South Asia

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South Asia ?

South Asia Definition

(Wikipedia) - South Asia South Asia Countries and Territories GDP (Nominal) GDP per capita (Nominal) Languages Time zones Capital cities Other major cities
$1.855 trillion (2009)
$1,079 (2009)
Assamese, Bengali, Dari, Dhivehi, Dzongkha, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Manipuri, Nepali, Oriya, Pashto, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Sinhala, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and many others
UTC+05:00, UTC+5:30, UTC+5:45, UTC+06:00
  • Ahmedabad
  • Amritsar
  • Bangalore
  • Barisal
  • Bhaktapur
  • Biratnagar
  • Birgunj
  • Calcutta
  • Chittagong
  • Chennai
  • Cochin
  • Colombo
  • Comilla
  • Dharan
  • Faisalabad
  • Hyderabad
  • Hyderabad
  • Itahari
  • Jaipur
  • Kanpur
  • Karachi
  • Khulna
  • Kolkata
  • Kozhikode
  • Lahore
  • Lalitpur
  • Lucknow
  • Multan
  • Mumbai
  • Narayanganj
  • Patna
  • Peshawar
  • Phuntsholing
  • Pokhara
  • Pune
  • Quetta
  • Rangpur
  • Rajshahi
  • Rawalpindi
  • Sialkot
  • Sukkur
  • Surat
  • Sylhet
  • Thiruvanathapuram
  • Visakhapatnam

South Asia or Southern Asia is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities, adjoining countries to the west and east. Topographically, it is dominated by the Indian Plate, which rises above sea level as northern parts of India south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush. South Asia is bounded on the south by the Indian Ocean and on land (clockwise, from west) by West Asia, Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.

The current territories of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan form the core countries of South Asia, while Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and Maldives are generally included. By various deviating definitions based on often substantially different reasons, the British Indian Ocean Territory, Maldives, Iran and the Tibet Autonomous Region are included as well. With the 7 core countries considered, South Asia is home to well over one fifth of the world''s population, making it both the most populous and the most densely populated geographical region in the world. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is an economic cooperation organisation in the region which was established in 1985.

  • 1 Definitions
    • 1.1 Indian Subcontinent
    • 1.2 Boundary
  • 2 Geography
    • 2.1 Indian plate
    • 2.2 Climate
  • 3 History
    • 3.1 Ancient era
    • 3.2 Classical era
    • 3.3 Medieval era
    • 3.4 Modern era
  • 4 Territory and region data
    • 4.1 Core countries
    • 4.2 Countries and territories from extended definitions
    • 4.3 Regional groups of countries
  • 5 Demographics
    • 5.1 Ethnic groups
    • 5.2 Languages
    • 5.3 Religions
  • 6 Economy
  • 7 Governance
  • 8 Health and nutrition
  • 9 See also
  • 10 References
  • 11 External links

DefinitionsVarious definitions of South Asia, including the most deviating definition by the UN, which was solely created for "statistical convenience and does not imply any assumption regarding political or other affiliation of countries or territories."

The area of South Asia and its geographical extent is not clear cut as systemic and foreign policy orientations of its constituents are quite asymmetrical. Although there''s a distinct core of countries, all formerly part of the British Empire, in defining the South Asia, there is much variation as to which (if any) other countries are included.

The current territories of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan (the core of the British Empire prior to 1947) form the core countries of South Asia, while the mountain countries of Nepal and Bhutan, and island countries of Sri Lanka and Maldives are generally included. Afghanistan and Myanmar are often added, and by various definitions, the British Indian Ocean Territory, Mauritius, Iran, and the Tibet Autonomous Region are included as well.

