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South Asia

South Asia

Countries 7 to 10 (see page) Territories 1 or 2 (see page) GDP GDP per capita Languages Assamese/Asomiya, Bengali, Bodo, Burmese, Chinese, Dari[1], Dhivehi, Dogri, Dzongkha, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Manipuri, Nepali, Oriya, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Sinhala, Siraiki, Tamil, Telugu, Tibetan, and others Time Zones UTC +8:00 (Tibet, PRC) to UTC +3:30 (Iran) Largest Cities Colombo, Dhaka, Diego Garcia, Kabul, Karachi, Kathmandu, Lhasa, Malé, Mumbai, Tehran, Thimpu, and Yangon
Various definitions of South Asia. UN Subregion of Southern Asia.

South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is a southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities (see below), also includes the adjoining countries on the west and the east. It is surrounded (clockwise, from west to east) by Western Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Asia, and Southeastern Asia.


Definitions and usage

South Asia consists of the following countries and territories:

These countries, except the British Indian Ocean Territory, are also currently members of a regional co-operation group, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which was jointly formed by them. For assumed geographic, cultural, and/or historical reasons[citation needed], the following countries and territories are often included in South Asia:

The United Nations also includes Iran, but not Tibet or Burma, as part of Southern Asia:[20]

Geophysically, the term Indian subcontinent is used to describe those regions which lie on the Indian Plate, bordered on the north by the Eurasian Plate. However, a good proportion of the Pakistani land mass is not on the Indian plate, but on the fringes of the Iranian plateau. As in the case of the Hindukush mountains, everything to the south-east of the Iranian Plateau is considered South Asia. But, geopolitically, Southern Asia subsumes the Indian subcontinent and includes both, the territories found internal to the Indian Plate and those in proximity to it. Afghanistan, for instance, is sometimes grouped in this region due to socio-political, historical, and ethnic (Pashtun) ties to neighbouring Pakistan.

Differences in definitions

The definition of South Asia can vary greatly from person to person. Most sources accept Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Chagos Islands, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka as South Asian. Most of the controversy originates over Afghanistan, Iran, and Tibet. Afghanistan and Tibet are often considered South Asian by the Departments of South Asian Studies of several universities, especially those referred to above; but this definition is by no means universal. Another controversy grows over Iran, for Iran is considered South Asian by the UN on the one hand, but none of those departments above on the other. The G8's definition of the Greater Middle East further obfuscates matters by including both Pakistan and Afghanistan. See: Middle East and Greater Middle East. Controversial race researcher Richard Lynn has defined Southern Asia as "from Bangladesh in the east through India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, the Gulf states, the near East, and Turkey".[21]


Natural vegetation zones in South Asia:

     Tropical Rainforest     Tundra     Desert     Semi-desert     TropicalGrassland and savanna


The boundaries of South Asia vary based on how South Asia is defined.


Mostly hot summers and rain, some parts are snowy and cold.



Demography and history


Further information: History of South Asia

The peoples of the region possess several distinguishing features that set them apart anthropologically from the rest of Asia; the dominant peoples and cultures are Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, (though the Mongoloid populations in north-east India, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet are not to be ignored), and have a great affinity with the peoples of Iranian Plateau and the Caucasus particularly in the north west region of South Asia encompassing the modern states of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Persian, Arab and Turkish cultural traditions from the west also form an integral part of Islamic South Asian culture, but have been adapted to form a Muslim culture distinct from what is found in the Middle East e.g. pilgrimage to dargahs is common among many South Asian Muslims.

South Asia ranks among the world's most densely-populated regions. About 1.6 billion people live here—about one-fourth of all the people in the world. The region's population density of 305 persons per square kilometre is more than seven times the world average.

The region has a long history. Ancient civilizations developed in the Indus River Valley and the Dwaraka region. The region was far more prosperous before the 18th century, when the Mughal Empire held sway in the north and the Maratha Empire held sway in the south and central regions of the Indian peninsula. Subsequently, European encroachments, initially by Portugal and the Netherlands,and later by France and British colonialism, led to political destabilisation of the region, leading finally to almost complete occupation and rule by the British. Christianity, western culture, modern health care and liberal education got a favourable climate to prosper in their times. The region became a rich source of revenues and raw materials for Britain and a vast captive market for the products of western industrial revolution, adversely affecting centuries old local industries and craftsmen. On the plus side, British economic needs and military considerations led to development of an efficient network of means of transportation and communication as well as banking and training of requisite workforce; the existing rail, post, telegraph, bank and education facilities have evolved out of the base established in the colonial era, often called the British Raj. Most of the region gained independence from Europe by the late 1940s.

Since 1947, most South Asian countries have achieved tremendous progress in all spheres. Most notable achievements are in the fields of education; industry; health care; information technology and services based on its applications; research in the fields of cutting edge sciences and technologies; defence related self-reliance projects; international/global trade and business enterprises and outsourcing of human resources. Areas of difficulty remain, however, including religious extremism, high levels of corruption, disagreements on political boundaries, and inequitable distribution of wealth.

