Where is pakistan located and how does its geography affect its political relationship?
Pakistan’s geographical position has been a critical factor in its political relationships with its neighbors since it gained independence in 1947. Originally part of British-ruled India, Pakistan stands on the western border of India and has its coast on the Indian Ocean. Afghanistan lies to the northwest of Pakistan, while China is to its northeast, and Iran straddles its western border. Pakistan’s thus finds itself in a very important geostrategic location, as it borders two of the most powerful states in South and East Asia (India and China), while its position next to Iran places it on the border of the Middle East and much of the world’s oil reserves.
Following the acrimonious partition of British India into Pakistan and India, the character of Pakistan’s relationships with other countries was shaped by its relationship with India. That relationship has always been severely strained, leading to three wars with India since independence and ongoing territorial disputes over regions like Kashmir. Because of its rivalry with India, Pakistan has sought to find allies to act as a counterweight to India’s greater military power, leading it to establish friendly ties with China and the United States. It was able to maintain a good relationship with China because the latter state has its own territorial disputes with India (that have also led to brief wars), and it has tried to use Pakistan as a brake on the growth of India’s regional clout. As a recent example of the Chinese-Pakistani strategic relationship, Pakistan allowed China to establish a naval base at one of its ports on the Indian Ocean, which is intended to serve as a restraint on the Indian navy.
Pakistan has also enjoyed a strong strategic relationship with the United States because of its position south of Afghanistan. When the former Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan in 1979, the U.S. sent arms to the Afghan resistance via Pakistan, leading ultimately to the defeat and withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989. The relationship was deepened by the existence of close Indian ties with the Soviet Union, since U.S. leaders saw the Pakistani government as being more willing to resist Soviet influence in the region than the Indian government. Pakistan’s relationship with the United States then began to deteriorate when the Al-Qaeda terrorist group arose out of the Afghan resistance, and it further deteriorated when it was learned that Al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, was hiding in Pakistan, possibly with the knowledge of the Pakistani intelligence services.
Because of its geographical location, Pakistan’s political relationships with its neighbors have been an important influence in regional and world politics, and it appears they will remain so into the foreseeable future.