The World and Its People

Chapter 22: South Asia

Chapter Overviews

The mountains of the Karakoram Range and the Himalaya separate the South Asian subcontinent from the rest of Asia. These mountains form the northern border of India, the world's most populous democracy. The Himalaya and seasonal monsoons influence India's climate. Agriculture and industry are equally important economic activities. India's green revolution was successful in increasing the country's food production. About 4,000 years ago, one of the world's first civilizations developed along the Indus River. The religion of Hinduism developed in India and is still practiced by about 80 percent of India's people.

Once a single nation, Pakistan and Bangladesh today are separate Muslim countries that border India on the west and east. Towering mountains occupy most of northern and western Pakistan. Pakistan and India both claim the territory of Kashmir, which has led to conflict. Almost 70 percent of Pakistan's people live in rural villages, and most follow traditional customs. The Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers form a huge delta in Bangladesh, one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world.

Nepal and Bhutan both lie in the Himalaya. Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain, is located in Nepal. The economies of Nepal and Bhutan are based largely on farming. Hinduism is Nepal's official religion, whereas most of Bhutan's people remain deeply loyal to Buddhism. Sri Lanka lies about 20 miles off the southeastern coast of India. Agriculture has long been important here, but there are many new and growing industries. Since 1983 Sri Lanka's two main ethnic groups—the Sinhalese and the Tamils—have fought a violent civil war. About 1,200 coral islands make up the Maldives. Tourism is the biggest industry there.

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