The India-Asia collision has formed the highest mountains on Earth and is thought to account for extensive intraplate deformation in Asia. The prevailing explanation considers the role of the Pacific and Sunda subduction zones as passive during deformation. Here we test the hypothesis that subduction played an active role and present geodynamic experiments of continental deformation that model Indian indentation and active subduction rollback. We show that the synchronous activity and interaction of the collision zone and subduction zones explain Asian deformation, and demonstrate that east-west extension in Tibet, eastward continental extrusion and Asian backarc basin formation are controlled by large-scale Pacific and Sunda slab rollback. The models require 1740 ± 300 km of Indian indentation such that backarc basins form and central East Asian extension conforms estimates. Indentation and rollback produce ~260–360 km of eastward extrusion and large-scale clockwise upper mantle circulation from Tibet towards East Asia and back to India.