Is India in Asia? This is a question a lot of Indian Americans get asked. The answer is yes. India is very much part of Asia and is one of the major economic, political and military power houses of Asia. India is the second largest nation in Asia, both in terms of population and geographical area. In the United States, the term Asian is mostly used in relation to people from countries like China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines but not necessarily people from countries like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal or Pakistan.
What is the Indian Subcontinent?
The Indian subcontinent for the most part includes some countries that border India including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan. It also includes two countries that are close to India but do not share a land border. They are Sri Lanka and the Maldives. China and Myanmar (formerly Burma) have land borders with India as well, but they are not part of the Indian subcontinent.
Prior to India’s independence from United Kingdom in 1947, this geographical area was sometimes known as “India”, “Greater India” or “South Asia”. The term “South Asia” is used even today. There is an organization called SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). The member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The goal of this organization is to promote economic and regional integration between these nations.
The Indian subcontinent accounts for 25% of the world’s population.
Is India a Third World Nation?
I don’t like the word Third World. We should not look at every nation strictly through the prism of economics, finance, income, cleanliness etc. I would consider India a “developing nation” strictly from an economic perspective. But this phrase is also somewhat misleading. United States, like most “developed” nations has a very large middle class (America’s population is about 325 million and about 165 million people are middle class or above). India’s population is about 1.25 billion. Out of the 1.25 billion, about 300 million Indians are middle class or above!!
So the middle class population of India and China is already bigger than the US and they are growing at a must faster rate than in the US (there is some data to show that the population of the middle class in the United States and many developed nations might be shrinking somewhat).
For American companies, the growing middle class populations of India and China offer a huge opportunity. But for United States as a country, India and China are forces to be reckoned with economically. Already, by most accounts, China is the second largest economy in the world and India is the fifth largest.
The Diversity of India.
India is one of the most diverse nations on Earth. There are Indians whose ancestors came to India about 65,000 years ago (from Africa) and there are Indians whose ancestors came to India less than 3500 years ago (Indo-Europeans). I am planning to write an article in the future about the impact the Indo-Europeans had on India. In between these two migrations there have been several other migrations from the Middle East and other parts of the world.
Millions of Indians have also migrated to other countries over the centuries (the Roma or the Romani People of Eastern and Western Europe can trace their origins to India). They are also referred to as Gypsies (There are many Romani people in the United States as well). They are persecuted in many countries (The Germans and their allies executed 25% of the Roma people who lived in Europe, about 250,000 in total).
India is also very diverse in terms of religion, language, culture, cuisine and also geography.
Indians in the United States.
The United States Census Bureau uses the term “Asian Indian” for Americans with ancestry from India . I prefer to use the term “Indian Americans”. Among the Indian community, we also refer to each other as “Desi”. A “desi” in certain Indian languages simply means a “National”. In India, in certain regions, a foreigner is referred to as “Paradesi” (a paradesi could be someone from the next village, a few kilometers away!!).
Desi sometimes is also used to refer to all people from South Asia. Some people might consider the use of the word desi as offensive.
According to USCB, there are 2.8 million Indian Americans in the United States (less than 1% of the population). The metropolitan areas of New York, Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles have the highest number of Indian Americans. In terms of states, California, New York and New York have the highest numbers (the highest percentage is in New Jersey (3.3% of the overall population)). By all accounts, the Indian American community in the United States is very small.
Indians in Philadelphia
According to the last census, about 18,500 Indians live in Philadelphia (the numbers are much larger if you include the surrounding counties (like Bucks, Montgomery and Chester) and also Southern New Jersey (about 80,000 Indians live in South Jersey). Overall, these numbers are small when you consider that the population of the Philadelphia metropolitan area is over 6 million. But a lot has changed in the last 25 years. Back in the day, there was only one Indian restaurant in Center City (New Delhi in University City). New Delhi was established in 1988 (40th and Chestnut Street) and is still around. Now there are plenty of options in every Center City neighborhood.
Should I Visit India?
If you like traveling, India is definitely one of the countries that you should visit. India is far away from the United States and getting there is difficult and somewhat expensive. But traveling within India is inexpensive. Food and the cost of lodging is also inexpensive. You will be exposed to a culture and a nation that is so different from that of the United States.
A decade or so ago, India was known for budget travel, but not anymore. If you like staying in fancy hotels, India is one of the countries that you must visit. India has several luxury hotels that are much superior to the ones that you would find in the United States (particularly when considering the setting).
Have you considered traveling to India?