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 region has been variously labelled as India (in its pre-modern sense), Greater India, the 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 historiansSugata 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".
The BBC, as well as some academic sources, refers to the region as the "Asian Subcontinent". Some academics prefer to use the term South Asian Subcontinent. A booklet published by the United States Department of State in 1959 includes Afghanistan, Ceylon (since 1972 Sri Lanka), India, Nepal, and Pakistan (including East Pakistan, since 1971 Bangladesh) as part of the "Subcontinent of South Asia". Of all the variations the most recent – South Asia – has become the most widely used after being adopted by modern governments as the administrative classification. Many scholars have also prefer the term.
By dictionary entries, the term subcontinent signifies "having a certain geographical or political independence" from the rest of the continent,or "a vast and more or less self-contained subdivision of a continent."Physiographically, it is a peninsular region in south-central Asia, rather resembling a diamond which is delineated by the Himalayas in the north, the Hindu Kush in the west, and the Arakanese in the east, and extending southward into the Indian Ocean with the Arabian Sea to the southwest and the Bay of Bengal to the southeast. Most of this region rests on the Indian Plate and is isolated from the rest of Asia by mountain barriers.
The definition of the geographical extent of the Indian subcontinent or South Asia varies. Geopolitically, it had formed the whole territory of Greater India, and 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. 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".
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.
^Ayesha Jalal, Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia, page xiii, Harvard University Press, 2009, ISBN 9780674039070
^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
^Oxford English Dictionary 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, 1989
^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."
^Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, Religions of South Asia: An Introduction, page 3, Routledge, 2006, ISBN 9781134593224
^John McLeod, The history of India, page 1, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, ISBN 0-313-31459-4 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 "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." Haggett, Peter (2001). Encyclopedia of World Geography (Vol. 1). Marshall Cavendish. p. 2710. ISBN0-7614-7289-4.
^John R. Lukacs, The People of South Asia: the biological anthropology of India, Pakistan, and Nepal, page 59, Plenum Press, 1984, ISBN 9780306414077
^Tatu Vanhanen, Prospects of Democracy: A Study of 172 Countries, page 144, Routledge, 1997, ISBN 9780415144063
^ 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."