Which Countries are Most Similar to India?

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Have you ever wondered how similar or different two countries are? The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based objective way to measure this. The index weights equally five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, technology, and geography. In addition each aspect was roughly balanced evenly between quantity/percentage and quality/type. See this post for a full explanation: https://objectivelists.home.blog/2020/05/30/country-similarity-index/

Similar to Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka

There are relatively few countries with a high degree of similarity with India in part because it is a highly diverse place even within its own boundaries. 4 out of the top 5 nations were originally part of British India, before gaining independence. Some may be surprised that Bhutan is not on this list, but it is more of a hybrid between India and China, while having its own unique eccentricities. India also shares traits with countries like Kenya and Nigeria, who also have adopted English as an official language and have significant Muslim populations.

Top 10 Places Most Similar to India

  1. Nepal is the only other country with more than 50% of the population that follows Hinduism. The Nepali language is also similar to Hindi. Nepal has an open border with India. In addition, the Indian Rupee is legal tender in Nepal. However, its more mountainous terrain and cooler climate make its geography significantly different.
  2. Pakistan is also similar to India, despite the fact that the countries are on unfriendly terms with each other. Pakistan’s official languages English and Urdu (a dialect of Hindi using the Arabic writing system) are similar to India. However, like Bangladesh, it has a majority Muslim population.
  3. Bangladesh, along with Pakistan, was part of India until 1947, so the countries have significant similarities. The main differences are religious and linguistic. Bangladesh has a majority Muslim population and their official language is Bengali.
  4. Sri Lanka‘s main differences from India, like Pakistan and Bangladesh, are mostly linguistic and religious. The majority of Sri Lankans practice Theravada Buddhism. The country is also linguistically divided, mainly speaking Sinhalese, but having Tamil speakers as well. 
  5. Myanmar is another country on this list that was a province of British India, before becoming independent. However, it is significantly less similar than the others. The ethnicity of its people is more similar to other East Asian populations, like Thailand and Cambodia.
  6. Bhutan, 7. Indonesia, 8. Tanzania, 9. Mauritius, 10. Kenya

Top 10 Places Least Similar to India

  1. Iceland is a well developed, sparsely populated island. Not only are their people and culture quite different from India, but also their geography. Iceland’s climate is much colder and hardly any of their land is used for agriculture.
  2. United States and India were both former colonies of Britain, but they quite different in almost every aspect, aside from India adopting English as an official language. Their mostly vegetarian diet is vastly different from the meat-loving Americans. In addition, while the United States is a sports powerhouse, India has won few medals at the Olympics.
  3. Canada was also a colony of Britain, but it is extremely similar to the United States, so it is no wonder that it also makes this list. Its sparsely populated, highly urbanized population starkly contrasts India’s dense but rural population.
  4. Finland‘s demographics are the least similar to India, in part due to the fact that of all European countries it has the least genetic similarity, since Finns have more Siberian genes.
  5. Switzerland is one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world. Switzerland’s geography is also quite different, being an extremely mountainous, landlocked country.
  6. Norway, 7. New Zealand, 8. Sweden, 9. Luxembourg, 10. Denmark

    Full Ranking of Countries and Territories Most Similar to India

Do you agree with the list?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section.

6 Comments

  1. Actually Canada and India are not so dissimilar. Both were part of the British Empire and later committed to the Commonwealth. English is widespread in both, more so in Canada than India, but the 2% or so of Indians who speak English as a home language (they also tend to have tertiary education) fit right into Canadian society with no problems. India and Canada are both democracies, and the legal frameworks, while not identical, is at least easily comprehensible to persons from the other country. In neither country is there intense government surveillance and control. Indian modes of reasoning and deciding issues are not dissimilar to those found in Canada, and, at least until recently, there was marked religious toleration in both countries, though it is eroding slightly in both.

    While Sikh and Hindu ritual practice is not widespread in Canada outside Indian, Sri Lankan Tamil and Nepalese immigrant communities there, Canadians actually tend to be less intensely involved with their nominal religion than, say, Americans, resembling Europeans more on this variable. They are open to and impressed by Hindu religious philosophy and practices, tending to syncretize it with their existing beliefs which may be somewhat energized in the process. Religious difference from Hinduism and Sikhism is not a source of conflict at all in Canada that I know of, in part because neither of these religions claims to be a universal religion that all people must convert to to be saved, or to attain a state of maximum “spiritual goodness.”

    The main dissimilarities I see between Canada and India are actually:

    1) linguistic (India has a wide array of languages not generally understood in Canada), however many Indians speak English as a second language making this difference less important than it first appears.
    2) India is much poorer than Canada, there are a lot more people living at low income, leading to lower quality medical care, a weaker state social safety net (but a stronger extended family net, which is a good thing), and arguably poorer education and more pollution.
    3) Demographically India has a much much larger population (perhaps 35 times Canada’s; some small states there have a population exceeding Canada’s), a younger population, and a denser population than Canada. As a result, politically India is a Great Power with nuclear weapons, though perhaps marginally so; Canada is at best a Middle Power.
    4) While both countries are large and support a diversity of climates from south to north, India has sub-tropical and tropical regions over most of its area that Canada, which is temperate to polar, does not. As a result India can support a much large population.
    5)Though it is commonly thought that India suffers from a higher level of corruption than Canada, I am not sure that this is genuinely so, but the face of corruption seems to differ in each country.
    6) A major difference, and one that impacts on people living in the society significantly is that Canada has a fairly liberal immigration policy and immigrants have an easy path to citizenship and equal security under law from the point of arrival. India does not take many legal immigrants in proportion to it’s population at all, and persons residing there often are forced to do so with inadequate legal security leading to their potentially being taken of advantage of. Even if they have Indian spouses, immigration is difficult for non-Diasporic males, and dual citizenship is not allowed, though for Diasporic Indians a form of it is; for others no. At least India is moving slowly in this area in the direction of Canada, which allows dual citizenship freely, and actually encourages it. Indian spouses or partners of Canadian citizens are normally eligible to immigrate and to obtain citizenship easily. This is one area where reciprocity or similarity is not present and the situation of immigrants or aspiring ones quite different in the two countries. It is compounded by the more restrictive foreign investment rules in India, or used to be. I have not kept up with recent changes in this area.

    Educated South Asian immigrants are common in Canada and fit quite easily into the society, seemingly validating my conjecture that the two countries are not that dissimilar in ways of thinking at all. Educated Canadians wishing to live permanently in India find it legally, but not necessarily personally, much harder to do so. The situation seems to have improved significantly in the last thirty years as Indian society works itself out of the nearly thousand year trauma of (most recently) British colonization, and before that repeated conquest from Central Asia by people ancestrally from the Eurasian Steppes. I think that what was arguably the unjustified Indian paranoia about foreign immigration that marked its early decades of independence was an understandable reaction to this historical past, and does not reflect a permanent, hard-to-eradicate xenophobic streak in the culture that will persist permanently.

    If Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, ever go ahead with some sort of union (this pan movement is called CANZUK), it is not inconceivable that the US and India might eventually also seek or be given an offer to join and be accepted. In India’s case, my sense is that contrary to your views, similarities are actually sufficient that a genuine popular desire to join such a loose Anglophone federation for emotional, rather than solely material reasons, might be the major factor in whether it becomes a reality or not.

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