Bangladesh is situated in the eastern part of the Asian subcontinent and is surrounded on three sides by India. Most of its southern border is on the Bay of Bengal and it borders Myanmar for a brief stretch at its southeastern tip. Bangladesh was a part of the Indian province of Bengal until 1947 when the British partitioned the subcontinent into India and Pakistan. Thereafter, it became East Pakistan and was administered from West Pakistan, but later acquired independence in 1972, after a brief and bloody war.
Situated in the middle of the Ganges delta, the land is crisscrossed with rivers and canals that flow into the Bay of Bengal, including the three great rivers, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. While plains dominate the land, average elevations reach up to 250 meters in the northeast and to over 600 meters in the southeast.
The weather ranges from hot and humid in the summer to mildly cool winters with heavy rains during the monsoons. Natural hazards such as floods and hurricanes are common and cause great damage to human life and property.
As a result of its flat topography, waters from the swollen rivers regularly flood a third of the country during the monsoon season. Flood control is thus one of the government's main priorities. The country is also one of the world's most cyclone-prone areas, further increasing flooding and destruction of homes, fields, and roads.
Bangladesh is a very fertile land and this fertility allows the country to export agricultural products such as rice, tea, sugarcane, animal products such as beef, poultry and milk, and tropical fruits including mangos, bananas and pineapple. In addition, textiles such as jute and cotton comprise a large part of Bangladesh's main exports. The shipbuilding industry forms a major part of the country's industrialized economy. Its main trading partners are Western Europe, United States, India, Hong Kong Japan and China. While Bangladesh is not significantly rich in mineral resources, discoveries of natural gas resrves and the possibility of finding oil have attracted foreign investment in recent years.
The country is also known for having the world's longest sea-beach, and for possessing archaeological monuments that date back over 2,000 years. About 15 percent of the country is forested although these forests are threatened by the expanding population's need for firewood. Bangladesh also has the largest mangrove forest in the world. Its mangrove forests known as the Sunderbans are well known as the home of the famous Royal Bengal Tiger.
The Sunderbans delta and the Chittagong rainforests are also home to elephants, rhinos, leopards and different species of magpie, kingfisher and woodpecker. All this helps to contribute to the country's nascent tourist industry.
While Bangladesh is primarily a rural nation, like all developing countries, it is witnessing a movement of people to port cities such as Chittagong and Khulna and to its capital Dhaka. Dhaka (Dacca) is the largest city in the country with a population of over 10 million, and has attracted many squatter communities of rural migrants.
Ninety-eight percent of the Bangladeshis are Bengalis and speak the Bengali language. About 83 percent of these follow Islam, while the other major religion is Hinduism, followed by Buddhism and Christianity. Small minorities of tribal people, numbering less than a million, lives in the rural areas and are of Sino-Tibetan descent. They speak a Sino-Burman language and follow Tibetan Tantric (esoteric) Buddhism.