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.
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.
The United Nations also includes Iran, but not Tibet or Burma, as part of Southern Asia:
South Asia is defined in various different ways in literature. 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 George W. Bush administration'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".
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 colonies of Great Britain from 1757 to 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, 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. 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.
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 - areas principally located in Pakistan - and the adjoining swathe of Gangetic plain in North India. However, their Turkish/Persian languages have ceased to be prominent - even in Pakistan where they were common until 1843; but these ethnic groups have contributed to the birth of Urdu, a syncretic language of combined Hindi-Persian-Turkic-Arabic heritage, which is widely spoken today.
Most of South Asia writes using various abugidas of Brāhmīc 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.
|Sunni Muslim (80%), Shi'a Muslim (19%), other (1%)|
|Muslim (89.8%), Hindu (9.2%), Buddhist (1.6%), Christian (1.3%),Believers in tribal faiths (0.1%)|
|Christian (45.55%), Hindu (38.55%), Muslim (9.25%), Non-Religious (6.50%), Atheist (0.10%), Other (0.05%)|
|Buddhist (75%), Hindu (25%)|
|Hindu (80.5%), Muslim (13.4%), Christian (2.3%), Sikh (1.9%), Buddhist (0.8%), Jain (0.4%), Others (0.6%)|
|Shi'a Muslim (89%), Sunni Muslim (9%), Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i (2%)|
|Sunni Muslim (100%) (One must be a Sunni Muslim to be a citizen on the Maldives)|
|Theravada Buddhism (89%), Muslim (4%), Christian (4%) (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Animist (1%), others (including Hinduism) (2%)|
|Hindu (80.6%), Buddhist (10.7%), Muslim (4.2%), Kirat (3.6%)|
|Muslim (96.28%), Hindu (1.85%), Christian (1.59%), Ahmadi (0.22%)|
|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|
|Population|| Population density|
|Capital||Currency||Government||Official languages||Coat of Arms|
|(see above)||647,500||31,889,923||46||Kabul||Afghan afghani||Islamic republic||Dari (Persian), Pashto|
|47,000||672,425||45||Thimphu||Ngultrum, Indian rupee||Constitutional monarchy||Dzongkha|
|60||3,500||58.3||Diego Garcia||Pound sterling||British Overseas Territory||English|
|3,287,590||1,128,808,000||329||New Delhi||Indian rupee||Federal republic, Parliamentary democracy||Hindi, English and 20 other official languages|
|(see above)||1,648,195||71,208,000||42||Tehran||Iranian rial||Islamic republic||Persian, Constitutional status for regional languages|
|(see above)||676,578||55,400,000||75||Yangon||Myanmar kyat||Military Junta||Burmese; Jingpho, Shan, Karen, Mon, (Spoken in Myanmar's Autonomous States.)|
|147,181||28,901,790||184||Kathmandu||Nepalese rupee||Interim government||Nepali|
|880,940||162,423,000||206||Islamabad||Pakistani rupee||Islamic Republic||Urdu, English, Balochi, Pashto, Punjabi, Siraiki, Sindhi|
|65,610||19,668,000||310||Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte||Sri Lankan rupee||Democratic Socialist Republic||Sinhala, Tamil|
|Tibet Autonomous Region, PRC (see above)||1,228,400||2,740,000||2.2||Lhasa||Chinese yuan||Autonomous region of China||Tibetan|