Is India A Part Of Asia?

India is one of the largest and most diverse countries in the world, geographically and culturally expanse.

Located above the equator and comprising of thousands of ethnic groups, faiths, languages, cuisines, customs and celebrations, one can say India has a prominent mark on Asia.

Holi Festival Melbourne 2019

Holi Festival Melbourne 2019

However, India is unique in its own way with many referring to the country as its own continent. So it begs the questions: is India a part of Asia? Or just a neighbour? More importantly, do Indians see themselves as a part of Asia?

Comprising 29 states and 7 Union territories, India spans an area of approximately 3,287,263 km2. This is three times smaller than the United States and two times smaller than Australia. As of 2019 India has a population of over 1.3 billion which is steadily rising.

I’ve always been fascinated by India and hope to visit someday. Throughout my life I’ve had quite a few Indian friends and acquaintances, and they’ve always liked sharing with me about how life is like in India.

Over the years through blogging, I’ve met quite a few bloggers from India. Over the years it has been eye-opening getting to know their stories about India and why they proudly call India home. So for this post I had a chat with these very lovely bloggers to find more about India and what it means to them – and asked if India is really a part of Asia.

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

Geography and continents

In terms of geographic location, India rubs shoulders and shares similar surrounds with other Asian countries. One can argue that India is a part of the ‘Asian continent landmass’. Being in the same location entails sharing the same place, same space, sharing borders, being one together. Indian and Western philosophy writer Rajagopal from Graleview eloquently describes India as being marked by mountain and sea: ‘Bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.’

Similarly, lifestyle, craft and travel blogger Somali over at Life11 reckons most Indians see India as a part of Asia. Learning about India and continents in geography classes at school, Somali describes India’s place in this world, ‘We (Indians) think of countries bordering Bangladesh (e.g. Myanmar) and moving eastwards and down, as falling under South East Asia.’

Notably, India has its own tectonic plate called the Indian Plate and that leads to the argument India is its own continent. Some 140 million years ago the supercontinent Gondwana below the equator split up into different plates – one of these plates being the Indian Plate. Researchers at MIT found this Indian Plate gradually drifted northwards up past the equator, and 10 million years later collided with the Eurasian plate which comprises the UK and the South-East Asian region.

In other words, at one point and even now India is arguably a continent (it has its own plate). In more recent times, India is arguably a country and sub-continent (joined with one big place).

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

Centralised trade, similar cultures

In today’s globalised world, economic trade, culture and faiths transcends borders. India has always been a peak trading hub in the Asian region, considered a part of Asia’s shared economy. Historically India has been a hub in the Maritime Silk Road and a major spice trade centre as early as 3000 BC. Today India is ranked as a major power in the Asian region according to the Asia Power Index; it is a nation with vast economic resources (minerals, banking, logistical systems). New Delhi is Singapore’s second largest trading partner in ASEAN group and in 2018 there were lower tariffs on more than 30 products under a free trade agreement.

Alongside a shared economy, there are numerous shared lifestyle traits between India and Asian countries, and no surprise why India is considered a part of Asia. For instance, in Chinese, Japan and Korean cultures, listening to one’s elders is esteemed and togetherness over individuality is valued. Many communities in India share these same sentiments in a time where arranged marriages, family consent, paying respects to ancestors at temples and celebrating festive occasions with large family gatherings and lots of food is still the norm. There’s not forgetting faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism are followed widely throughout India and the rest of Asia, and celebrations such as Diwali and Thaipusam are celebrated all over the region as well.

Amer Fort, India. Photo cred: Arv

Amer Fort, Jaipur. Photo cred: Arv

When asked what comes to mind about India, life philosophy writer and author Nihar from Makeup and Breakup sums it up as, ‘Family, food and festival…the moment I think about India. It is the country where relationships are love of family that matters more than anything, the country where cuisine culture is an art and the country where festivals are celebrated throughout the year.’

Similarly, photographer Arv over at JaipurThruMyLens thinks India is undoubtedly a part of Asia. He feels, ‘Unlike the west, where material possessions are paramount, in India like other Asian countries, people and relationships matter the most.’

Another photographer from India, Sreejith from Santiago the Shepherd also adds, ‘More than the similarities in physical features, the real connection is culture and tradition. We could very well relate to the family values, parent-child relations, joint family structure of people of other Asian countries.’

Share the same lifestyles and values, share the same outlook on life. And chances are you feel part of a tribe.

Monkey Temple, Jaipur. Photo cred: Arv.

Monkey Temple, Jaipur. Photo cred: Arv.

