandhi’s "nonviolent opposition to British rule won, without war, India’s independence in 1947 – and set the standard for all who seek change." 
Since independence, India has continually sought to expand its economy, promote the idea of equality between all citizens, and improve the status of women. There have been many challenges along the way. There were three wars between India and Pakistan, all started by Pakistan: 1948, 1965, 1971, and the Kargil conflict of 1999, initiated by Pakistan in which almost 1,000 Indian soldiers were killed in action. China invaded part of India in 1962 and the two countries went to war. There have been natural disasters as well, such as the January 2001 Gujarat earthquake, which killed 20,000 people, and the 1999 Orissa cyclone, which killed more than 10,000 people. These disasters are particularly devastating for a poorer country like India.
Nonetheless, India is committed to being a strong democratic country. In recent years, India has taken remarkable steps to open its economy to the world and move forward as a world power. As one writer recently stated:
Forget the India you once knew: It is gone. Contemplate instead a new, funky, self-confident resurgent nation, embracing its role as an emerging Asian superpower. . . . There is mounting support for India to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. . . . Then there is the brightest jewel in India’s crown: its firm adherence to democracy. . . . Underpinning the forward movement is India’s commitment to democracy. That a nation of a billion people, ranging from the super-rich to the abysmally poor, continues to practice what may be the world’s most open system of government is little short of a miracle. Add on the independence of national institutions and it is evident that India’s civil society has a sturdy moral backbone. . . . 
Another scholar recently noted:
Since its birth as a nation more than 50 years ago, India has seemed poised on the edge of two very different futures. On one side lay greatness; on the other, collapse. That drama has now ended and a new one has begun. The specter of collapse has passed and India is emerging as a major Asian power, joining China and Japan. The 1998 nuclear tests in the Rajasthan desert that announced India’s entry into the nuclear club only served to underscore the nation’s new stature. India has begun economic reforms that promise at last to realize its vast economic potential. It possesses the world’s third largest army. It occupies a strategic position at the crossroads of the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. Its population, which crossed the one billion mark this year, may surpass China’s within two decades. It is the site of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, a powerful influence throughout Asia for thousands of years, and for the last 53 years, against all odds, it has maintained a functioning democracy. 
The literacy rate in India is now 65% with some parts of India attaining even higher literacy rates, such as the state of Kerala, with an estimated literacy rate of 92-95%. As India modernizes, the internet will play a powerful role in educating the masses of rural people.
It took many years for the Indian economy to rebuild itself from scratch after independence. Economic liberalization during the 1990’s created a $10 billion software industry, opened the doors to computer entrepreneurs, and helped make the middle class of India grow to 200-300 million people. India’s 1998 gross national product was $480 billion, the world’s 11th largest; gauged in terms of purchasing power parity, India has the world’s 5th largest economy behind America, China, Japan, and Germany. 
The past decade has seen an increasing interaction between the economies of India and America. Microsoft has only one development center outside of America and it is in the Indian city of Hyderabad.  Cisco is investing $150 million dollars into its research and development center in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, its largest outside the United States.  Some of the American companies that have invested in India include: General Electric, Boeing, AT&T, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Ford Motor Company, IBM, Coca Cola, Pepsico, Eli Lilly, Merrill Lynch, Bell, Sprint, Raytheon, Motorola, Amoco, Texas Instruments, and Mobil.  Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania are collaborating with the consulting firm McKinsey & Company to create the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad to open within the next year.  The Indian educational system is growing by leaps and bounds and many Indian schools are reputed to be some of the best in the world in high tech and science education. In Asiaweek magazine’s year 2000 rankings for universities, two of Asia’s top ten MBA schools are in India (Ahmedabad No. 1 and Bangalore No. 5), and fully five out of the ten best science and technology schools in all of Asia are in India (Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Kanpur, and Kharagpur). 
Indian-Americans have also contributed heavily to America’s economic growth. "The market capitalization of companies founded or headed by Indians in the United States is more than $500 billion."  Further, "[t]he number of Indian American New Economy millionaires is in the thousands."  Some examples of successful Indian-Americans include: Rono Dutta, president of United Airlines; Rakesh Gangwal, president and CEO of U.S. Airways; Rajat Gupta, managing director of the consulting company McKinsey & Co.; Sabeer Bhatia, who founded Hotmail and then sold it to Microsoft for $400 million; Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems; Suhas Patil, founder of Cirrus Logic (1999 revenues: $564 million); Gururaj Deshpande, co-founder of a number of technology companies such as Sycamore Networks, who is personally worth between $4 billion and $6 billion; Vijay Goradia, owner of a private petrochemical business in Houston (1999 revenues: $600 million);  and Hasmukh P. Rama, a Greenville, S.C. based businessman who founded and owns JHM Hotels, "one of the Southeast’s premier hotel and motel corporations," now a $225 million corporation.  Indian-Americans have also contributed in other fields: Kalpana Chawla, an astronaut, became the first Asian woman and Indian-American to fly into space, and Manoj Night Shyamalan wrote and directed the Hollywood hits "Unbreakable" and "The Sixth Sense" which has grossed almost $700 million worldwide.
As time goes on, India and America will continue to find ways to interact not just economically, but culturally as well, since the citizens of both nations share the same core values. Thus, America and India will grow to be natural allies in the decades ahead. What India and America share are basic freedoms guaranteed to their citizens and the belief that democracy is the only way to secure these freedoms to their people. When former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited India last year, India and America signed a joint vision statement that stated in part:
We are two of the world’s largest democracies. We are nations forged from many traditions and faiths, proving year after year that diversity is our strength. From vastly different origins and experiences, we have come to the same conclusions: that freedom and democracy are the strongest bases for both peace and prosperity, and that they are universal aspirations, constrained neither by culture nor levels of economic development. . . . Globalization is erasing boundaries and building networks between nations and peoples, economies and cultures. The world is increasingly coming together around the democratic ideals India and the United States have long championed and lived by. . . . In many ways, the character of the 21st century world will depend on the success of our cooperation for peace, prosperity, democracy, and freedom. In the new century, India and the United States will be partners in peace, with a common interest in and complementary responsibility for ensuring regional and international security. . . . The true measure of our strength lies in the ability of our people to shape their destiny and to realize their aspirations for a better life. That is why the United States and India are and will be allies in the cause of democracy. We will share our experience in nurturing and strengthening democratic institutions the world over and fighting the challenge to democratic order from forces such as terrorism. 
Every year, on July 4th, we celebrate America’s freedom and commitment to democracy. Every year, on August 15th, the people of India celebrate India’s achievement of independence and freedom. India spent 2 Â½ years implementing its constitution based in large part on America’s. In a speech made in the U.S. House of Representatives on September 14, 2000, U.S. Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA) stated in part:
Since India’s inception 53 years ago as an independent country, it has maintained a constitution based on the same democratic principles that our Founding Fathers valued. The Indian Constitution safeguards all its people from all forms of discrimination on grounds of race, religion, creed or sex. It guarantees freedom of speech, expression and belief, assembly and association, migration, and acquisition of property. 
America and India are nations with vastly different backgrounds. America’s history stretches back several centuries while India’s history goes back many millennia. Nonetheless, both India and America are committed to the cause of democracy and freedom and this is what separates our two nations from many others in the world today. It is time now for the world's two largest democracies to work together to eradicate the menace of international terrorism, and to work on bringing peace, democracy, and stability in Asia.