Pakistan: A Geographical Battlefield
22 December, 2011
By Ahmad Shaheen
Government of Pakistan and Armed forces have mutually decided to suspend NATO supply route from the country after a brutal attack by NATO forces in Mehmad Agency which caused the death of 24 Army men. After this incident people are talking about the significance of Pakistan's unique geography. Here we will try to get the basic knowledge and fact sheet about geography of Pakistan and its importance among other states. This debate has been started since the independence of Pakistan that what is the importance of Pakistan's geography.
Pakistan is considered as a colony of America these days and people says that 3rd world war is being fighting in this region as the area is focal point for all the big powers of the globe. Some analyst says it 3rd generation warfare. We will discuss that why Pakistan is considered so important in this context. We will put a light on historical facts as well that why Russia wanted to capture Pakistan and previously why different warriors used to come in this region. And in present time, why and how America is using Pakistan's geography for its purposes.
The geography of Pakistanis a profound blend of landscapes varying from plains to deserts, forests, hills, and plateaus ranging from the coastal areas of the Arabian Sea in the south to the mountains of the Karakoram Range in the north. Pakistan geologically overlaps both with the Indian and the Eurasian tectonic plates where its Sindh and Punjab provinces lie on the north-western corner of the Indian plate while Baluchistan and most of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa lie within the Eurasian plate which mainly comprises the Iranian plateau, some parts of the Middle East and Central Asia. The Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir lie mainly in Central Asia along the edge of the Indian plate and hence are prone to violent earthquakes where the two tectonic plates collide.
Pakistanis bordered by Afghanistan to the north-west and Iran to the west while the People's Republic of China borders the country in the north and India to the east. The nation is geo politically placed within some of the most controversial regional boundaries which share disputes and have many-a-times escalated military tensions between the nations, e.g., that of Kashmir with India and the Durand Line with Afghanistan. Its western borders include the Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass that have served as traditional migration routes between Central Eurasia and South Asia.
Pakistan has a varied topography that consists of the flat, Indus plain in the east and the Baluchistan plateau in the west. In addition, the Karakoram Range, one of the world's highest mountain ranges, is in the north and northwest part of the country. The world's second highest mountain, K2, is also within Pakistan's borders, as is the famous 38 mile (62 km) Baltoro Glacier. This glacier is considered one of the longest glaciers outside of the Earth's Polar Regions. The climate of Pakistan varies with its topography, but most of it consists of hot, dry desert, while the northwest is temperate. In the mountainous north though the climate is harsh and considered Arctic.
Pakistanis blessed with a huge number of natural resources. Pakistan's first oil field was discovered in the late 1952 in Baluchistan near a giant Sui gas field. The Sui gas field is the biggest natural gas field in Pakistan. The country also has big reserves of coal and salt mines.
About 28% of Pakistan's total land area is under cultivation and is watered by one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. The most important crops are cotton, wheat, rice, sugarcane, maize, sorghum, millets, pulses, oil seeds, barley, fruits and vegetables.
Pakistanis home to 108 peaks above 7,000 meters and probably as many peaks above 6,000 m. There is no count of the peaks above 5,000 and 4,000 m. 5 of the 14 highest independent peaks in the world (the eight-thousanders) are in Pakistan(four of which lie in the surroundings of Concordia; the confluence of Baltoro Glacier and Godwin Austen Glacier).
The Indus region, which covers a considerable amount of Pakistan, was the site of several ancient cultures including Indus Valley Civilization (2500–1500 BCE) at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
Waves of conquerors and migrants from the west including Harappan, Indo-Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Afghans, Arabs, Turks and Mughals settled in the region throughout the centuries, influencing the locals and being absorbed among them. Ancient empires of the East such as the Nandas, Mauryas, Sungas, Guptas and the Palas ruled these territories at different times.
However, in the medieval period, while the eastern provinces of Punjab and Sindh grew aligned with Indo-Islamic civilization, the western areas became culturally allied with the Iranian civilization of Afghanistan and Iran. The region served as a crossroads of historic trade routes, including the Silk Road, and as a maritime Center port for the coastal trade between Mesopotamia and beyond up to Rome in the west and Malabar and beyond up to China in the east.
In 712 CE, the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan in southern Punjab. The Pakistan government's official chronology states that "its foundation was laid" as a result of this conquest. This Arab and Islamic victory would set the stage for several successive Muslim empires in South Asia, including the Ghaznavid Empire, the Ghorid Kingdom, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. During this period, Sufi missionaries played a pivotal role in converting a majority of the regional Buddhist and Hindu population to Islam.
Now have a look on Geo-Strategic importance of Pakistan. Geo strategic means the importance of a country or a region as by virtue of its geographical location. Geo political is defined as, stressing the influence of geographic factors on the state power, international conduct and advantages it derives from its location. Stephen Cohn, a famous author describes this importance "While history has been unkind to Pakistan, its geography has been its greatest benefit. It has resource rich area in the north-west, people rich in the north-east." Pakistan is a junction of South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia, a way from resource efficient countries to resource deficient countries. The world is facing energy crisis and terrorism. Pakistan is a route for transportation, and a front line state against terrorism.
