Is India A Part Of Asia?

India is one large, unique country. It is located above the equator, forms a part of the Himalayas and borders Nepal, Pakistan and China.

India is also culturally expanse, comprising of thousands of ethnic groups, languages and traditions. Its culture has a strong influence on neighbouring Asian countries and vice-versa.

Holi Festival Melbourne 2019

Holi Festival Melbourne 2019

Often India is referred to as its own continent. So is India a part of Asia? Do Indians see themselves as a part of Asia?

Through blogging, I’ve met quite a few bloggers from India. For this post I had a chat with these lovely bloggers to find out more about India and why they proudly call India home – and asked if India is really a part of Asia.

With 29 states and 7 Union territories, India spans an area of approximately 3,287,263 km2. As of 2019 India has a population of over 1.3 billion.

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’, part of the East Asian and South East Asian regions. Being in the same location often entails sharing the same place, same space, sharing borders and being one together.

Philosophy writer Rajagopal from Graleview poetically 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.’

Lifestyle blogger Somali over at Life11 reckons most Indians see India as a part of Asia. Learning about geography 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. That leads to the argument India is its own continent. Some 140 million years ago the supercontinent Gondwana split up into different plates, one of these plates being the Indian Plate.

Researchers at MIT found this Indian Plate gradually drifted northwards past the equator. 10 million years later it collided with the Eurasian plate which comprises the UK and South East Asian region. As such, India is arguably a continent (has its own plate) and sub-continent (joined with other places).

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

Shared economies and cultures

Economic trade transcends borders. As early as 3000 BC, India has been a hub in the Maritime Silk Road and a major spice trade centre.

According to the Asia Power Index, today India is ranked as a major power with vast economic resources in the Asian region. India is a peak trading hub, considered a part of Asia’s shared economy. New Delhi is Singapore’s second largest trading partner in the ASEAN group and in 2018 there were lower tariffs under a free trade agreement.

Alongside a shared economy, there are numerous shared cultural traits between India and neighbouring Asian countries. In Chinese, Japanese and Korean cultures, listening to one’s elders is esteemed and togetherness over individuality is valued.

Many communities in India share these sentiments: arranged marriages, family consent, large family gatherings are still the norm. Hinduism and Buddhism are followed throughout India and Asia. Festivals 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 to describe India, 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.’

Photographer Sreejith from Santiago the Shepherd 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.’

Monkey Temple, Jaipur. Photo cred: Arv.

Monkey Temple, Jaipur. Photo cred: Arv.

Tourism and stereotypes

Tourism and notable landmarks can make a country memorable and stand out. This can leave impressions on travellers and people around the world.

India is a tourist hotspot, attracting over 10 million foreign visitors in 2017. Former teacher and author Balroop Singh over at Emotional Shadows describes India’s surrounds, ‘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.’

Stereotypes tend to create certain impressions of a country. Cultural stereotypes seemingly segregates India from the rest of Asia. Arv points out his state of Jaipur could improve on cleanliness and traffic – Jaipur might lose points in a national cleanliness ranking amidst absence of urban maintenance funds.

Things are changing on the political front: Narenda Modi was elected Prime Minister in a 2014 historic election based on hope and promise of inclusive politics. That said, there are 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 found 29.8% of India’s 1.2 billion people live below the poverty line. On the other hand, a recent Brookings Institution report found India no longer has the most people facing extreme poverty in the world – 5% of the population now live in extreme poverty.

As such, it’s not hard to see how India comes across as backwards and less developed compared to metropolises within Singapore, Japan and South Korea.

When asked how others perceive India, HR professional Parul from Happiness and Food mentions while there are many snake charmers in India, that doesn’t make India a land of snake charmers. Talking about the 2008 movie Slumdog Millionaire, she 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.’

On people’s opinions of 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 their usually dark skin? Fair skin is usually associated with those living in the developed West and darker skin with developing countries including the Middle-East and African regions.

Skin colour doesn’t necessarily define your heritage or where we come from. In the era of debating colourlines, identities are fluid and the spectrum of skin colour is incredibly wide.

Some Indians possess darker skin tones while other Indians possess the fairer-skin-gene SLC24A5, a gene some Europeans possess too. Notably, fair skin and skin whitening products have long been popular in India. At the end of the day, Indians recognise and talk about their differences. Somali suggests we should be cautious about talking about 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 constantly changing and becoming more progressive. The southwestern state of Kerala is an example. Kerala lies high in the Human Development Index (HDI). It has a high literacy rate, low infant mortality and India’s first transgender school. Rajagopal proudly states his hometown Kerala ‘serves as a model for the rest of India’.

Having relocated to Bangalore, Parul observes, ‘In bigger cities, the life is so fast that there is no time to find out how your neighbour 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.’

Somali’s hometown is Delhi and she shifted base to Mumbai almost 25 years ago. She 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. Over 400 million millennials in India are increasingly tech-savvy, turning to the Internet to make a living and becoming part of a rising middle class.

Interestingly enough, many of India’s younger generation are still respectful and proud of long-held cultures. For instance, these days arranged marriages and non-arranged marriages co-exist. Indian youths are keen on eating both traditional and modern Indian cuisines.

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.’

Time will tell if India will develop a sustainable economy and be one of the world’s most liveable places.

What is quite certain is that for many Indians, 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 contributing to this post:

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

218 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 🙂

      Like

  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?

    Like

    • 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 😊

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  10. As an Indian myself , I am delightfully pleased about how much research you have done on our country. At the end of the day , every nation is beautiful. Since it’s all the land of God. But if I do say so myself , I think India has a very rich culture which I wish to see in every part of the world. Wouldn’t that be so beautiful? 😄

    Love and hugs
    Xoxo 💫

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    • Thanks, Shruti. You are so right. Every nation, every country is beautiful. It would be lovely to visit India one day and then I can see how rich and colourful the culture is over there 🙂

      Like

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