The Indian sub-continent remains one of the most populous areas of the world with an estimated population of 1.1 billion in India alone. This yields an estimated 24.5 million births per year and the birth prevalence of clefts is somewhere between 27,000 and 33,000 clefts per year. Inequalities exist, both in access to and quality of cleft care with distinct differences in urban versus rural access and over the years the accumulation of unrepaired clefts of the lip and palate make this a significant health care problem in India. In recent years the situation has been significantly improved through the intervention of Non Governmental Organisations such as SmileTrain and Transforming Faces Worldwide participating in primary surgical repair programmes. The cause of clefts is multi factorial with both genetic and environmental input and intensive research efforts have yielded significant advances in recent years facilitated by molecular technologies in the genetic field. India has tremendous potential to contribute by virtue of improving research expertise and a population that has genetic, cultural and socio-economic diversity. In 2008, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised that non-communicable diseases, including birth defects cause significant infant mortality and childhood morbidity and have included cleft lip and palate in their Global Burden of Disease (GBD) initiative. This will fuel the interest of India in birth defects registration and international efforts aimed at improving quality of care and ultimately prevention of non-syndromic clefts of the lip and palate.