Pakistan has a unique geographical importance in the region. It is considered as a bridge between South Asia and South West Asia; Iran and Afghanistan are energy abundant while India and China are lacking of. China finds way to Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea through Karakorum. China with its fastest economic growth rate of 9%; is developing its southern provinces because its own port is 4500 km away from Sinkiang but Gawader is 2500 KM away. Pakistan offers to Central Asian Republics the shortest route of 2600 km as compared to Iran(4500 km) or Turkey(5000 km). Land locked Afghanistan now at the phase of Reconstruction, finds its ways through Pakistan. Gawader port with its deep waters attracts the trade ships of China, CARs and South East Asian Countries.
This matchless geography increases the political importance of the country as well. US interests in the regions to contain the Growing China, nuclear Iran, "terrorist"Afghanistan, and to benefit from the market of India. Security and Business are two main US interests in the region while Pakistanis playing a front line role against terrorism. Today the political scenario of the region is tinged with pre emption policy and US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, India's geopolitical muscles(new strategic deal with US) to gain the hegemony and to counter the 'The Rise of China' which has earned all the qualities to change Uni-polar world into Bipolar world. In all these issues, Pakistanis directly or indirectly involved, especially after Al Qaeda operations. Baluchistan and Tribal belt of Pakistan are posing threats to any economic project in the region. In stable governments in Pakistan have contributed in weakening the strong position.
The location of Pakistanis not only unique in the world but of special importance in South Asia. Pakistan links the east with the west. Let's have a look on some important neighboring countries of Pakistan.
There is 600 km long territory of Pakistan along the border of China. Both countries have political, cultural and trade relations with each other. A road through Gilgit and Hunza links Pakistan with China. This road has been made culling the hard rock's of mountain Karakoram. There is a close cooperation between the two countries in heavy machine industry and many other departments. Silk, cloth, machines etc are imported from China.
Pakistan has religious, cultural and economic relation with the Central Asian Islamic Countries. Pakistan is the only country that provides them the nearest sea route and transport facilities. These countries lie in the North West of the Pakistan. A short strip of "Wakhan" (controlled by Afghanistan) joins Pakistan with these states.
Afghanistan is situated to the West of Pakistan. When the English got the control of sub-continent, according to a pact with Afghanistan in 1893, the permanent border between the two countries was marked which is called Durand Line.
This line is about 2240 kilometers long with the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both countries have old religious, cultural and trade terms.
To the west of Pakistanis the border of Iran along province of Baluchistan. It is our Islamic brother's country. Iran was the first country which recognized the existence of Pakistan in 1947.Iran openly helped Pakistan during the wars of 1965 and 1971. Pakistan proves its friendship with Iran in every hour of need. Islamic revolution has come in Iran by the end of kingship. It has also better the relations with Pakistan.
India is a Hindu majority country in the East of Pakistan. There is a common border of 1600 kilometer in between these countries. Both countries are trying to solve their problems including Kashmir. Due to this enmity, wars of 1948, 1965 and 1971 have been fought between the two countries. In the last war, our one wing East Pakistan got separated from us due to this enmity. India is always busy in conspiracy by the cooperation of a super power despite of knowing that it is better for the welfare of both countries to develop pleasant terms
Arabian Sea is in Indian Ocean. Most of the trade between east and west is done through Indian Ocean. Pakistan through Arabian Sea is linked with the Muslims Countries of Persian Gulf. All of them are rich in oil. In Karachi Bin Qasim and Gwader are important seaports of Pakistan. In this respect South-East Asian Muslim countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Burunai Darussalam) and South Asian Muslim countries (Bangladesh,Maldives and Sri Lanka) are important. Pakistan has an important strategic position in the world.
By the help of all this data/facts and figures one can easily judge the importance and uniqueness of Pakistan's geography and location among other states. Pakistan has a unique and matchless locality that make it important and set it's position on the world scenario. Nature has gifted all the important elements to Pakistan. Pakistan has all four climates that make it perfect for agriculture. Pakistan's Arabian Sea is a gateway to make relations and do trade with entire world especially with the rich Arab countries. This is a chance from the nature to make Pakistan's economy strong by doing trade with other countries. Pakistanhas huge plans, vast deserts, high mountains and thick forests at same place. This unique attribute make it more important in the eyes of others. If Pakistan uses these all features sincerely, it can make progress by leaps and bounds.
Pakistan's natural resources are another important weapon which can be used for the progress and development of the country. Coal, Natural gas, Salt mines, Uranium and other resources yet need a lot of work to do, so Pakistan can take the benefits from them.
Pakistan's boundaries are attached with other important countries of the world. India is a huge country having an enormous population and Pakistan has historical disputes with it especially the Kashmir issue. Kashmiris reason of clash between both countries for its important geography as well. China is also a big country and considered as economic super power of the world. It is matter of luck that Pakistan has very good and friendly relations with this very country. The main reason is again Pakistan's geography; China is using Pakistan's port to connect with the other countries and moving ahead its trade. This thing also helps Pakistan to maintain good relations with China. Iran and Afghanistan are also very important countries of the region. America, the super power of this uni-polar world is physically appear in Afghanistan and has the eyes on Iran. So this situation again makes Pakistan important for the USA because it is immediate neighbor of both countries.
America has established its bases in Pakistan right after the 9/11 attacks. NATO and American forces are dependent on Pakistan for the supplies to continue the ongoing Afghan war. After suspension of the supplies, Pakistanis in a strong position to threaten the Allied forces in Afghanistan for its larger interests.
In short one can say that Pakistan has all the important elements from the nature and a unique geography that make it important for rest of the world. The only thing that we need is honest, visionary, brave and sincere leadership that can use this perfect position in a right way for the betterment of the country and its people.