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SOUTH ASIA. Topics: South Asia as a birthplace of religions Cutting-edge IT, backward agriculture Two nuclear powers quarrel over Kashmir The Indian Ocean Basin: A new geopolitical arena South Asia’s missing girls. DEFINING THE REALM. SOUTH ASIA THE GEOGRAPHIC PANORAMA. Subcontinent.

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South asia


  • South Asia as a birthplace of religions

  • Cutting-edge IT, backward agriculture

  • Two nuclear powers quarrel over Kashmir

  • The Indian Ocean Basin: A new geopolitical arena

  • South Asia’s missing girls


South asia the geographic panorama

  • Subcontinent.

  • Divides Indian Ocean between Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal.

  • Demarcated by mountains, rivers, and deserts.

  • British Empire—unifying force.

  • Partitions in 1947 based on religion—Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist.

  • Large, growing population.

  • Disputed territory—Kashmir.

  • English—Lingua franca.

South asia s physiography

Unique Tectonic Boundary

  • Collision of Indian and Eurasian Plate.

    • Continental plate-to-continental plate collision created Himalaya Mountains (north).

    • Earthquakes and tectonic activity.

  • Permanent snow/ice provide meltwater to sustain rivers.

  • Headwaters of the great rivers:

    • Indus River

    • Ganges River

    • Brahmaputra River

      Double delta in Bangladesh!

The Monsoon Climate

  • Monsoon-annual rains

  • Warm land mass, low air pressure, onshore winds, warm waters = precipitation.

  • Wet monsoon brings rains for 60 days or more!

  • Short dry season.

  • Important for agriculture, ecosystems and wildlife.

[Tropical Monsoon (Am)]

South asia1

Physiographic Regions

  • Northern Mountains

    • Hindu Kush

    • Karakoram

    • Himalayas

  • River Lowlands

    • Indus Valley

    • Gangetic Plain

      • Double delta—Ganges and Brahmaputra in Bangladesh

  • North Indian Plain

    • Punjab

  • Plateaus

    • Deccan—tableland

    • Central Indian Plateau

  • Eastern and Western Ghats

South asia birthplace of civilizations

Indus Valley Civilization

  • Centered on Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (2500BC).

  • Name of state—Sindhu.

  • Complex and technologically advanced.

  • Influence extended eastward to Delhi.

  • Did not last because of environmental change.

Birthplace of civilizations

Aryans and Origins of Hinduism

  • Northern India invaded by Aryans—peoples speaking Indo-European languages (1500 BC).

    • Sanskrit—Language related to Old Persian (base of Indo-European fam).

  • Hinduism—emerged out of Vedism religious texts.

  • Social stratification system:

    • Solidified powerful position of Aryans.

    • Organized villages into controlled networks.

    • Small city-states emerged.

    • Hierarchy of power—Brahmins (highest-order priests).

    • Caste system – religion/past lives

      • Less with urban areas/modern times.

Languages and culture
Languages and Culture

  • Dravidian family—dominant in the South

    • Indigenous languages:

      • Telugu, Tamil, Kanarese (Kannada), Malayalam

  • Northern and northeastern areas

    • Sino-Tibetan languages

  • Eastern India and Bangladesh

    • Austro-Asiatic languages

Buddhism and Other Indigenous Religions

  • Buddhism—around 500 BC

    • Arose in eastern Ganges Basin.

    • Less than 1% of population in India.

    • Important in Bhutan (state religion) and Sri Lanka (70% of population).

    • Influence greater in Southeast/East Asia.

  • Jainism—developed alongside Hinduism

    • More purist, principled, and deeply spiritual form of Hinduism.

    • Less than 1% of population.

  • Sikhism—emerged around AD 1500

    • Blend of Islamic and Hindu beliefs.

    • Keep good, rid the bad.

    • About 2% of population.

The Reach of Islam

  • Invaders spread eastward to Indus Valley (10th century AD).

  • Mughal (Mogul) Empire—Islamicized Mongols.

    • Afghanistan into the Punjab.

    • Ousted the Delhi Sultanate (13th C).

    • Expanded Islam with tolerant policies toward Hindus.

    • Built Taj Mahal!

  • Today Islam is dominant in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The European Intrusion

  • Mid-18th century—British had taken over trade of South Asia,

  • East India Company (EIC) Represented the British empire.

  • British took advantage of weakened power of Mughals.

  • “Indirect rule”—left local rulers (maharajas) to rule.

  • 1857—”East India” became part of the British Colonial Empire.

Colonial Transformation

  • Raw materials via railroads, city ports, to Europe.

  • Decline of local industries, loss of markets, bad for local people.

  • A new elite among South Asian natives emerged.

The geopolitics of modern south asia

Partition and Independence

  • Partition—separation of India and Pakistan.

    • Tensions between Hindus and Muslims.

    • New boundaries drawn through areas where both sides historically coexisted.