Ethnic groups, cultures and languages

Map of South Asia in native languages.

South Asia, which consists of the nations of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, is ethnically diverse, with more than 2,000 ethnic entities with populations ranging from hundreds of millions to small tribal groups. South Asia has been invaded and settled by many ethnic groups over the centuries including various Dravidian, Indo-Aryan and Iranian groups. The amalgamation of Dravidian, Indo-Aryan and local tribal cultures over the centuries created common culture, traditions and beliefs. The Vedic Sanskrit language and Vedic religion combined Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and local tribal beliefs to give rise to the ancient South Asian religions of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and also Sikhism, even though Sufi tradition of Islam had also significantly influenced nascent Sikhism and its holiest scripture. As a consequence, they share many similar cultural practices, festivals, and traditions. Throughout time, the traditions of different ethnic groups in South Asia have diverged, sometimes giving rise to strong local traditions, such as South Indian culture in earlier times. Other ethnic groups, successively streaming in later mainly from Central Asia and Iran, e.g. Sakas, Kushans, Huns etc. influenced pre-existing south Asian cultures; the last of these new arrivals - the Turks and Pathans - brought in much cultural influence and the Abrahamic religion of Islam to the Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun, Baloch and Kashmiri people in the northwestern parts of South Asia, to North India and to Bangladesh[citation needed]. However, their Turkish/Persian languages have ceased to be prominent; replaced now by Urdu, a syncretic language of combined Hindi-Persian-Turkic-Arabic heritage. The largest spoken language in this region is now Hindi, its speakers numbering almost 300 million[citation needed]; the second largest spoken language is Bengali, with 240 million[citation needed] speakers. Other languages of this region fall into a few major linguistic groups: the Dravidian languages and the Indo-Aryan languages, a sub-branch of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. Many Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups, who are speakers of their language-group, are found in northeast India, Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. Other small groups, speaking Austro-Asiatic languages, are also present in South Asia. English is another language which dominates South Asia, especially as a medium of advanced education and government administration; ethnic Englishmen and other Britons are now practically absent after their two centuries long colonial presence, although they have left an imprint of western culture in the elite society.


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Much of South Asia writes using various abugidas of Brahmic origin. South Asian languages such as Urdu, Pashto, and Sindhi use derivatives of the Perso-Arabic script. Not all languages in South Asia follow this strict dichotomy though. For example, Kashmiri is written in both the Perso-Arabic script and in the Devanagari script. The same can be said for Punjabi, which is written in both Shahmukhi and Gurmukhī. Dhivehi is written in a script called Tāna that shows characteristics of both the Arabic alphabet and of an abugida.


 Afghanistan[1]Sunni Muslim (80%), Shi'a Muslim (19%), other (1%)  Bangladesh[22]Muslim (89.8%), Hindu (9.2%), Buddhist (1.6%), Christian (1.3%),Believers in tribal faiths (0.1%)  British Indian Ocean Territory[23]Christian (45.55%), Hindu (38.55%), Muslim (9.25%), Non-Religious (6.50%), Atheist (0.10%), Other (0.05%)  Bhutan[2]Buddhist (75%), Hindu (25%)  India[24][dead link] Hindu (80.5%), Muslim (13.4%), Christian (2.3%), Sikh (1.9%), Buddhist (0.8%), Jain (0.4%), Others (0.6%)  Iran[25]Shi'a Muslim (89%), Sunni Muslim (9%), Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i (2%)  Maldives[26]Sunni Muslim (100%) (One must be a Sunni Muslim to be a citizen on the Maldives[citation needed])  Myanmar[27]Theravada Buddhism (89%), Muslim (4%), Christian (4%) (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Animist (1%), others (including Hinduism) (2%)  Nepal[28]Hindu (80.6%), Buddhist (10.7%), Muslim (4.2%), Kirat(3.6%)  Pakistan[29]Muslim (96.28%), Hindu (1.85%), Christian (1.59%), Ahmadi(0.22%)  Sri Lanka[30][dead link] Theravada Buddhist (70.42%), Hindu (10.89%), Muslim (8.78%), Catholic (7.77%), Other Christian (1.96%), Other (0.13%) Tibet, PRCBuddhist, Bön, Hindu, Muslim, and others[citation needed]

