A chronology of key events:
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 - Nationlist 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 - Sikh's 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1990 - Indian troops withdrawn from Sri Lanka.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 birth of its billionth citizen.
2000 - US President Bill Clinton makes groundbreaking visit to India to improve ties.
2001 January - Massive earthquakes hit western state of Gujarat, leaving at least 30,000 dead.
2001 April - Sixteen Indian and three Bangladeshi soldiers killed in their worst border clashes. High-powered rocket launched, propelling India into ranks of select club of countries able to fire big satellites deep into space.
2001: TOP LEVEL SUMMIT
Vajpayee meets Musharraf in first summit for two years
2001 July - Vajpayee meets Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the first summit between the two neighbours in more than two years. The meeting ends without a breakthrough or even a joint statement because of differences over Kashmir.
2001 July - Vajpayee's BJP party declines his offer to resign over a number of political scandals and the apparent failure of his talks with Pakistani President Musharraf.
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 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 Dehli, 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.
DEC 2001: PARLIAMENT ATTACKS
Several police killed as suicide squad attacks Indian parliament
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 - The worst inter-religious bloodshed in a decade breaks out in western India after Muslims set fire to a train carrying Hindus returning from pilgrimage to Ayodhya. More than 800, mainly Muslims, die in revenge killings by Hindu mobs over the next two months.
2002 May - More than 30 people killed in raid on Indian army camp in Kashmir, which India blames on Pakistani-based rebels. Moderate Kashmiri separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone shot dead at a meeting in Srinagar.
Vajpayee tells front-line troops that the time has come for a decisive fight.
Pakistan test fires three medium-range surface-to-surface Ghauri missiles, which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Musharraf tells nation that Pakistan doesn't want war but is ready to respond with full force if attacked.
India accuses Pakistan of stoking tensions and says there will be no talks or military pull-back until Pakistan halts "cross-border terrorism".
2002 June - Britain and USA maintain diplomatic offensive to avert war, urge their citizens to leave India and Pakistan.
2002 July - Retired scientist APJ Abdul Kalam is elected president. Dr Kalam - known as "Missile Man" - was the architect of India's missile programme. He becomes India's third Muslim president.
2002 October - India says its troops have begun withdrawing from the border with Pakistan; Islamabad says it wants proof before starting its own pull-back.