India is a country in the continent of Asia. It is the second largest country in Asia, both in terms of population (1.2 billion people) and area (1.27 million square miles).
India is located in South Asia, in an area that is also commonly referred to as the Indian subcontinent. Major countries on its borders include China in the North East, Pakistan in the North West and Bangladesh in the East. Until 1947, both India and Bangladesh were a part of India.
This article goes into more detail about what continent India is in. It also explains what it means when people refer to India as a subcontinent (and explains why India is not a continent in its own right.
Is India in Asia?
Yes. India is a part of Asia.
India has a population of 1.2 billion people, making it the second most populated country in Asia after China (as well as the second most populated country in the world. India has a total area of 1,269,346 square miles (3,287,263 km2) which makes it the second largest country in Asia by area, and the seventh largest country in the world by area.
India has strong cultural, historical and political links with other countries in Asia although, because the Himalayas acted as a boundary between India and much of the rest of the continent, it also developed its own distinct culture and languages during its early history.
Today India sees itself as a rising power. It has good relations with many other Asian countries and is a member of many Asian international organisations, including ASEAN, the Asian Development Bank and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
India’s relationships with some of its continental neighbours are strained, though. It has particularly poor relations with Pakistan and China. India’s borders with each of these two countries are disputed, and it has fought wars against both countries during the last fifty years.
India used to be a part of the British Empire, and is still a member of the Commonwealth. Because of this, it also has strong ties with other Commonwealth countries.
Is India a continent?
No, India is not a continent in its own right. It is a part of the content of Asia.
Because of its size, though, India is sometimes referred to as a ‘continent masquerading as a country’.
One reason why people sometimes talk about India as if it were a continent in its own right (and sometimes call it a subcontinent – see below) is because it sits on its own tectonic plate – called the Indian tectonic plate.
The Indian tectonic plate used to be a part of the Gondwana supercontinent. But 75 million years ago it broke off from Gondwana and gradually began to move northwards. Eventually it crashed (very slowly!) into the Eurasian tectonic plate. Here is an animated video showing how the force of the impact created the Himalaya mountain range.
Why is India called a subcontinent?
A large landmass which is part of a larger continent, but is geographically distinct and self-contained, is often called a subcontinent.
India is one example of a subcontinent; Greenland and the Arabian Peninsula are other examples.
The Indian subcontinent exists because it is effectively separated from the rest of Asia by three mountain ranges – the Himalayas. the Hindu Kush, and Karakorum. Because India also sits on its own tectonic plate (see above) the argument that India is a subcontinent has added weight.
The most common definition of the Indian subcontinent is the land covered by the countries of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan (all of which were, before 1947, part of one country).
When India was part of the British Empire, it was widely referred to as the Indian Subcontinent, so the term is particularly widely used in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries.
But when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan and Bangladesh, it made people think that a broader definition of the subcontinent might be appropriate.
Academics and news organisations have begun to move away from calling the region the Indian subcontinent. Instead, they often use other related terms, such as the Asian subcontinent or South Asia.
A good example is the UN’s official definition of Southern Asia which includes not just India, but also Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Iran, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.