Standout landmarks and stereotypes

The architecture and natural surroundings of a country is enriched in history and embedded with stories of how it came about and evolved over time as its own place. As such, a country’s notable landmarks and tourism sector might very well make it memorable and stand out on its own. What a country is known for and projects to the world often leaves impressions on travellers passing through and also those afar who follow current affairs.

Today India is very much a tourist hotspot, attracting over 10 million foreign visitors in 2017. For one, India has scenic landscapes and bustling side-streets to take in and roam. As former teacher, writer and author Balroop Singh over at Emotional Shadows describes India, ‘Tourism puts India at the top of the world, as it offers incredible beauty – the magnificence of the Himalayas in the north, the grandeur of the Thar desert in the west, the spectacular backwaters of Kerala in the south.’

Common stereotypes heard (normally shared through word of mouth) tends to give a certain impression of a country over the other. Cultural stereotypes seemingly separates and segregates India from the rest of Asia. For instance, Arv points out his state of Jaipur could improve on cleanliness and traffic – and it has been reported Jaipur might lose points in a national cleanliness ranking amidst absence of urban maintenance funds.

This is quite true though, but changing: on the political front, Narenda Modi was elected Prime Minister in a 2014 historic election based on hope and promise of inclusive politics, however there is still not enough jobs created.

World Trade Park, Jaipur. Photo cred: Arv.

Word Trade Park, Jaipur. Photo cred: Arv.

In 2012 India’s Planning Commission said 29.8% of India’s 1.2 billion people live below the poverty line. If recent findings are to be believed, last year’s Brookings Institution report found India is no longer the country with the most people facing extreme poverty; the World Poverty Clock predicts those living in extreme poverty is slated to fall to just 5% of India’s 70.6 million population.

As such, it’s not hard to see how India may be seen as backwards and less developed compared to Singapore, Japan and South Korea – a world away from first world developed places.

When asked to ponder about how others perceive India, HR Professional Parul from Happiness and Food mentions there are many snake charmers in India, but that doesn’t make India a land of snake charmers. She also brought up the 2008 movie Slumdog Millionaire and says, ‘Though the movie made millions it showed India in a very bad light. Yes there are slums in India but then the movie extrapolated a lot.’

When asked about how others around the world perceive India, Sreejith offers, ‘It’s largely based on their exposure to the world around. Most of the people whom I interact consider India is very much part of Asia.’

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

Dark vs light skin Asians

Are Indians considered non-Asian because of the shade of their skin which is usually darker than those who live in other parts of Asia? In a world where racism exists, there’s stereotypes and social discrimination surrounding skin colour. Fair skin is usually associated with those living in the developed West and darker skin with those from developing countries or countries in the Middle-East and African regions.

Can a certain skin colour identify with a certain race and country? Maybe. However more realistically, our skin colour doesn’t necessarily define our heritage or where we come from. It’s important to remember in the era of debating colourlines, identities are fluid and the spectrum of skin colour is incredibly wide.

Fair skin has long been popular in India and in fact using skin whitening beauty products is an accepted norm here. Indeed the spectrum of skin colour is vastly varying, and some Indians possess darker or lighter skin tones over other Indians – some possess the fairer-skin-gene SLC24A5 which is a gene some Europeans possess too. At the end of the day, Indians see themselves as one and recognises their differences which at times, aren’t afraid to talk about. That said, Somali suggests we should be cautious about talking about culture, colour and diversity:

‘Mostly different Indian communities get along well. There are jokes about different communities, which are commonly shared and generally people don’t seem to mind those. Nowadays, (we) should refrain from jokes targeted towards a particular community as however harmless these may seem, such jokes may perpetuate bias against a community.’

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

* * *

India is a country constantly evolving with the times. Certain parts of India are seemingly leading the way towards a more progressive country just like many other countries in Asia, and hence a progressive Asia. The southwestern state of Kerala is an example: it’s the only state in India which lies high in the Human Development Index (HDI), has a high literacy rate, low infant mortality rate due to advanced health and education facilities and opened India’s first transgender school. Rajagopal proudly states his hometown Kerala ‘serves as a model for the rest of India’.

One doesn’t have to be away from a certain state in India to see that it has changed in a short span of time. Having relocated to Bangalore, Parul observes, ‘In bigger cities, the life is so fast that there is no time to find out how your neighbor is. Now when I go back home, I feel that it has changed. (Some) people who made my hometown a home are no longer around. There is change and there is also no change.’

