This article deals with the region in Asia. For geophysical treatments, see Indian subcontinent.
|Countries||7 to 10 (see page)|
|Territories||1 or 2 (see page)|
|GDP per capita|
|Languages||Assamese/Asomiya, Bengali, Bodo, Burmese, Dari , 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) to UTC +3:30 (Iran)|
|Largest Cities||Colombo, Dhaka, Diego Garcia, Kabul, Karachi, Kathmandu, Lhasa, Malé, Mumbai, Tehran, Thimpu, and Yangon|
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the 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.
South Asia typically consists of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, and British Indian Ocean Territory. Some definitions may also include Afghanistan, Myanmar, Tibet, and Iran.
South Asia is home to well over a fifth of world population, and using the UN subregion definition, is the most populous and densest in the world. The region has often seen conflicts and political instability, including wars between the region's two nuclear-armed states, Pakistan and India. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation an economic cooperation organization in the region.
These countries, except the British Indian Ocean Territory , are also currently members of a regional cooperation group, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which they jointly formed.
The boundaries of South Asia vary based on how South Asia is defined. South Asia's north, east, and west boundaries vary based on definitions used. South Asia's southern border is the Indian Ocean. The UN subregion of Southern Asia's northern boundary would be the Himalayas, its western boundary would be made up of the Iraq-Iran border, Turkey-Iran border, Armenia-Iran border, and the Azerbaijan-Iran border. Its eastern boundary would be the India-Myanmar border and the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
The Indian subcontinent is a large section of the region consisting of the land lying substantially on the Indian tectonic plate. The subcontinent includes parts of various countries in South Asia, including those on the continental crust (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan), an island country on the continental shelf (Sri Lanka), and an island country rising above the oceanic crust (the Maldives).
The climate of this vast region varies considerably from area to area and is influenced by not only the altitude, but also by factors such as proximity to the sea coast and the seasonal impact of the monsoons. Southern parts are mostly hot in summers and receive rain during monsoon period(s). The northern belt of Indo-Gangetic plains also is hot in summer, but cooler in winter. The mountainous north is colder and receives snowfall at higher altitudes of Himalyan ranges. As the Himalayas block the north-Asian bitter cold winds, the temperatures are considerably moderate in the plains down below.
The climate of the region is called the Monsoon climate. It is quite opposite of the Mediterranean climate. For the monsoon climate, the weather in this region remains humid during summer and dry during winter. Instead of four seasons, it basically has two main seasons, the wet and dry. The monsoon climate favors the cultivation of jute, tea, rice, and various vegetables in this region. South Asia's climate varies from tropical monsoon in the south to temperate in the north.
Sri Lanka has the highest GDP per capita in the region, while Nepal, Afghanistan, and Burma have the lowest. India is the largest economy in the region; it is the world's 12th largest or 4th largest by purchasing power adjusted exchange rates. Pakistan has next largest economy, followed by Bangladesh. If Iran is counted, it is the richest economy and the second largest in region. According to a World Bank report in 2007, South Asia is the least integrated region in the world; trade between South Asian states is only 2% of the region's combined GDP, compared to 20% in East Asia.
According to the Global Hunger Index, South Asia has the highest child malnutrition rate of world's regions. India contributes to about 5.6 million child deaths every year, more than half the world's total. The 2006 report mentioned that "the low status of women in South Asian countries and their lack of nutritional knowledge are important determinants of high prevalence of underweight children in the region" and was concerned that South Asia has "inadequate feeding and caring practices for young children".
According to the World Bank, 70% of the South Asian population and about 75% of South Asia's poor live in rural areas and most rely on agriculture for their livelihood.
The media plays an important role in every country in the region. All countries in SAARC have television, radio and the print media. Sri Lanka created broadcasting history by being the first country in South Asia to inaugurate broadcasting services in 1925, just three years after the launching of broadcasting in Europe. Radio Ceylon is the oldest radio station in South Asia. The station ruled the airwaves in the 1950s and 1960s and had a listener base running into millions.
See also: History of South Asia. The remote pre-history of South Asia culminates in the Indus Valley Civilization, which is followed by the legends of ancient Vedic period and the sketchy references to the rise and fall of Mahajanapadas - the precursors of regional kingdoms and later ancient empires - ending in the historical accounts of medieval empires and the arrival of European traders who later became the rulers.
Almost all South Asian countries were under direct or indirect European Colonial subjugation at some point. Much of modern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar were gradually occupied by Great Britain - starting from 1757, reaching their zenith in 1857 and ruling till 1947. Nepal and Bhutan were to some extent a protectorate of Great Britain until after World War II. The network of means of transportation and communication as well as banking and training of requisite workforce, and also the existing rail, post, telegraph, 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. Tibet at times has governed itself as an independent state and at other times has had various levels of association with China  , it became under Chinese control in the 18th century    in spite of British efforts to seize possession of this Chinese protectorate at the beginning of the 20th century.  Tibetan and Chinese views on the Sino-Tibetan relation vary significantly. The Tibetans saw the Dalai Lama's relation with the Manchu emperor in more of a religious light than what would be considered political.
