The monsoon is one of the most important climatic phenomena: it promotes inter-hemispheric exchange of energy and affects the economical prosperity of several countries exposed to its seasonal seesaw. Previous studies in both the Indian and Asian monsoon systems have generally suggested a dominant northern hemispheric (NH) control on summer monsoon dynamics at the scale of suborbital-millennial climatic changes, while the forcing/response of Indian and Asian monsoons at the orbital scale remains a matter of debate. Here, six marine sediment cores distributed across the whole Arabian Sea are used to build a regional surface marine productivity signal. The productivity signal is driven by the intensity of Indian summer monsoon winds. Our results demonstrate the existence of an imprint of suborbital southern hemispheric (SH) temperature changes (i.e. Antarctica) on the Indian summer monsoon during the last glacial period that is generally not recognized. During the last deglaciation, the NH played a more significant role. This suggests that fluctuations in the Indian monsoon are better explained in a bipolar context. The δ18O signal recorded in the Asian monsoon speleothem records could be exported by winds from the Indian summer monsoon region, as recently proposed in modelling exercise, explaining the SH signature observed in Asian cave speleothems. Contrary to the view of a passive response of Indian and Asian monsoons to NH anomalies, the present results appear to suggest that the Indo-Asian summer monsoon plays an active role in amplifying millennial inter-hemispheric asymmetric patterns. Additionally, this study confirms previously observed differences between Indian and Asian speleothem monsoonal records at the orbital-precession scale. © Author(s) 2013.