The Milankovitch paradigm links the timing (phase) of ice volume minima to summer insolation maxima in the hemisphere where ice volume dominates; consistent application of this paradigm dictates that Pliocene ice volume minima should lag Southern Hemisphere summer insolation maxima. We infer the magnitude of this lag on the basis of the phase relationship between equatorial sea surface temperature and benthic δ18O. We infer that Pliocene δ18O minima should lag obliquity maxima by 19° (2.2 ka), broadly consistent with the current global marine δ18O chronology, and precession maxima by 32° (2 ka), a difference of 160° (10.2 ka) relative to the current global marine δ18O chronology. Only in the context of this revision are Pliocene summer and winter monsoon phase relationships consistent with direct orbital forcing across the entire Indo-Asian region, including marine and terrestrial proxies from the Chinese Loess Plateau, the South China Sea, and the Arabian Sea. Strong Pliocene summer and winter monsoons were in phase with one another, strengthened at obliquity minima and precession minima; the summer monsoon was also strengthened at precession maxima, yielding a semiprecession spectral signal. Strong Pliocene monsoons at orbital extremes indicate a direct response to fast physics processes including sensible heating and cooling of the Asian landmass and, for the summer monsoon, the export of latent heat from the southern Indian Ocean. As Northern Hemisphere ice volume grew into the Pleistocene, the timing of strong winter and summer monsoons drifted apart becoming influenced by the combined effects of fast physics and slow physics (ice volume) variables. The phase of strong winter monsoons shifted toward ice maxima, and the phase of strong summer monsoons shifted toward ice minima.