Pakistan and the revenge of geography

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 02.11.16

Geography is still the final determinant of a country’s success is the central theme of the
book,
The revenge of geography: What the map tells us about coming conflicts and the
battle against fate
, written by Robert D Kaplan, and published in 2013 by Random House.
Kaplan, who is a senior fellow at the Centre for a New American Security, and has twice
been named Top 100 Global Thinkers by the
Foreign Policy magazine, not only believes
that geography dictates but also that the dictates of geography are monopolistic in nature.
This op-ed intends to discuss his views on Pakistan.

On page 35, Kaplan writes: “Globalisation has itself spurred the rebirth of localism, built in
many cases on ethnic and religious consciousness, which are anchored to specific
landscapes, and thus explained best by reference to the relief map. This is because the
forces of mass communications and economic integration have weakened the power of
many states, including artificially conceived ones averse to the dictates of geography,
leaving exposed in some critical areas a fractious, tottering world. Because of
communications technology, pan-Islamic movements gain strengths across the entire Afro-
Asian arc of Islam, even as individual Muslim state themselves are under siege from within.

Take Iraq and Pakistan, which are in terms of geography arguably the two most illogically
conceived states between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Subcontinent, even as the
relief map decrees Afghanistan to be a weak state at best.” In this paragraph, the meaning
of conceive is not to imagine but to create or formulate. Here, Kaplan first refers to Pakistan
as an artificially conceived state, and then mentions Pakistan as one of the most illogically
conceived state. Unfortunately, nowhere in the book does Kaplan mention the reasons for
calling Pakistan an artificially and illogically conceived state. Erudition demands that Kaplan
should have qualified his statements in the book, leaving no space for the readers to
conjecture. However, seen against the background of the central idea of his book, Kaplan
might have tried to say that the creation of Pakistan was against the dictates of geography
understood only by him. In such cases, esotericism is a curse; exposition is a boon.

On page 243, Kaplan writes: “Founded in 1947 by Mohammad Ali Jinnah...Pakistan was
built on an ideological premise: that of a homeland for the Muslims of the Indian
subcontinent. And it was true, the majority of the subcontinent’s Muslims lived in West and
East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh in 1971), yet many tens of millions of Muslims
remained in India proper, so that Pakistan’s geographical contradictions rendered its
ideology supremely imperfect.”

In this paragraph, Kaplan opines that geographical contradictions produced by leaving tens
of millions of Muslims behind in India proper has rendered Pakistan’s ideology — a
homeland for Indian Muslims — absolutely imperfect. Kaplan seems to have not read the
history of the Indian subcontinent that tells a reader that Indian Muslims had been divided
into two halves. One half called Indian nationalist Muslims was against the division, while the
other half called Muslim nationalists Muslims was demanding the division of the Indian
subcontinent. The latter half got the country called Pakistan.

On the same page, Kaplan further writes: “The fact is that the subcontinent’s history of
invasions and migrations makes for a plenteous ethnic, religious, and sectarian mix. For
example, India is the birthplace of several religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and
Sikhism. Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians have lived in India for hundreds and thousands
of years. The philosophy of the Indian state accepts this reality and celebrates it; the
philosophy of the Pakistani state is far less inclusive. That is partly why India is stable and
Pakistan is not.”

In this paragraph, Kaplan acknowledges that the religious repertoire of the Indian
subcontinent was the most heterogeneous in the world, whether the religions were
indigenous or foreign. Further, he recognises that the geographical dictates or realities of
the Indian subcontinent cannot be seen in isolation from its religious heterogeneity.
However, what Kaplan has failed to realise is that when political realities were introduced
into the Indian subcontinent, the religious heterogeneity became more palpable and, in
many instances, inflammable. If the philosophy of religious heterogeneity tinkered with
political dissension had been realised by the Hindus, Jinnah would have found no reason to
present his famous 14 points in 1929 as a constitutional formula for socio-political
coexistence. India has still failed to submit to this reality, and this is the reason it has
dispatched its 600,000 — the number is unconfirmed — troops to its part of Kashmir to
quell the current uprising for securing the right of self-determination of Kashmiris, which is a
major challenge to the stability of India.

On page 243, Kaplan also writes: “Pakistan is the home of four major ethnic groups
[Punjabis, Sindhis, Baloch and Pashtuns], each harbouring hostility to others and each
anchored to a specific region ...Islam was supposed to have provided the unifying glue for
the state but it has signally failed in this regard.” This idea is extended further on page 246,
where Kaplan writes: “[T]he case can be made that with the slow-motion dissolution of the
former Soviet Empire in Central Asia, and the gradual weakening of the Pakistani state, a
historic realignment is now taking place that could see Afghanistan disappear on the
political map.”

Here, Kaplan expresses his belief that internal ethnic disharmony is undermining the unity
of Pakistan and that the disintegration of the former Soviet Union in December 1991 is
having a domino effect on Pakistan to get disintegrated. In this regard, Kaplan needs to
read the 18th Constitutional Amendment passed by the Parliament of Pakistan in April 2010
reinforcing the resolve of all four provinces representing the four major ethnicities to co-
exist and strengthen federalism and democracy in Pakistan, and thereby offering the
desired unifying glue — both written and reassuring — for the state of Pakistan.

Kaplan seems to be morbidly infatuated with the idea that geography is still the final
determinant of a country’s success, but the world, especially in the post-Cold War phase,
has stretched beyond the dictates of geography into political and economic realms,
disproving the monopoly of geography as a singular enforceable factor. Pakistan has also
been fast coming out of the geographical dictates and resorting to undertaking new politico-
economic alignments in the region. In short, Kaplan needs to educate himself on Pakistan’s
history and update his knowledge on Pakistan’s developmental trajectory, instead of
incessantly and despicably misinforming the world about Pakistan.

Back to columns in 2016