The common concept of South Asia is largely inherited from the administrative boundaries of the British Raj, with two major differences. The Aden Colony, British Somaliland and Singapore, though administered at various times under the Raj, have not been proposed as any part of South Asia. The 562 princely states that were protected by but not directly ruled by the Raj became administrative parts of South Asia upon joining Union of India or Dominion of Pakistan. Geopolitically, it had formed the whole territory of Greater India,

United Nations geoscheme for Asia based on statistic convenience rather than implying any assumption regarding political or other affiliation of countries or territories:   North Asia   Central Asia   Western Asia   South Asia   East Asia   Southeast Asia

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a contiguous block of countries, started in 1985 with seven countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — but was extended to include Afghanistan as an eighth member in 2006. China, Iran and Myanmar have also applied for the status of full members of SAARC. This bloc of countries include three independent countries that were not part of the British Raj - Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan. The South Asia Free Trade Agreement and World Bank grouping of countries in the region includes only the original seven members of SAARC, and leaves Afghanistan out.

Definition by South Asian Studies programs

When the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge was established, in 1964, it promoted the study of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Himalayan Kingdoms (Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim), and Burma (now Myanmar). It has since included Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines and Hong Kong.

The Centres for South Asian Studies at both the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia include Tibet along with seven members of SAARC in their research programs, but exclude the Maldives. The South Asian Studies Program of Rutgers University and the University of California, Berkeley Centre for South Asia Studies also include the Maldives.

The South Asian Studies Program of Brandeis University defines the region as comprising "India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and in certain contexts Afghanistan, Burma, Maldives and Tibet". The similar program of Columbia University includes Tibet, but excludes Afghanistan and the Maldives.

See also: Indology

The United Nations scheme of sub-regions include all eight members of the SAARC as part of Southern Asia, along with Iran only for statistical purposes. Ajey Lele of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses The United Nations finds it to be a "top option" for country grouping. Population Information Network (POPIN) includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as part of South Asia. Maldives, in view of its characteristics, was admitted as a member Pacific POPIN subregional network only in principle. The Hirschman–Herfindahl index of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for the region includes only the original seven signatories of SAARC.

The British Indian Ocean Territory is connected to the region by a publication of Jane''s for security considerations. The region may also include the disputed territory of Aksai Chin, which was part of the British Indian princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, but is now administered as part of the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang.

Regional affinity of the bordering countries like Myanmar and Afghanistan is always confusing. Myanmar with its low-profile foreign policy has not drawn much scholarly attention, but Afghanistan is in a more complex situation. During the Iranian Revolution (1979) it was included into Southwest Asia, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979 to February 1989) it was included into Central Asia, and since the War on Terror (2001 onward) its included into South Asia. One school of thought divides the Asian continent latitudinally and treats South and Southeast Asia as one region. The South Asia Institute (SAI) of Heidelberg University and scholars like Howard Wringgings and James Guyot subscribe to this tendency.

A lack of coherent definition for South Asia has resulted in not only a lack of academic studies, but also in a lack interest for such studies. The confusion exists also because of a lack of clear boundary - geographically, geopolitical, socio-culturally, economically or historically - between South Asia and other parts of Asia, especially the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Identification with a South Asian identity was also found to be significantly low among respondents in a two-year survey across Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

See also: South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and South Asian Free Trade Area Indian Subcontinent Main article: Indian subcontinent

The region was labelled variously as India (in its pre-modern sense), Greater India, Indian Subcontinent and South Asia. "Indian Subcontinent" is a term adopted and used by the British Empire. The terms "Indian subcontinent" and "South Asia" are used interchangeably. According to historians Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Indian Subcontinent has come to be known as South Asia "in more recent and neutral parlance." Indologist Ronald B. Inden argues that the usage of the term "South Asia" is getting more widespread since it clearly distinguishes the region from East Asia. Some academics hold that the term "South Asia" is in more common use in Europe and North America, rather than the terms "Subcontinent" or the "Indian Subcontinent".

According to anthropologist John R. Lukacs, "The Indian Subcontinent occupies the major landmass of South Asia." while according to political science professor Tatu Vanhanen, "The seven countries of South Asia constitute geographically a compact region around the Indian Subcontinent". According to Chris Brewster, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan constitute the Indian subcontinent; with Afghanistan, Iran and Maldives included it is more commonly referred to as South Asia, while according to a number of Indian scholars South Asia includes the Indian Subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal), as well as the island countries of Sri Lanka, Maldives and Mauritius. When the term Indian subcontinent is used to mean South Asia, the island countries of Sri Lanka and the Maldives may sometimes not be included, while Tibet and Nepal may either be included or excluded intermittently, depending on the context.

