NEW DELHI: Pakistan is becoming harder and harder to govern and it may soon see its boundaries being redrawn as separatist movements continue to gather momentum, says Robert D Kaplan, one of the world’s highly reputed authorities on geopolitics, defence and foreign policy.
“It is unclear whether Pakistan can hold together as a state because you have these movements, the Baloch separatist movement, the Sindhi nationalist movement, etc, which make it harder to govern that country in the years ahead,” says the 60-year-old whose latest book ” The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate ” looks at how geography contributes to political upheavals.
I am looking ahead in the long range: the borders that separate Pakistan from Afghanistan and Pakistan from India need not be borders eternally,” says Kaplan, who as a journalist has covered several wars, right from the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s to the fall of the LTTE in Sri Lanka in 2009.
His work, ‘The Coming Anarchy‘, which, first published as an article in The Atlantic in the 1990s, had predicted how various factors such as scarcity, crime, overpopulation and disease could rapidly destroy the social fabric of our planet.
Kaplan adds “the fact that Pakistan, India and Afghanistan which share a history that goes back thousands of years are artificially separated is what has led to a lot of the tensions and a lot of the dynamics between them”.
INEQUALITY OF GEOGRAPHY
Kaplan, who over the years has written several books on conflicts around the world from the Balkans to Afghanistan has illustrated in his new book that the inequality of man is partially based on geography.
“Where we live, where human society is specifically located constrains them and, at the same time, offers many possibilities,” he says, emphasising that societies that have great rivers that are navigable, or that are near the ocean have a lot of advantages.
“People may be born equal, but where they live matter greatly regarding what happens to them.” In his previous book, ‘Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power’, Kaplan had argued that the India Ocean region was crucial in deciding the new balance of power in the world.
He had suggested that not just India, but the US also peacefully compete with China in countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Despite the economic slowdown which has battered the West, Kaplan doesn’t see the US staring at a fall or decline.
“I think American power may weaken in a relative sense. In an absolute sense, (thanks to the) discovery of shale gas deposits in the country, it will have an advantage compared with India and China, which are going to be heavily dependent on the Persian Gulf for energy supplies,” he says.
SHIFT IN FOCUS
Kaplan, whose ‘The Revenge of Geography’ largely focuses on Russia, China, Iran, India and the US, says he chose them over other countries to examine the relationship between geography and history because those are the main countries in Eurasia.
“Besides, these are countries that are large or have a large population. And they all influence greatly the countries around them,” he adds. He says Poland will emerge as a ‘very important’ country in the 21st century with Russia looking at ways to subdue neighbouring Ukraine.
“Poland also has shale gas deposits which could make it an energy producer in the 21st century.” About the Arab Spring, Kaplan says: “It started in Tunisia because it is the closest Arab country to Europe and yet it started in a part of Tunisia which was underdeveloped or suffered high unemployment …it quickly spread to many countries, including Egypt, because of the power of the social media and the Internet…it happened in different ways in each country…because of factors related to geography.”
CHINA, IRAN: EDGE & TROUBLES
“China has great possibilities to extend its influence from Far East to Central Asia and into South East Asia… however, geography is a disadvantage for the country, too, because in its Western and south western areas it has ethnic minorities that are not at all happy,” says Kaplan, who is working on a sequel to Monsoon.
The case of Iran is similar, he insists. “There is nothing artificial about Iran. Geography helps Iran the Iranian state even though you may not like it, even though there may be a lot of power struggle within it, it is still a state that is not artificial,” Kaplan declares.