The Countries Of South Asia

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India is one of countries in South Asia. Image credit: Hyotographics/
  • There is no obvious separation such as an ocean, strait, etc., to denote where the area of South Asia begins to the north, but the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, Karakorum, and Pamir are generally used as geographic boundaries.
  • To the south, the Indian Ocean demarcates the boundary of South Asia.
  • South Asia includes India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Iran.

The United Nations 2019 development report classifies South Asia as:

  1. India
  2. Bangladesh
  3. Bhutan
  4. Maldives
  5. Nepal
  6. Pakistan
  7. Sri Lanka
  8. Afghanistan
  9. Iran

There is no obvious separation such as an ocean, strait, etc., to denote where the area of South Asia begins to the north, but the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, Karakorum, and Pamir are generally used as geographic boundaries. To the south, the Indian Ocean provides a border. 

South Asian countries were experiencing an uptick in their growth from 2013-2016, in comparison to many other economies that were remaining flat during that time. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the economic outlook for this area significantly, and South Asia is now facing an uncertain economic future. The World Bank expects the GDP of South Asia to shrink by 2.7% in 2020 as a result of the contracting world economy due to the pandemic. Surpassing that timeline, it becomes very uncertain how the worldwide pandemic will continue to affect South Asia. 


Varanasi, India. Image credit: Roop Dey/

India is the second-most populous country in the world with 1.3B people, coming in second only to China. Despite falling birthrates in the country, India is expected to overtake China in population by 2028. 

India is largely English-speaking country, although there are 22 languages in total that are spoken there. 

India’s GDP in 2019 was $6,134. According to the UN, this falls within the range of expected GDP for developing economies. 

80% of Indians are Hindu, however, all religions can be found in India. Religion is nearly universal here, with less than 2% of the population identifying as atheist. 


Guava farmers and traders are trading Guava at floating guava market in Bhimruli, Jhalokathi, Bangladesh. Image credit: Insight Photography/

Now called Bangladesh, the country is a part of the historic region of Bengal, and sits on the Bay of Bengal. Approximately 1.6M people call Bangladesh home, with nearly 90% of those identifying as Muslim. Hinduism comes in a far second for religious practice in Bangladesh with under 10% of the population identifying as Hindu. 

World Bank projections for Bangladesh predict a sharp downturn in GDP growth from 2019-2021.  The main areas of growth, employment, and GDP are services, industry, and agriculture. 


Parliament Thimphu Bhutan. Image credit: 2globetrotters/

Bhutan is a country with a fascinating history and rich cultural roots. Ruled by a Buddhist monarchy, Bhutan evolved largely cut off from the world. The country is landlocked and remote, surrounded by India and Tibet. 

Bhutan’s modest economy is based on forestry, agriculture, and hydropower.  While most other nations measure growth in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or Gross National Income (GNI), Bhutan measures success and directs growth using Gross National Happiness (GNH) indexing. 

GNH provides direction on governing efforts, economic investments, and initiatives like reducing poverty and inequality. Since 1980, Bhutan has been one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. 


Aerial view of a seaplane approaching island in the Maldives. Image credit: Sven Hansche/

The Maldives are an extremely unique grouping of islands that officially make up the Republic of Bhutan, which is 99% water. The island nation sits off the coast of India in the Indian Ocean and is spread between 1,192 islands grouped into 26 atolls that are home to only half a million people. 

Continuing the Maldives collection of unique positions in the world, it is the most low-lying and flattest nation, the smallest Mulsim state, and the smallest country in Asia. 

GDP per capita in the Maldives is strong, coming in at $11,890 in 2018. Two-thirds of the Maldives GDP is centered around tourism, which has taken a debilitating hit with border closures and travel restrictions due to COVID-19. 


Durbar Square in Nepal. Image credit: Stary Stary/

Nepal has been experiencing turbulence in government and economy for many years and is currently working through challenges surrounding the state’s 2008 shift to a federal style of government. 

Organization of local, state, and federal organizations, as well as delivery of basic services and infrastructure improvements have dominated development in Nepal for much of the 2000s. 

Agriculture is a large focus in Nepal, however low crop yields due to pests and weather damage in past season has hampered the ability of the state to leverage their natural resources for growth. 

Despite these challenges, overall poverty was trending downwards in Nepal prior to COVID-19. In the current economic climate, Nepal is suffering from the lack of influx of tourism dollars as well as increased prices for essential items. 


Aerial photo of Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan showing the landmark Shah Faisal Mosque and the lush green mountains of the city. Image credit: Umer Arif/

Pakistan might be infamous for conflict in the region, but the mountainous country has much to offer for tourism and adventure travel. Famed for towering mountain peaks in the Karamorum range, the world-famous K2 is found in Pakistan. 

GDP per capita in Pakistan in 2019 is $1,285 USD - putting it in the range of developing economies. Pakistan’s strongest industrial sector is textiles and apparel; this industry has been largely halted by COVID-19 lockdown measures. The country as a whole is suffering extensively from the pandemic, and the economic outlook is in flux and currently unpredictable. 

Sri Lanka

Aerial view of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Image credit: Madrugada Verde/

Sri Lanka is an island found off the southeast tip of Indian, in the Indian Ocean. Its primary sources of profit are agriculture (including tea and rice), textiles and apparel, and tea export. 

Sri Lanka falls in the developing economic category as of 2019 according to the United Nations at $3,853 per capita. 

The majority of Sri Lanka identifies as Buddhist, with nearly 70% of the population in this category. Other religions found in the country are Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.  


Kabul,Afghanistan. Image credit: Kursat Bayhan/

Afghanistan is a landlocked country in South Asia, with a rich cultural history despite being nearly constantly embroiled in conflict. The nation is bordered by Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and China.

The capital city and most populous area in Afghanistan is Kabul, the two official languages are Pashto and Dari, and the currency is an Afghani (not to be confused with Afghans, which is the name for the people of Afghanistan). 

GDP is this struggling country was $502 in 2019 - for context, the average GDP per capita in developed states is $46,000. 


Skyscrapers in Tehran, Iran. Image credit: Vanchai Tan/

Iran, formerly Persia, officially changed its name in 1935. With archaeological and historical records dating Iran to 4,000 BCE, it is one of the oldest continuous civilizations on the planet. The capital city of Iran is Tehran, which means “warm slope” and is home to approximately 9 million people. 

Irans economy is largely centered around oil production, and the state holds approximately 10% of the worlds’ oil reserves. 

According to the World Bank, GDP in Iran in 2019 was $5,520 per capita.

The Countries Of South Asia

NumberCountryCapitalArea (km2) (%Share)Population in thousands (2019)Density (per km2)Nominal GDP (in millions) (2019)GDP per capita (2019)HDI (2018)
1AfghanistanKabul652,230 (12.7%)38,0428.3$18,734$5130.496 (low)
2BangladeshDhaka147,570 (2.87%)163,0461,104.9$317,465$1,9060.614 (medium)
3BhutanThimphu38,394 (0.75%)76319.8$2,842$3,4230.617 (medium)
4IndiaNew Delhi3,287,263 (64.02%)1,366,418415.6$2,935,570$2,1720.647 (medium)
5MaldivesMalé298 (0.006%)5311,781.8$5,786$15,5630.719 (high)
6NepalKathmandu147,181 (2.87%)28,609194.3$29,813$1,0480.579 (medium)
7PakistanIslamabad796,095 (15.5%)216,565245.8$284,214$1,3880.560 (medium)
8Sri LankaColombo65,610 (1.28%)21,324325$86,566$3,9470.780 (high)

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