BoundaryNatural vegetation zones of the UN''s subregional definition of South Asia, loosely based on a Grolier map

The boundaries of South Asia vary based on how the region is defined. South Asia''s northern, eastern, and western boundaries vary based on definitions used, while the Indian Ocean is the southern periphery. Most of this region rests on the Indian Plate and is isolated from the rest of Asia by mountain barriers.

Much of the region consists of a peninsula in south-central Asia, rather resembling a diamond which is delineated by the Himalayas on the north, the Hindu Kush in the west, and the Arakanese in the east, and which extends southward into the Indian Ocean with the Arabian Sea to the southwest and the Bay of Bengal to the southeast.

One school of thought proposes the frontier between South and Southwest Asia (i.e. the Middle East lie in eastern Iran and western Afghanistan, while the frontier between South and Central Asia in northeastern Iran, northern Afghanistan, and southern Kyrgyzstan. Per the UN''s definition the wider subregion''s northern frontier is the Himalayas and southerly post-Soviet states of Central Asia (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan; its western boundary is the westerly border of Iran (with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, and Iraq); and its eastern boundary is the easterly border of Myanmar (with Thailand and Laos).

GeographyWhile South Asia had never been a coherent geopolitical region, it has a distinct geographical identity

While South Asia had never been a coherent geopolitical region, it has a distinct geographical identity. The region is home to a variety of geographical features, such as glaciers, rainforests, valleys, deserts, and grasslands that are typical of much larger continents. It is surrounded by three water bodies — the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea — and has acutely varied climate zones. The tip of the Indian Peninsula had the highest quality pearls.

Indian plate Main article: Indian plateThe Indian subcontinent, and the Himalayas on the northeast, is the result of the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate through tectonic activity between 20 and 50 million years ago.

Most of this region is a subcontinent resting on the Indian Plate (the northerly portion of the Indo-Australian Plate) separated from the rest of the Eurasian Plate. The Indian Plate includes most of South Asia, forming a land mass which extends from the Himalayas into a portion of the basin under the Indian Ocean, including parts of South China and Eastern Indonesia, as well as Kunlun and Karakoram ranges, and extending up to but not including Ladakh, Kohistan, the Hindu Kush range and Balochistan. It may be noted that geophysically the Yarlung Tsangpo River river in Tibet is situated at the outside of the border of the Subcontinental structure, while the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan are situated inside that border.

It was once a small continent before colliding with the Eurasian Plate about 50-55 million years ago and giving birth to the Himalayan range and the Tibetan plateau. It is the peninsular region south of the Himalayas and Kuen Lun mountain ranges and east of the Indus River and the Iranian Plateau, extending southward into the Indian Ocean between the Arabian Sea (to the southwest) and the Bay of Bengal (to the southeast).

ClimateKöppen climate classification map of South Asia.

The climate of this vast region varies considerably from area to area from tropical monsoon in the south to temperate in the north. The variety 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. For most part, the climate of the region is called the Monsoon climate, which keeps the region humid during summer and dry during winter, and favours the cultivation of jute, tea, rice, and various vegetables in this region.

South Asia is largely divided into four broad climate zones:

  • The northern Indian edge and northern Pakistani uplands have a dry subtropical continental climate
  • The far south of India and southwest Sri Lanka have a equatorial climate
  • Most of the peninsula have a tropical climate with variations:
    • Hot subtropical climate in northwest India
    • Cool winter hot tropical climate in Bangladesh
    • Tropical semi-arid climate in the center
  • The Himalayas have an Alpine climate

Maximum relative humidity of over 80% has been recorded in Khasi and Jaintia Hills and Sri Lanka, while the area adjustment to Pakistan and western India records lower than 20%-30%. Climate of South Asia is largely characterized by monsoons. South Asia depends critically on monsoon rainfall. Two monsoon systems exist in the region:

  • The summer monsoon: Wind blows from southwest to most of parts of the region. It accounts for 70%-90% of the annual precipitation.
  • The winter monsoon: Wind blows from northeast. Dominant in Sri Lanka and Maldives.

