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Map of South Asia ( Click the map to enlarge it! )

Map of South Asia

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 , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east. Topographically, it is dominated by the Indian Plate, which rises above sea level as the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush. South Asia is surrounded (clockwise, from west) by Western Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Asia, Southeastern Asia and the Indian Ocean.

According to the United Nations geographical region classification, Southern Asia comprises the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka. By other definitions and interpretations, Myanmar and Tibet are also sometimes included in the region of South Asia.

South Asia is home to well over one fifth of the world's population, making it both the most populous and most densely populated geographical region in the world. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is an economic cooperation organization in the region.

Along with a number of core countries, South Asia differs in inclusion by different clubbing of countries, though essentially it mostly encompasses countries that were part of the former British Empire in the region, including the current territories of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh at the core, but also including Sri Lanka, Burma and Sikkim (now a state of India). 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 Raj also encompassed the 562 protected princely states that were not directly ruled by the Raj,some of which joined the Union of India (including Hyderabad State, Kingdom of Mysore, Baroda, Gwalior and a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir), while some joined the Dominion of Pakistan (including Bahawalpur, Kalat, Khayrpur, Swat and parts of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir ).Sikkim joined India in 1975. One part of Jammu and Kashmir became a part of China.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a contiguous block of countries, started in with seven countries-Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka-when it was established in 1985, but was extended to include Afghanistan as an eighth member in 2006.The World Bank grouping includes only the original seven members of SAARC, and leaves Afghanistan out.This bloc of countries include three independent countries that were not under the British rule - Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan. The South Asia Free Trade Agreement endorsed by SAARC has been signed by the seven original members of the organization, though it has a special provision for the Maldives.

The United Nations Population Information Network (POPIN) includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as part of South Asia, while Maldives, in view of its characteristics, was admitted as a member country of the Pacific POPIN subregional network in principle.The British Indian Ocean Territory is connected to the region by a publication of Jane's for security considerations.The United Nations scheme of sub-regions include all eight members of the SAARC as part of Southern Asia, along with Iran, while the Hirschmann-Herfindahl Index of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for the region includes only the original seven signatories of SAARC.

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.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.