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Abdul Kalam

Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen (A.P.J.) Abdul Kalam (born October 15, 1931) is the President of India. He is by profession, a scientist and an engineer.

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
First Term:July 18, 2002 - present
Predecessor:K. R. Narayanan
Date of Birth:October 15, 1931
Place of Birth:Dhanushkodi, India

Born in Dhanushkodi, in what is now Tamil Nadu, to a working class Muslim family, Kalam received his PhD in aeronautical engineering from the Madras Institute of Technology in 1958. He joined India's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) upon graduation to work on a failed hovercraft project. In 1962, he moved to the Indian Space Research Organization, where his team successfully launched several satellites. In 1982, he returned to the DRDO as director, focusing on guided missiles. In 1992, he became scientific advisor to India's defense minister. On May 11, 1998, Kalam led India's successful underground nuclear weapon tests.

On July 18, 2002, Kalam was elected by an overwhelming majority (upwards of 90%) as President, and took office on July 25. He was nominated for the position by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Congress Party, the primary opposition, concurred. His only opposition in the race was a leftist nominee, 87-year-old Lakshmi Sahgal, best known for having served under Subhas Chandra Bose in the Indian National Army in its campaign against the British during World War 2.

Kalam observes strict personal discipline, practicing vegetarianism, teetotalism, and celibacy. He studies both the Qur'an (the main holy text of his family's faith, Islam) and the Bhagavad Gita (the main holy text of India's majority religion, Hinduism), and many hope that he will be able to heal recent religious factionalism in India (especially in Gujarat). Kalam is a Muslim according to criteria normally accepted by Muslim scholars. Pakistan, India's main rival and an overwhelmingly Muslim country, has officially welcomed his election, even though the nuclear weapons program that Kalam headed has been a catalyst for much of the strife between the two states.

Politically, Kalam wants India to take a more assertive stance in international relations and sees his work on India's nuclear weapons program as a way to assert India's place as a future superpower.

Kalam received India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in 1997. He strongly advocates an action plan to develop India into a knowledge superpower and into a developed nation by the year 2020. Being a scientist, he takes active interest in the field of science and technology. He recently proposed a research to increase intelligence using bio-implants.

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