The warmest period of the year precedes the monsoon season (March to mid June). In the summer the low pressures are centered over the Indus-Gangetic Plain and high wind from the Indian Ocean blows towards the center. The monsoons are second coolest season of the year because of high humidity and cloud covering. But, at the beginning of June the jetstreams vanish above the Tibetan Plateau, low pressure over the Indus Valley deepens and the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) moves in. The change is violent. Moderately vigorous monsoon depressions form in the Bay of Bengal and make landfall from June to September.

Further information: Geography of India, Geography of Pakistan, Geography of Bangladesh, Geography of Bhutan, Geography of Sri Lanka, Geography of Nepal and Geography of the Maldives History
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Main article: History of South Asia Ancient era

The history of core South Asia begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens, as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of South Asia from c. 3300 to 1300 BCE in present-day Pakistan and northwest India, was the first major civilization in South Asia. A sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture developed in the Mature Harappan period, from 2600 to 1900 BCE.

Classical era

This Bronze Age civilisation collapsed before the end of the second millennium BCE and was followed by the Iron Age Vedic Civilisation, which extended over much of the Indo-Gangetic plain and which witnessed the rise of major polities known as the Mahajanapadas. In one of these kingdoms, Magadha, Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were born in the 6th or 5th century BCE and propagated their Shramanic philosophies.

Most of South Asia was conquered by the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. Various parts of India ruled by numerous Middle kingdoms for the next 1,500 years, among which the Gupta Empire stands out. Southern India saw the rule of the Chalukyas, Cholas, Pallavas, and Pandyas. This period, witnessing a Hindu religious and intellectual resurgence, is known as the classical or "Golden Age of India". During this period, aspects of Indian civilisation, administration, culture, and religion (Hinduism and Buddhism) spread to much of Asia, while kingdoms in southern India had maritime business links with the Roman Empire from around 77 CE.

Medieval era

Muslim rule in core South Asia began in 8th century CE when the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan in southern Punjab in modern day Pakistan, setting the stage for several successive invasions from Central Asia between the 10th and 15th centuries CE, leading to the formation of Muslim empires in South Asia such as the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. Mughal rule came from Central Asia to cover most of the northern parts of South Asia. Mughal rulers introduced Central Asian art and architecture to India. In addition to the Mughals and various Rajput kingdoms, several independent Hindu states, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, the Maratha Empire, Eastern Ganga Empire and the Ahom Kingdom, flourished contemporaneously in southern, western, eastern and northeastern India respectively.

Modern era

The Mughal Empire suffered a gradual decline in the early 18th century, leaving a power vacuum that was exploited by local rulers such as the Sikhs and Marathas and later used by the British East India Company to gain ascendancy over most of South Asia.

Beginning in the mid-18th century and over the next century, large areas of India were annexed by the British East India Company. Dissatisfaction with Company rule led to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, after which the British provinces of India were directly administered by the British Crown and witnessed a period of both rapid development of infrastructure and economic decline. During the first half of the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and later joined by the Muslim League. India gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, after the British provinces were partitioned into the dominions of India and Pakistan and the princely states all acceded to one of the new states.

See also: History of India Territory and region data

2009 referenced population figures except where noted.

Core countries

With the core seven countries, the area covers about 4.48 million km² (1.7 million mi²), which is 10% of the Asian continent or 2.4% of the world''s land surface area. They account for about 34% of Asia''s population (or over 16.5% of the world''s population) and are home to a vast array of peoples.

