Please note I am not trying to be offensive in this question. If I were to refer to people from China/Korea/Japan without specifying their country I would use the term "Asian" and likewise for people from Germany/France/Greece I would use the term "European".

However people who come from countries neighboring India such as Sri Lanka or Fijian Indians do not like to be classified as "Indian" because this would be similar to calling a Japanese person "Chinese". I understand why this would be offensive.

Is there a word to describe this type of group of people that doesn't assume their country of origin?

For example a colleague of mine wanted to say that they are the only person who isn't Indian in their team however although they look/sound like they could be from the same group of people the team is not made up entirely of Indians so it wouldn't be accurate to describe them as such.

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    '... from the subcontinent' (assuming they were born there). – Edwin Ashworth Jan 8 '18 at 22:34
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    In Britain, unqualified "Asian" usually means this. More precisely, "South Asian". – Colin Fine Jan 8 '18 at 22:41
  • Perhaps it's different where I am (NZ) we would use "Asian" almost exclusively to refer to east Asian decent. My colleague in this context for example was Chinese. So "I'm the only person in my team who isn't Asian" certainly doesn't fit the context required. – L3monsta Jan 8 '18 at 22:44
  • A counterpart, and a relative. – choster Jan 9 '18 at 1:27
  • The UN has a map that lumps countries into tidy regions. United_Nations_geoscheme – Phil Sweet Jan 9 '18 at 4:05

I'd have said South Asians. It's correct, but not necessarily widely understood.

Regarding your comment on the use of "Asian", it seems there are competing definitions of "Asian" in New Zealand:

One is racially based and includes only East and Southeast Asian peoples. It is commonly employed in popular discourse and by the media. The other construction includes peoples from East, South and Southeast Asia, but excludes peoples from the Middle East and Central Asia. This construction is recent and unique to New Zealand ...

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    This would be correct and fairly well-understood in the US, at least by most relevant audiences (Asian Americans of any origin, most folks in education, etc.). – 1006a Jan 9 '18 at 1:50
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    I tend to use South Asian as well, it rarely causes ambiguities and if it does it's pretty easy to elaborate (i.e. "South Asian as in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc."). An Indian friend of mine uses "Brown Asian" and "Yellow Asian". While it's nice and unambiguous, and solves the problem of 2 very different ethnic groups being given the same term, as a pasty white Brit I'm not going to be using that expression in the workplace!! I've also come across the term desi but I've never encountered it "in the wild" so to speak – Some_Guy Jan 9 '18 at 1:57
  • My sister-in-law is from London, her parents are from India. She refers to herself as British South Asian, so I go with that. – Rupert Morrish Jan 9 '18 at 2:24

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