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Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam

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Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen (A.P.J.) Abdul Kalam (born October 15, 1931) is an Indian scientist and engineer, now also President of India.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
First Term:July 18, 2002 - ??
Predecessor:KR 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, 89-year-old Lakshmi Sahgal[?].

Kalam observes strict personal discipline, practicing vegetarianism, teetotalism, and celibacy. He studies both the Qur'an (the main holy text of his 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). 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. His ideas have often attracted controversy, including recently his assertion that India is a developed country[?] and his proposal to increase intelligence using bio-implants[?].

Kalam has been awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in 1997.

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