Also, Somali’s hometown is Delhi and she shifted base to Mumbai almost 25 years ago, and adds, ‘Every year or two, when I go to Delhi, it appears alien to me as I feel it has changed a lot, in terms of structures, layout and traffic.’

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

Today’s generation will lead the way in the years to come. The millennials are leading the way in India: over 400 million of them are increasingly tech-savvy, turning to the Internet to live lives of convenience while making a living, becoming part of a rising middle class.

Interestingly enough, many of India’s open-minded younger generation are respectful of long-held Asian traditions. For instance, arranged marriages are still the norm but modern arranged marriages are becoming more common where both parties meet each other prior to marriage. In a sense, Indians proudly carry their culture with them wherever they go. Balroop sums it up, ‘Generation Z is more open minded, tolerant and focused. They do follow the main traditions but are daring enough to question what seems illogical to them.’

Only time will tell where India is headed in terms of developing a sustainable economy and becoming one of the world’s most liveable places.

But as for cultural identity, for many India is indeed a part of Asia, and Asia a part of India.

What comes to mind when you think of India?

* * *

Thank you very much to these bloggers for helping me understand India better and contributing to this post:

RajagopalGraleview | Somali K ChakrabartiLife11 (Scribble and Scrawl) | Nihar R PradhanMakeup and Breakup | ArvJaipurThruMyLens | Sreejith P NairSantiago the Shepherd | Balroop SinghEmotional Shadows | ParulHappiness and Food

216 thoughts on “Is India A Part Of Asia?

  1. Sorry I’m late here, Mabel- don’t know how I missed it! Interesting points you raise. As with so many things, it’s the younger generation who will determine India’s place in our future. I hate all the images of poverty you see, but then again, England’s streets aren’t free from people sleeping rough. Different circumstances, of course.

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    • Never too late to the party, Jo. Always have a piece of cake saved for you 😀🍰 Poverty is hard to see, but yeah, some people in some countries do find themselves in these situations. India is a country to watch and interesting to see where it’s headed. Hope this week has been good for you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like how you’ve reached out to Indian bloggers as a sort of roadmap of India here, Mabel! It is a country rich in culture and I loved learning more about it. I see it as a part of Asia but admit I didn’t know much of what you explained here. I agree with your point that the color of the skin, whether fair or darker, does not denote one’s origins. Well researched! I hope your week is a wonderful one, my friend 🙂

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    • I like how you said reaching out to Indian bloggers is sort of like a roadmap to India. Thank you so much, Christy! 🙂 There is so much to know about India, from the culture to its different communities and languages…and traveling there should be an eye-opening experience for most of us. Hope your week went well my friend 🙂

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  3. Your post made me smile and took me by surprise. I’ve always wondered who drew those lines in Asia. 🙂 After seeing ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, I wondered why weren’t any of the Singaporean Indians showed in the movie. I think Asia is more connected by its historical past than its geographical borders. The silk route, the spread of Buddhism, and battles for new land created quite a few unique cultural threads. We’re more similar than one would think. 🙂
    Besides, India’s geographical diversity is mind-boggling. When the physical terrain is so unique, it’s hard to put it in a box. That’s where stereotypes come into play.
    People are often confused where we’re from. Your post makes me want to write a similar post — from the Indian perspective. 🙂

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    • Awww, thank you so much, Cheryl 🙂 I haven’t seen Crazy Rich Asians but from the outset it seems the cast consists of primarily fair skinned Asians – so you make a very good point there wondering where the Singaporean Indians were.

      I think you said it when you say ‘Asia is more connected by its historical past than its geographical border’. There’s so much in common in history and traditions across different regions in Asia. Adding to what we have in common, so many communities across Asia are proud of their cuisine they’ve cooked again and gain.

      I’ve always wondered about your perspective of being Indian and traveling as an Indian – for instance, do people pick that up after chatting to you for a but. Would love a post on that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think food is a great unifier! lol. When everything else fails it’s what makes most conversations click. 🙂
        On travelling: we’ve always had interesting experiences. People can’t seem to put us in our box. Patience is the key. Otherwise, it can make or break a trip. 🙂

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        • There’s always so much to talk about and share with food. Always like reading about your travel experiences, Cheryl. You always aren’t afraid to share the challenges you faced traveling, and that’s so refreshing to read 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, Mabel – This is such an informative and thought-provoking post. I wholeheartedly agree with you about what a privilege it is to get to know others bloggers and learn from them. I had no idea that this could happen when I first began blogging.