    • Refugee migrations, Millions displaced.

  • Created a new cultural and geopolitical landscape in South Asia based on religion.


  • Tenuous relationship to this day.

  • Pakistan and Bangladesh separated (1971)

  • Cold War divisions:

    • India tilted toward Moscow.

    • Pakistan found favor in Washington.

    • Arms race led to both becoming nuclear powers.

  • Muslims in India are the largest cultural minority in the world.

Contested Kashmir

  • Territory of high mountains surrounded by Pakistan, India, and China.

  • Pakistan’s forward capital—Islamabad.

  • Kashmir and the Partition

    • Maharaja was Hindu (pro-autocratic)

    • Population Muslim (pro-Pakistan)

    • Indian intervention

  • Tensions remain.

The Specter of Terrorism

  • Mumbai, India: 2008 terrorist attacks.

    • Lashkar-e-Taiba—Pakistan-based organization with aims to return Kashmir to Islamic rule.

  • Pakistan’s northwestern frontier is managed by the Taliban.

  • Majority of India’s Muslims are uninvolved in extremism.

  • Geopolitical chess game between India, Pakistan, and the United States.

Chinese Border Claims

  • Jammu and Kashmir

  • Arunachal Pradesh

  • China + Pakistan ally vs. India + SE Asia ally.

  • Indian Ocean trade to China’s advantage.

    • Issue remains unresolved today.

South asia emerging markets and fragmented modernization

  • “India Shining”—rising economic growth rates

    • Due to globalization, modernization, and integration into global economy.

  • Poverty

    • Over half the population of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh live in poverty.

  • Benefits of economic growth unevenly distributed.

Economic Liberalization

  • Neoliberalism—deregulation to spur business activity = economic growth.

  • Results noticeable in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

    • Manufacturing, services, finances, and information technology.

  • Yet 1 billion South Asians have not attained middle-class status!

South asia s population geography

  • Population geography focuses on the characteristics, distribution, growth, and other aspects of spatial demography.

  • 4 demographic dimensions in South Asia:

    • The role of density

    • The demographic transition

    • Age distributionsand economics

    • The gender bias in birth rates

South asia s population geography1

Population Density and Overpopulation

  • Population density measures the number of people per unit area.

  • Overpopulation and “carrying capacity”

    • High population growth and densities unsupportable.

    • Not all high-density countries are struggling.

  • Human Use vs. Natural Resources

    • Countries with high education levels, institutional efficiency, and technological know-how are able to use natural resources more efficiently.

    • South Asia’s large population is illiterate, undereducated; thus, unsustainable.

  • *India’s Ganges River Wildlife Refuge example:

  • Kaziranga National Park.

  • Tigers, Rhinos, and Elephants.

  • Few protected places, few park rangers, few remaining in the wild.

  • Habitat loss to farming, poaching and black-market trade, animal vs. human use.

  • Most South Asian countries in the 3rd stage—rates stabilize, deaths decline due to medical advances.

  • Fertility rates—the number of births per woman.

    • Fertility rates have dropped across realm.

The Demographic Transition

  • Structural change in birth and death rates:

    • Rapid population increase.

    • Decline in growth rates.

    • Stable population.

Demographic Burdens

  • Proportion of population that is either too old or too young to be productive and that must be cared for by productive population.

  • Low death rates and high birth rates will have large share of young and old resulting in a high demographic burden.

  • Population Pyramid—diagrams showing age-sex structure…

South asia s population geography2

The Missing Girls

  • Sex ratio

    • Among young children males outnumber females.

  • Gender bias

    • Higher value on boys.

    • Thought to be more productive income-earners, entitled to land and inheritance, and do not require a dowry.

  • Female infanticide

    • Ultrasound scanning and rising incomes have resulted in abortion of females.

  • “Bachelor angst”—difficulty in finding brides (many men, few women).

    • Has resulted in changing attitudes.

South asia future prospects

Significant Agriculture

  • More than half the workforce employed in agriculture.

    • Low productivity and only 20% contribution to overall economy.

  • 70% of South Asia’s population is rural.

  • Dependence on a good harvest:

    • Eastern India and Bangladesh—rice.

    • Northwestern India and Pakistan—wheat.


Realm in Transition

  • Politically

    • India-Pakistan relations.

  • Economically

    • India’s rise in global economy.

    • Growing middle class.

    • IT is a leading economic sector, giving it future advantage (+ Indian Ocean trade).

  • Demographically

    • Pass through demographic transition.

    • India is world’s largest democracy.

    • India soon to have largest national population!

      • 1.2 billion people in India


Read Textbook Chapter 8


Choose one “@from the Field Notes” subsection topic in Ch.8 textbook; research and summarize (1 page).


Choose a realm/region within or adjacent to South Asia to review in detail (1 page). Regions include Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives. Choose a culture, country, or feature to research and write about.