The Indian subcontinent is a southerly region of Asia, mostly situated on the Indian Plate and projecting southward into the Indian Ocean. Definitions of the extent of the Indian subcontinent differ but it usually includes the core lands of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The geographical definition of the Indian subcontinent varies. Historically forming the whole territory of Greater India, now it generally comprises the countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; prior to 1947, the three nations were historically combined and constituted British India. It almost always also includes Nepal, Bhutan and the island country of Sri Lanka, and may also include Afghanistan and the island country of Maldives. 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. A booklet published by the United States Department of State in 1959 includes Afghanistan, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India, Nepal, and Pakistan (including East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) as part of the "Subcontinent of South Asia". 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 be included or excluded intermittently, depending on the context.
As there is a lack or no coherent definition for Indian subcontinent or South Asia (see the article South Asia for multiple definitions), the terms "Indian subcontinent" and "South Asia" are used interchangeably by some due to political reasons. In Religions of South Asia, Sushil Mittal and Gene R. Thursby state that the Indian subcontinent and South Asia refer to the same area. Due to political sensitivities, some prefer to use the terms "South Asian subcontinent", the "Indo-Pak-Bangladesh subcontinent", the "Indo-Pak subcontinent", "the subcontinent", or simply "South Asia" over the term "Indian subcontinent". Historians Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal hold the view that the Indian subcontinent has come to be known as South Asia "in more recent and neutral parlance." though their view is not acceptable to many. 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 political science professor Tatu Vanhanen, "The seven countries of South Asia constitute geographically a compact region around the Indian Subcontinent"; while according to anthropologist John R. Lukacs, "The Indian Subcontinent occupies the major landmass of South Asia." 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 using both terms to mean the same region in Religion and Conflict in Modern South Asia Dr. William Gould of University of Leeds explains that "South Asia" is a geopolitical as well as a geographical term.
Using a more expansive definition – counting India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives as the constituent countries – the Indian subcontinent covers about 4.4 million km² (1.7 million mi²), which is 10% of the Asian continent or 3.3% of the world's land surface area. Overall, it accounts for about 45% of Asia's population (or over 25% of the world's population) and is home to a vast array of peoples.
^"Indian subcontinent" > Geology and Geography. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Columbia University Press, 2003: "region, S central Asia, comprising the countries of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and the Himalayan states of Nepal and Bhutan. Sri Lanka, an island off the southeastern tip of the Indian peninsula, is often considered a part of the subcontinent."
^Stephen Adolphe Wurm, Peter Mühlhäusler & Darrell T. Tryon, Atlas of languages of intercultural communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas, pages 787, International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies, Published by Walter de Gruyter, 1996, ISBN 3-11-013417-9
^Haggett, Peter (2001). Encyclopedia of World Geography (Vol. 1). Marshall Cavendish. p. 2710. ISBN0-7614-7289-4.
^Dale Hoiberg and Indu Ramchandani, Students' Britannica India (vol. 1), page 45, Popular Prakashan, 2000, ISBN 978-0-85229-760-5
^Superintendent of Documents, United States Government Printing Office, The Subcontinent of South Asia: Afghanistan, Ceylon, India, Nepal and Pakistan, United States Department of State, Public Services Division, 1959
^Harle, James C. (1994). The art and architecture of the Indian subcontinent. Yale University Press. p. 214. ISBN0-300-06217-6.
^Hackin, Joseph; Couchoud, Paul Louis (1996). The Mythologies of the East: Indian Subcontinent, Middle East, Nepal and Tibet, Indo-China and Java. Aryan Books International. p. 1. ISBN81-7305-018-X.
^Milton Walter Meyer, South Asia: A Short History of the Subcontinent, pages 1, Adams Littlefield, 1976, ISBN 0-8226-0034-X
^Jim Norwine & Alfonso González, The Third World: states of mind and being, pages 209, Taylor & Francis, 1988, ISBN 0-04-910121-8
^Judith Schott & Alix Henley, Culture, Religion, and Childbearing in a Multiracial Society, pages 274, Elsevier Health Sciences, 1996, ISBN 0-7506-2050-1 Raj S. Bhopal, Ethnicity, race, and health in multicultural societies, pages 33, Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-19-856817-7 Lucian W. Pye & Mary W. Pye, Asian Power and Politics, pages 133, Harvard University Press, 1985, ISBN 0-674-04979-9 Mark Juergensmeyer, The Oxford handbook of global religions, pages 465, Oxford University Press US, 2006, ISBN 0-19-513798-1 Sugata Bose & Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia, pages 3, Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0-415-30787-2
^Sushil Mittal and Gene R. Thursby, Religions of South Asia: An Introduction, page 104, Taylor & Francis, 2006, ISBN 9780415223904
^ abLucian W. Pye & Mary W. Pye, Asian Power and Politics, pages 133, Harvard University Press, 1985, ISBN 0-674-04979-9
^Judith Schott & Alix Henley, Culture, Religion, and Childbearing in a Multiracial Society, pages 274, Elsevier Health Sciences, 1996, ISBN 0-7506-2050-1
^Raj S. Bhopal, Ethnicity, race, and health in multicultural societies, pages 33, Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-19-856817-7
^Tatu Vanhanen, Prospects of Democracy: A Study of 172 Countries, page 144, Routledge, 1997, ISBN 9780415144063
^John R. Lukacs, The People of South Asia: the biological anthropology of India, Pakistan, and Nepal, page 59, Plenum Press, 1984, ISBN 9780306414077
^Chris Brewster, Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management, page 576, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2012, ISBN 9781847207265
^William Gould, Religion and Conflict in Modern South Asia, page 24, Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 9780521705110
^Chapman, Graham P. & Baker, Kathleen M., eds. The changing geography of Asia. (ISBN 0-203-03862-2) New York: Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2002; p. 10: "This greater India is well defined in terms of topography; it is the Indian sub-continent, hemmed in by the Himalayas on the north, the Hindu Khush in the west and the Arakanese in the east."
^"Asia" > Geology and Geography. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Columbia University Press, 2003: "Asia can be divided into six regions, each possessing distinctive physical, cultural, economic and political characteristics... South Asia (Afghanistan and the nations of the Indian subcontinent) is isolated from the rest of Asia by great mountain barriers."
^"Asia" > Geologic history - Tectonic framework. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2009: "The paleotectonic evolution of Asia terminated some 50 million years ago as a result of the collision of the Indian subcontinent with Eurasia. Asia’s subsequent neotectonic development has largely disrupted the continent’s preexisting fabric. The first-order neotectonic units of Asia are Stable Asia, the Arabian and Indian cratons, the Alpide plate boundary zone (along which the Arabian and Indian platforms have collided with the Eurasian continental plate), and the island arcs and marginal basins."
^ abDesai, Praful B. 2002. Cancer control efforts in the Indian subcontinent. Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology. 32 (Supplement 1): S13-S16. "The Indian subcontinent in South Asia occupies 2.4% of the world land mass and is home to 16.5% of the world population...."
^ ab"Indian Subcontinent". Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. Macmillan Reference USA (Gale Group), 2006: "The area is divided between five major nation-states, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and includes as well the two small nations of Bhutan and the Maldives Republic... The total area can be estimated at 4.4 million square kilometres, or exactly 10 percent of the land surface of Asia... In 2000, the total population was about 22 percent of the world's population and 34 percent of the population of Asia."
^"Asia" > Overview. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2009: "The Indian subcontinent is home to a vast diversity of peoples, most of whom speak languages from the Indo-Aryan subgroup of the Indo-European family."