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    • Thanks, Donna. Blogging connects us with so many other bloggers across the world. So many things to learn from each other, and so many conversations to be had with each other – it’s like one lovely group of friends 🙂

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  5. A fantastic article, Mabel! Although I have never been to India, I would love to visit the country in the near future. Personally, I think Indian culture is very much related to us. They put a high value on family, kinship and traditions. “Face” or pride is important to them as well. Btw, I love your colourful photos 🙂 I guess they were captured at Holi Festival in Melbourne, right?

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    • Thanks, Len. I can totally see you visiting India, hopping from state to state and giving your camera a great workout 😀 You are so right in that ‘face’ and pride is important to us and across most Asian cultures. Such similar culture is often unspoken but accepted among us…and we can be secretly proud of it.

      Yes, most of these photos were captured at the Holi Festival in Melbourne. I only stayed a few minutes among the crowd because I feared damage to my camera 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yeah, those powders are harmful for the camera. It occured to me when I joined the Colour Run: we run and the organiser throw colour on us. It was fun, but my camera got ruined, completely. Had to bring it to the shop for cleaning up 🙂

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        • I had no idea the powders were that harmful to cameras. So sorry to hear your camera got ruined during Colour Run 😞 Hope the cleaning up wasn’t too expensive, both the lens and body. Usually when the weather gets windy I am already afraid dust will fly into the lens and I keep it away 😃

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Anecdotally, many people from areas such as China and Japan do not consider places like India as being part of Asia. I asked my then professor, who is Indian, how things came to be that way. He pulled out a giant tome of United Nations resolutions and read it to me chapter and verse; that India is officially recognised as being part of Asia and that is the end of that.

    Decades later, I’ve come to realise that Indians are as proud of the cultural groupings they identify with as any other culture in Asia; and that the very term “Asian”, or “South Asia” or “East Asia” or “West Asian” and its derivatives are constructs of Western imperialism.

    No one in Malaysia says they are Asian. No one in China says they are Asian. No one in Iran says they are West Asian. “Asian” is a name given to us by Westerners.

    Today, I make it a point to learn the traits and characteristics that allow me to recognise people from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc – just as I have been doing my entire life between Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Philippino, etc, and likewise between French, German, English, American, etc.

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  7. Anecdotally, many people from areas such as China and Japan do not consider places like India as being part of Asia. I asked my then professor, who is Indian, how things came to be that way. He pulled out a giant tome of United Nations resolutions and read it to me chapter and verse; that India is officially recognised as being part of Asia and that is the end of that.

    Decades later, I’ve come to realise that Indians are as proud of the cultural groupings they identify with as any other culture in Asia; and that the very term “Asian”, or “South Asia” or “East Asia” or “West Asian” and its derivatives are constructs of Western imperialism.

    No one in Malaysia says they are Asian. No one in China says they are Asian. No one in Iran says they are West Asian. “Asian” is a name given to us by Westerners.

    Today, I make it a point to learn the traits and characteristics that allow me to recognise people from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc – just as I have been doing my entire life between Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Philippino, etc, and likewise between French, German, English, American, etc.

    “Asian” is just a lazy phrase that does none of us any favours.

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    • It is interesting according to your professor in the United Resolutions it reocognises India is a part of Asia. I wonder if that has ever changed. Funny how people are inclined to end the story when something is written in black and white legislation (or as black and white legislation as you can get and comprehend).

      True that rarely in Malaysia and Singapore refers to themselves as Asian. It reminds me of this blog post I wrote a while ago, sharing the exact same sentiments: https://mabelkwong.com/2013/08/29/what-is-asian-how-do-we-define-asian/

      India is such a diverse community, as diverse as any other community with its varying subgroups and subcommunities.

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  8. This is such a comprehensive post with stunning pictures!
    Yes, it is a part of Asia. Words are less when it comes to explaining India. India is really a vibrant country enriched with culture. Visit and explore the incredible beauty of India. Hope to see you soon.

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    • Thanks, Shipra. I like how you say it, less words to describe India. From the sounds of it, it is a very vibrant, diverse and colourful country with lots to discover. Hope to visit some day.

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  9. Proud to be an Indian
    A country with amazing variety of people, colours and tastes and climates….above all Indian culture
    😊😊
    Indian people make others aware of their presence wherever they go and leave their mark …Athithi Dev Bhava …A guest in India is treated and served as God …Welcome to India my dear Friend…Definitely I say your visit and stay in India will be worth remembering for your whole life

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    • Awww so lovely to hear you are proud to be Indian 😊 Thank you for the lovely welcome to India too…even though I am way off from stepping foot over there. Really hope to visit one day and experience India for what it is 😊

      Like

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