The Indian subcontinent or the subcontinent is a southern region of Asia, mostly situated on the Indian Plate and projecting southwards into the Indian Ocean from the Himalayas. Definitions of the extent of the Indian subcontinent differ but it usually includes the core lands of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh;Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives are often included as well. The region is also called by a number of other names including South Asia, a name that is increasingly popular.
The region has been variously labelled as "India" (in its pre-modern sense), the Indian subcontinent (a term in particularly common use in the British Empire and its successors) and South Asia. Though the terms "Indian subcontinent" and "South Asia" are sometimes used interchangeably, some academics hold that the term "South Asia" is the more common usage in Europe and North America. According to historians Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, the Indian subcontinent has come to be known as South Asia "in more recent and neutral parlance."Indologist Ronald B. Inden argues that the usage of the term "South Asia" is becoming more widespread since it clearly distinguishes the region from East Asia.
The BBC, as well as some academic sources, refers to the region as the "Asian Subcontinent". Some academics prefer to use the term South Asian Subcontinent. A booklet published by the United States Department of State in 1959 includes Afghanistan, Ceylon (since 1972 Sri Lanka), India, Nepal, and Pakistan (including East Pakistan, since 1971 Bangladesh) as part of the "Subcontinent of South Asia". Of all the variations the most recent – South Asia – has become the most widely used after being adopted by modern governments as the administrative classification. Many scholars also prefer the term.
By dictionary entries, the term subcontinent signifies "having a certain geographical or political independence" from the rest of the continent or "a vast and more or less self-contained subdivision of a continent." The term also vaguely signifies "having a certain geographical or political independence" from the rest of the continent.
The English term mainly continues to refer to the Indian subcontinent.Physiographically, it is a peninsular region in south-central Asia, rather resembling a diamond which is delineated by the Himalayas in the north, the Hindu Kush in the west, and the Arakanese in the east, and extending southward into the Indian Ocean with the Arabian Sea to the southwest and the Bay of Bengal to the southeast. Most of this region rests on the Indian Plate and is isolated from the rest of Asia by large mountain barriers.
Whether called the Indian subcontinent or South Asia, the definition of the geographical extent of this region varies. Geopolitically, it had formed the whole territory of Greater India, and now it generally comprises the countries of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Prior to 1947, the three nations were historically combined and constituted British India. It almost always also includes Nepal, Bhutan, and the island country of Sri Lanka and may also include Afghanistan and the island country of Maldives. According to anthropologist John R. Lukacs, "The Indian Subcontinent occupies the major landmass of South Asia." while according to political science professor Tatu Vanhanen, "The seven countries of South Asia constitute geographically a compact region around the Indian Subcontinent".