With more than a billion people, India is the world's second-most-populous country and its largest democracy. Sweeping economic reforms and the development of high-tech industries in recent years have given the nation new optimism for the future. But poverty, food shortages and violence between Hindus and Muslims continue to plague India, and some observers even fear the country's hallowed tradition of pluralism and secular government is at risk. Another flashpoint is the Muslim-majority province of Kashmir, where a separatist movement is supported by Pakistan, India's hostile, nuclear-armed neighbor. Meanwhile, India, also a nuclear power, is seeking a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, an effort that is coinciding with a warming in U.S.-India relations, due in part to India's support for the U.S. war on terrorism.