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.
See main article: Ethnic groups of South Asia. 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 were the Turks and Pathans, who brought in much cultural influence and the Abrahamic religion of Islam to the western and northern parts of South Asia - the Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun, Baloch and Kashmiri people in areas principally located in the northern highlands and the Balochistan plateau in Pakistan and the Indo-Gangetic plains in Pakistan and India - and contributed to the birth of Urdu, a syncretic language of combined Indic-Persian-Turkic-Arabic heritage, which is widely spoken today.
See also: Languages of South Asia. The largest spoken language in this region is now Hindi, its speakers numbering almost 422 million ; the second largest spoken language is Bengali, with 240 million speakers. Urdu is also a major language spoken in the subcontinent, especially in Pakistan and India, and is similar linguistically to Hindi; Hindi and Urdu together make up Hindustānī. 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.
Most of South Asia writes using various abugidas of Brāhmī origin while 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||Sunni Muslim (80%), Shi'a Muslim (19%), other (1%)|
|Bangladesh||Muslim (89.8%), Hindu (9.2%), Buddhist (1.6%), Christian (1.3%),Believers in tribal faiths (0.1%)|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||Christian (45.55%), Hindu (38.55%), Muslim (9.25%), Non-Religious (6.50%), Atheist (0.10%), Other (0.05%)|
|Bhutan||Buddhist (75%), Hindu (25%)|
|India ||Hindu (80.5%), Muslim (13.4%), Christian (2.3%), Sikh (1.9%), Buddhist (0.8%), Jain (0.4%), Others (0.6%)|
|Iran||Shi'a Muslim (89%), Sunni Muslim (9%), Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i (2%)|
|Maldives||Sunni Muslim (100%) (One must be a Sunni Muslim to be a citizen on the Maldives  )|
|Myanmar||Theravada Buddhism (89%), Muslim (4%), Christian (4%) (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Animist (1%), others (including Hinduism) (2%)|
|Nepal||Hindu (80.6%), Buddhist (10.7%), Muslim (4.2%), Kirat (3.6%)|
|Pakistan||Muslim (96.28%), Hindu (1.85%), Christian (1.59%), Ahmadi (0.22%)|
|Sri Lanka||Theravada Buddhist (70.42%), Hindu (10.89%), Muslim (8.78%), Catholic (7.77%), Other Christian (1.96%), Other (0.13%)|
|Tibet||Tibetan Buddhism, Bön, Others|
|Name of country/region, with flag||Area|
|Capital or Secretariat||Currency||Government/Common Market||Official languages||Coat of Arms|
|Bhutan||47,000||691,141||14.7||Thimphu||Ngultrum, Indian rupee||Constitutional monarchy||Dzongkha|
|India||3,287,590||1,166,079,217||354.7||New Delhi||Indian rupee||Federal republic, Parliamentary democracy||Hindi, English and 20 other official languages|
|Nepal||147,181||28,563,377||194||Kathmandu||Nepalese rupee||Interim government||Nepali|
|Pakistan||880,940||176,242,949||200.0||Islamabad||Pakistani rupee||Islamic Republic||Urdu, English, Balochi, Pashto, Punjabi, Siraiki, Sindhi|
|Sri Lanka||65,610||21,324,791||325||Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte||Sri Lankan rupee||Democratic Socialist Republic||Sinhala, Tamil|
|General definition of "South Asia"||3,989,969||1,549,348,689||388.31||Kathmandu||No common currency for SAFTA||SAARC, includes Afghanistan||English or Hindi/Urdu as lingua franca|
|Afghanistan (see above)||647,500||33,609,937||51.9||Kabul||Afghan afghani||Islamic republic||Dari (Persian), Pashto|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||60||3,500||58.3||Diego Garcia||Pound sterling||British Overseas Territory||English|
|(see above)||1,648,195||70,495,782 (2006 Census)||40.3||Tehran||Iranian rial||Islamic republic||Persian, Constitutional status for regional languages |
|UN subregion of "South Asia"||6,285,724||1,653,457,908||263.04|
|Myanmar (see above)||676,578||48,137,141*||71.1||Yangon||Myanmar kyat||Military Junta||Burmese|
|Tibet Autonomous Region, PRC (see above)||1,228,400||2,740,000||2.2||Lhasa||Chinese yuan||Autonomous region of China||Tibetan, Mandarin Chinese|
India is the dominant political power in the region. It is contributed by the fact that it is by far the largest country in the covering around three-fourths the land area of the subcontinent. It also has the largest population of around three times the combined population of the 6 other countries in the subcontinent. India is also the most populous democracy in the world and is a nuclear power.