Territory and region data

Name of country/region, with flagArea
(km²) PopulationPopulation density
(per km²) CapitalGDP(Total) GDP(Per capita) CurrencyGovernmentOfficial languagesCoat of Arms Afghanistan(see above) 647,500 31,889,923 46 Kabul$32.4 billion $1,490 Afghan afghaniIslamic republicDari (Persian), Pashto[1] Bangladesh144,000 150,448,340 1045 Dhaka$331.9 billion $2,245 TakaParliamentary republicBengali Bhutan47,000 672,425 45 Thimphu$4.39 billion $5,477 Ngultrum, Indian rupeeConstitutional monarchyDzongkha British Indian Ocean Territory60 3,500 58.3 Diego GarciaPound sterlingBritish Overseas TerritoryEnglish India3,287,590 1,128,808,000 329 New Delhi$4042.268 billion $3690 Indian rupeeFederal republic, Parliamentary democracyHindi, Englishand 20 other official languages Iran(see above) 1,648,195 71,208,000 42 Tehran$610 billion $8,887 Iranian rialIslamic republicPersian, Constitutional status for regional languages [31] Maldives298 298,842 1,105 Malé$2.569 billion $7,675 RufiyaaRepublicDhivehi Myanmar(see above) 676,578 55,400,000 75 Yangon$93.77 billion $1,691 Myanmar kyatMilitary JuntaBurmese; Jingpho, Shan, Karen, Mon, (Spoken in Myanmar's Autonomous States.)  Nepal147,181 28,901,790 184 Kathmandu$41.18 billion $1,500 Nepalese rupeeInterim governmentNepali Pakistan880,940 162,423,000 206 Islamabad$503.3 billion $3210.12 Pakistani rupeeIslamic RepublicUrdu, English, Balochi, Pashto, Punjabi, Siraiki, Sindhi[32] Sri Lanka65,610 19,668,000 310 Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte$86.72 billion $4,600 Sri Lankan rupeeDemocratic SocialistRepublicSinhala, TamilTibet Autonomous Region, PRC(see above) 1,228,400 2,740,000 2.2 LhasaCNY 29.01 billion CNY 10,322 Chinese yuanAutonomous region of ChinaTibetan, Chinese

See also

SAARC Portal

Other subregions in Asia


  1. ^ a b c d Afghanistan. The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency (December 13, 2007).
  2. ^ a b CIA - The World Factbook
  3. ^ a b South Asia: Data, Projects, and Research [1]
  5. ^ a b Center for South Asia Studies: University of California, Berkeley [3]
  6. ^ a b Center for South Asia Outreach UW-Madison [4]
  7. ^ Department of South Asia Studies: University of Pennsylvania [5]
  8. ^ Afghanistan-Tajikistan Bridge Links Central, South Asia [6] Refers to Afghanistan as South Asian and Tajikistan as Central Asian
  9. ^ University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies: The South Asia Center
  10. ^ Syracruse University: The South Asia Center
  11. ^ a b Center for South Asian Studies
  12. ^ a b this sources admits in certain contexts that Tibet and Afghanistan are South Asian
  13. ^ a b Tibetan and Afghan flag shown
  14. ^ a b Organization - Center for South Asian Studies - Oscar
  15. ^ a b University of Hawaii at Manoa | South Asia Collection
  16. ^ a b Rutgers, SAS South Asian Studies: - Home
  17. ^ The 2007 Middle East & Central Asia Politics, Economics,and Society Conference University of Utah "Regional Economic Outlook: Middle East & Central Asia" May 2006, International Monetary Fund Middle East Network Information Center (MENIC), University of Texas at Austin Afghanistan Profile, National Geographic (accessed 20 January 2006) Afghanistan, Middle East Institute (accessed 20 January 2006)
  18. ^ South Asian Studies at Emory
  19. ^ Tibet - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  20. ^ Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings, United Nations website
  21. ^ Race Differences in Intelligence by Richard Lynn pg 79, 2006
  22. ^ Bangladesh : AT A GLANCE
  23. ^ The Association of Religion Data Archives | National Profiles
  24. ^ [7]
  25. ^ CIA - The World Factbook
  26. ^ Maldives - maldives religion
  27. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Burma
  28. ^ NEPAL
  29. ^
  30. ^ [8]
  31. ^ ICL - Iran - Constitution
  32. ^ Population by Mother Tongue. Population Census Organization, Government of Pakistan. Retrieved on 2008-05-31.

External links

v • d • eGeographyof South Asia mountains and plateaus Himalayas · Western Ghats · Eastern Ghats · Aravalli Range · The Nilgiris · Vindhya Range · Satpura Range · Garo Hills · Shivalik Hills · Khasi Hills · Annamalai Hills · Cardamom Hills · Sulaiman Mountains · Toba Kakar Range · Karakoram · Hindu Kush · Chittagong Hill Tracts · Deccan Plateau · Thar Desert · Makran · Chota Nagpur · Naga Hills · Mysore Plateau · Ladakh Plateaulowlands and islands Indo-Gangetic plain · Indus River Delta · Ganga basin · Ganges Delta · Atolls of Maldives · Coromandel Coast · Konkan · Lakshadweep · Andaman and Nicobar Islands · Sundarbans · Rann of Kutch · Protected areas of Tamil NaduMain India · Pakistan · Nepal · Bhutan · Tibet · Sri Lanka · Bangladesh · The Maldives · Portal:Himalaya region v • d • eCountriesand territories of South Asia

Bangladesh  · Bhutan  · British Indian Ocean Territory  · India  · Maldives  · Nepal  · Pakistan  · Sri Lanka

Sometimes included:  Afghanistan • Iran • Myanmar • Tibet

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