Country Area (km²) Population (2009–2012) Density (per km²) Nominal GDP (2009 / 2012) Nominal GDP per capita (2011) Capital Currency Government Official languages Coat of arms
 Bangladesh 147,570 152,518,015 899 $153.58 billion $899 Dhaka Taka Unitary parliamentary democracy Bengali
 Bhutan 38,394 697,000 18 $1.488 billion $2,121 Thimphu Ngultrum Indian rupee Constitutional monarchy Dzongkha
 India 3,287,240 1,210,193,422 382 $1.247 trillion $1,592 New Delhi Indian rupee Parliamentary democracy federal republic Hindi


 Maldives 298 396,334 1,330 $1.944 billion $5,973 Malé Rufiyaa Republic Dhivehi
   Nepal 147,181 26,620,080 200 $19.921 billion $743 Kathmandu Nepalese rupee Democratic republic Nepali
 Pakistan 796,095 180,440,000 225 $230.525 billion $1,410 Islamabad Pakistani rupee Parliamentary democracy Federal republic Urdu


 Sri Lanka 65,610 20,277,597 319 $64.914 billion $3,139 Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte Sri Lankan rupee Democratic socialist republic
  • Sinhala
  • Tamil
Countries and territories from extended definitions country or region Area (km²) Population (2009) density (per km²) GDP(nominal) (2009) GDP per capita (2011) Capital Currency Government Official languages Coat of Arms
 Afghanistan 652,230 29,150,000 52 $34.55 billion $621 Kabul Afghani Islamic republic
  • Pashto
  • Dari
 British Indian Ocean Territory 60 3,500 59 N/A N/A Diego Garcia US Dollar British Overseas Territory English
 Burma 676,578 48,137,141 71 $53.140 billion $854 Naypyidaw Myanma kyat Constitutional republic Burmese
 China - Tibet Autonomous Region 1,228,400 2,740,000 2 $9.6 billion $2,558 Lhasa Chinese yuan Autonomous region of China Tibetan, Mandarin Chinese
Regional groups of countries Name of country/region, with flag Area (km²) Population* Population density (per km²) Capital or Secretariat Currency Countries included Official languages Coat of Arms
Core Definition (above) of South Asia 4,482,388 1,596,000,000 400.1 N/A N/A Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka N/A N/A
UN subregion of South Asia 6,778,083 1,702,000,000 270.77 N/A N/A Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka N/A N/A
SAARC 4,637,469 1,626,000,000 350.6 Kathmandu N/A Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka English

Total population of South Asia is about 1.70 billion.

Ethnic groups
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Main article: South Asian ethnic groupsEthno-linguistic families 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, Tibeto-Burman, Austroasiatic and Iranian groups - and amalgamation of Dravidian, Indo-Aryan and native societies has produced composite cultures with many common traditions and beliefs. But, the traditions of different ethnic groups in South Asia have diverged throughout earlier times, sometimes giving rise to strong local traditions such as the distinct South Indian culture.

Other ethnic groups, successively streaming in later mainly from Central Asia e.g. Sakas, Kushans, Huns etc. influenced pre-existing South Asian cultures. Among the last of these new arrivals were the Arabs followed by the Turks, the Pashtuns and the Moghuls. However, Arab influence remained relatively limited in comparison to that of the Turks, Pashtuns and Moghuls, who brought in much cultural influence and contributed to the birth of Urdu, a syncretic language of combined Indo-Persian heritage, which is widely spoken today. 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.

Languages Main article: Languages of South Asia

The largest spoken language in this region is Hindi, its speakers numbering almost 422 million, the second largest spoken language is Bengali, with about 210 million speakers. Punjabi is the third most spoken language in South Asia with 130 million native speakers. Urdu is also a major language spoken in the subcontinent, especially in Pakistan, 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:Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and the Indo-Aryan languages, a sub-branch of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages.

The other great sub-branch of Indo-Iranian, the Iranian languages, also have significant minority representation in South Asia, with Pashto and Balochi being widely spoken along the northwestern fringes of the region, in modern-day Pakistan. Many Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups, who are speakers of their language-group, are found in northeast India, Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. Dzongkha a member of this linguistic group, is the national language of Bhutan. There are as many as 24 Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in Bhutan. Other small groups, speaking Austroasiatic 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.

