The Himalayan Mountain ranges border South Asia to the north. Nepal is located along this border and is somewhat of a buffer state between India and China. Nepal has a high population growth rate. Most of its people work in agriculture. Deforestation is a major environmental concern and causes erosion of the landscape. Landlocked and poor, Nepal struggles to maintain a stable government and adequate public services.
South Asia was colonized by Britain for ninety years. Colonialism brought a structured administration, a railroad system of transportation, and large port cities used for the export of goods from the interior. The political borders were established for South Asia by British colonizers, based on religious affiliation and economic advantages. The British elevated Sikhs from the Punjab to help rule over the Hindu and Muslim populations. English is widely used as a lingua franca.
Conflicts continue in mountainous Kashmir and tropical Sri Lanka. Kashmir’s remote territory in the northern part of the realm is divided between Pakistan, China, and India. All three countries have nuclear weapons. Sri Lanka’s majority Buddhist population is Sinhalese and is based in the southwest, controlling most of the island. Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil population is Hindu and is based out of the Jaffna Peninsula in the northeast. The Tamil want their own country and have claims on the island.
Port cities of South Asia are centers for international trade and development. There is a wide disparity between the rural poor and the affluent elites. India has been developing a strong economy based on a growing information sector, health care, and manufacturing. Motor vehicles and computer technologies are emerging in India and competing worldwide. Pakistan’s economy struggles under the high population growth and Islamic extremism in the country.
Pakistan and Bangladesh were once under the same government. Bangladesh was formerly East Pakistan. These Muslim countries have extremely high population densities and have agrarian economies. The Indus River flows through Pakistan and the two rivers of the Brahmaputra and the Ganges flow through Bangladesh. Monsoon flooding is a serious concern for Bangladesh; earthquakes have caused serious damage in Pakistan.
Hindu and Buddhist traditions first developed in South Asia. India has the most of the world’s Hindu followers. The concept of the caste system has created socioeconomic layers in the culture that are being tempered by high urbanization rates. Buddhism has a number of branches that can be geographically identified as eastern, northern, and southern. Bhutan and Sri Lanka have Buddhist majorities. South Asia is also home to Sikhism and Jainism. Islam is strong in South Asia: Pakistan is the world’s second-largest Muslim country, India has the world’s third-largest Muslim population, and Bangladesh is a Muslim country as well. South Asia is also home to a Christian minority in addition to various other minority religious groups.