New geochronological and geochemical data on magmatic activity from the India-Asia collision zone enables recognition of a distinct magmatic flare-up event that we ascribe to slab breakoff. This tie-point in the collisional record can be used to back-date to the time of initial impingement of the Indian continent with the Asian margin. Continental arc magmatism in southern Tibet during 80-40 Ma migrated from south to north and then back to south with significant mantle input at 70-43 Ma. A pronounced flare up in magmatic intensity (including ignimbrite and mafic rock) at ca. 52-51 Ma corresponds to a sudden decrease in the India-Asia convergence rate. Geological and geochemical data are consistent with mantle input controlled by slab rollback from ca. 70 Ma and slab breakoff at ca. 53 Ma. We propose that the slowdown of the Indian plate at ca. 51 Ma is largely the consequence of slab breakoff of the subducting Neo-Tethyan oceanic lithosphere, rather than the onset of the India-Asia collision as traditionally interpreted, implying that the initial India-Asia collision commenced earlier, likely at ca. 55 Ma.