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.

  • Temple at the birthplace of Gautama Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal

  • Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal

  • Akshardham temple in Delhi, India

  • Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Gaya district, India

  • Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, India

  • Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan

  • Se Cathedral in Old Goa, India

  • Palitana temples in Bhavnagar district, India

  • Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi, India

  • Lotus Temple in Delhi, India

South Asia has the largest population of Hindus in the world at 63.65% though Muslims make up to 30.08% of the population respectively. Indian religions are the religions that originated in South Asia; namely Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Although Indian religions are connected through the history of South Asia, they constitute a wide range of religious communities, and are not confined to the Indian subcontinent.

Arabs traders brought the Abrahamic religion of Islam to South Asia, first in the present day Kerala, Sri Lanka and the Maldive Islands. Later Sindh, Balochistan, and parts of the Punjab region saw conquest by the Arab caliphates along with an influx of Muslims from further west, which resulted in spread of Islam in parts of Western region of South Asia. Subsequently, Muslim Mughal conquerors and further emigration and immigration furthered it throughout the Indo-Gangetic plains, further east towards Bengal, and deep south up to the Deccan.

Afghanistan Islam (99%), Hinduism, Sikhism and Christianity (1%)
Bangladesh Islam (89.5%), Hinduism (9.5%), Buddhism (0.7%), Christianity (0.32%)
Bhutan Buddhism (75%), Hinduism (25%)
Burma Theravada Buddhism (89%), Islam (4%), Christianity (Baptist and Roman Catholic) (4%), Animism (1%), Others (including Hinduism) (2%)
India Hinduism (80.5%), Islam (13.5%), Christianity (2.3%), Sikhism (1.9%), Buddhism (0.8%), Jainism (0.4%), Others (0.6%)
Maldives Sunni Islam (100%) (One must be a Sunni Muslim to be a citizen on the Maldives)
Nepal Hinduism (81.3%), Buddhism (9.0%), Islam (4.4%), Kirat (3.1%), Christianity (1.4%), Others (0.8%)
Pakistan Islam (96.28%), Hinduism (1.85%), Christianity (1.59%), Ahmaddiyya (0.22%)
Sri Lanka Theravada Buddhism (70.19%), Hinduism (12.61%), Islam (9.71%), Christianity (7.45%).
Further information: Religion in Bangladesh, Religion in Bhutan, Religion in India, Religion in Nepal, Religion in Pakistan and Religion in Sri Lanka Economy Further information: Economy of Bangladesh, Economy of India, Economy of Nepal, Economy of Pakistan and Economy of Sri Lanka

South Asia is the poorest region in the world after Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the UN''s Multidimensional Poverty Index, just over a quarter of the world''s MPI poor people live in Africa, while a half live in South Asia. The study also found there are more poor people in eight Indian states than in the 26 poorest African countries. According to the index, 55 per cent of people in South Asia are MPI-poor and in sub-Saharan Africa, 64.5 per cent of people are MPI-poor. And according to the poverty data of World Bank, more than 40% of the population in the region lived on less than the International Poverty Line of $1.25 per day in 2005, compared to 50% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa.

But in 2014, Acco to World bank ICP 2011 report based on PPP, South Asia''s share of the world’s absolute poor was estimated at about 49 percent in 2005 but in 2011 it had declined to 29 percent due to record poverty decline in IndiaIn 2014,Economists at both the Washington-based Center for Global Development and the Brookings Institution found that In India the number of people living on less than International poverty line of $1.25 a day fell from 393m of the country’s 1.2bn people to just over 100mbased on World Bank''s 2011 ICP report,Even setting a poverty line equivalent to $1.78 in 2011 PPP dollars ($1.55 in 2005 PPP dollars), the Brookings researchers found that the number of people living in below poverty line had fallen to 148 million.

