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Suchak Patel asked: What is the difference between ‘West Asia’ and ‘Middle East’ from the Indian perspective?

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  • Adil Rasheed replies: Indian academicians prefer to use the term West Asia and not the Middle East. The term Middle East may have made some geographical sense for British colonialists ruling from London, but that has lost relevance following the disappearance of the British empire after World War II. In fact, the term Middle East outside its vague colonial context does not specify the geographical region it refers to.

    The term Middle East originated with the British Foreign Office in the 19th century. The British divided the world from their country’s vantage point by coining terms like the Near East (the area closest to the United Kingdom), the Far East (which was east of British India), and the Middle East (which was between British India and the Near East). Even American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan used the term Middle East in 1902 to designate the area between Arabia and India. But with the collapse of the British empire the term lost its relevance.

    These days terms like South East Asia, North Africa, Eastern Europe, etc. are used. Sometimes, socio-cultural and political convergences between the territory covering North Africa and West Asia (which previously covered the region named as Middle East) is collectively called as WANA (West Asia North Africa).

    West Asia refers to countries west of Afghanistan to the westernmost part of Asia and with the exception of Israel, Turkey and Iran. The region has predominantly Arab-Muslim population.

    Posted on September 04, 2018

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