Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Another journalist mucking up South Asia's geography

It seems that I always have the opportunity to write one post a year answering some journalist's analysis of South Asia.

This year's winner (maybe every year's winner...) is Robert Kaplan who's written an article on FP entitled "What's Wrong with Pakistan."

As usual, a journalist can appear to have done his or her research simply by providing a scant analysis of historical depth - in this case going back to the the days of Harappan. Yet for all the posturing they miss the big points. Kaplan completely neglects to mention that Bangladesh was once part of Pakistan. Perhaps he did forget since that would undermine his assumption that "Pakistan...does have geographical logic." I may have been asleep for my political geography class, but any child will tell you that attempting to govern land when another state lies in between for hundreds if not thousands of miles is ludicrous. That's not "geographically logical." In fact, there's no such thing as a geographically logical border.

At any rate, Kaplan betrays a well-known "western" bias in only examining the Ganges and Indus systems, why doesn't anyone talk about the Brahmaputra? Others have pointed out that the Bengal province of the Mughals and British Raj were the jewels in the crown, why else would the Mughals have expelled so much capital and manpower kicking out the Arakanese?

Second, Kaplan apparently wants to promote Islamophobia by insinuating the Muslims "conquered" and that Pakistan is the "very geographical and national embodiment of all the Muslim invasions." We should remember that Islam also spread peacefully throughout South Asia (and the world) through trade and contact with the Sufis. Considering that this phenomena typically predates military conquest (you can't conquer something if you a.) don't know about it or b.) don't know its value), Kaplan is presenting a VERY distorted view of history.

Third, Kaplan's whole Indian monsoon thesis/book is old hat. Enterprising readers are directed to "The Indian Ocean: Its Political, Economic, and Military Importance" (1972, Cottrell, Burrell, eds.)

To be continued...

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