Sri Lanka has the highest GDP per capita in the region, while Afghanistan has the lowest. India is the largest economy in the region (US$ 1.97 trillion) and makes up almost 82% of the South Asian economy; it is the world''s 10th largest in nominal terms and 3rd largest by purchasing power adjusted exchange rates. Pakistan has the next largest economy and the 5th highest GDP per capita in the region, followed by Bangladesh and then by Sri Lanka which has the 2nd highest per capita and is the 4th largest economy in the 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. The Economist has blamed this on Indian neglect of its neighbors.


India and Pakistan are the dominant political powers in the region. India is by far the largest country in the area covering around three-fourths the land area of the subcontinent. India has the largest population of around three times the combined population of the 6 other countries in the subcontinent. India is also the World''s largest democracy India''s annual defence budget for 2013-14 is $39.2 Billion which is equal to the whole Pakistan''s Federal budget of $39.3 billion for 2014-15.

Bangladesh is a unitary state and parliamentary democracy. Bangladesh also stands out as one of the few Muslim-majority democracies. “It is a moderate and generally secular and tolerant — though sometimes this is getting stretched at the moment — alternative to violent extremism in a very troubled part of the world,” said Dan Mozena, the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh’s legal code is secular, more citizens are embracing a conservative version of Islam, with some pushing for sharia law, analysts say. Experts say that the rise in conservatism reflects the influence of foreign- financed Islamic charities and the more austere version of Islam brought home by migrant workers in Persian Gulf countries.

Diplomacy among the countries of South Asia has been mainly driven by populist politics, with the centre-stage taken by India-Pakistan conflict ever since their independence in 1947, and then the creation of Bangladesh under tense circumstances in 1971. During the height of Cold war, the elite political leaders of Pakistan aligned with the US, while India played crucial role in forming the Non-Aligned Movement and while maintaining goodwill relations with the USSR.

Pakistan''s governance is one of the most conflicted in the region. The military rule and the unstable government in Pakistan has become a concern for the South Asian region. In Nepal, the governance has struggled to come in the side of democracy and it only showed signs in the recent past, basically in the 21st century, to support the democratic system. The political situation in Sri Lanka has been dominated by an increasingly assertive Sinhalese nationalism, and the emergence of a Tamil separatist movement under LTTE, which was suppressed recently. Burma''s politics is dominated by a military Junta, which has sidelined the democratic forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Governance Index ranking for core countries Bangladesh Bhutan India Maldives Nepal Pakistan Sri Lanka
Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (2012) (global ranking of 202) 146 140 136 104 157 146 92
Corruption Perception Index (2014) (global ranking of 175) 136 31 94 N/A 116 127 91
The Worldwide Governance Indicators (2012) Government Effectiveness (percentile rank) 22.49 67.46 47.37 48.33 16.75 23.44 45.93
Rule of law (percentile rank) 19.43 59.24 52.61 38.39 26.54 18.96 52.13
Political stability and absence of violence/terrorism (percentile rank) 9 72.51 11.85 86.97 8.53 0.95 22.75
Voice and accountability (percentile rank) 34.12 38.86 58.29 32.23 27.96 23.70 29.86
Multidimensional Poverty Index (2013): (global ranking of 114) 88 67 85 42 80 82 45
Health and nutrition

There are 421 million MPI-poor people in eight Indian states alone - Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal - while there are 410 million in the 26 poorest African countries combined. Roughly 42% of Indian children under age 5 suffer from malnutrition.

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. According to the Global Hunger Index, South Asia has one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world. In a latest report published by UNICEF in 2008 on global hunger shows that the actual number of child deaths was around 2.1 million. As of 2008 India is ranked 66th on the global hunger index.

The 2006 report stated 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". Corruption and the lack of initiative on the part of the government has been one of the major problems associated with nutrition in India. Illiteracy in villages has been found to be one of the major issues that need more government attention. The report mentioned that, although there has been a reduction in malnutrition due to the Green Revolution in South Asia, there is concern that South Asia has "inadequate feeding and caring practices for young children".

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