India’s Geography Problem

India’s Geography Problem

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going to India is a bit of an anomaly on the world
stage. It’s a massive 1.2 billion person strong
country stretching thousands of miles tall and thousands of miles wide with one of the
most sizable economies in the world, but it was
never really destined to be a country… at least not in
its current form. Modern India looks like this. To the north-east the country is shielded
by the formidable Himalayas. This mountain range is nearly impenetrable
even for a modern army. China and India
have fought a few small skirmishes over border disputes in the region, but a full-scale land
invasion from either across the Himalayas would be difficult. China has control over Tibet—a
vast region lacking the infrastructure necessary for quick troop movement—while India remains
politically close with Bhutan and Nepal—two nations sandwiched between India and China. Largely because of this enormous mountain
range, India historically has not had many relations
with China—the other superpower of the region. Contact between the two countries today
remains cold due to their border disputes. Both countries claim this entire area and
every few years the dispute escalates—a dangerous
situation between two nuclear powers. You can’t even
drive from India to China due to this—there are no border crossings between them—but
for most there’s little reason to cross the border
as the two countries are vastly different culturally. As
mentioned, due to the mountain range they didn’t have much contact historically so
they each developed into what they are today independently. India’s longest border is with the ocean. Ocean borders are a bit of a double edged
sword. The ocean allows civilizations like India
fairly simple access to the world, but it also isolates. Some countries, like the UK, used oceans both
to grow their global power while also benefiting from the relative protection they give. Any military invading by water is at a significant
disadvantage to those defending so ocean borders were and still are a source of geographical
protection. India is also relatively isolated in distance
to other powerful countries so a defensive navy was never really necessary because the
country was never significantly threatened by sea. By water, they’re over 800 miles to the
Persian Gulf, about a two day boat journey, over 1,700
miles to Singapore, a four day boat journey, and nearly 3,500 miles to Hong Kong, over
a week’s boat journey. In fact, by boat, they’re really just as
close to the significant cities of eastern Asia
as Perth, Australia. Many of the other powerful countries of the
world developed into what they are today because of their proximity to other
centers of power. In Europe, if Portugal invented
something it would quickly spread to Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and all
the other nearby countries while India had to
go through its whole process of technological and
cultural innovation largely independently. India did have navies through history, but
they were never world-class and they never used them
to conquer lands far away. It was never their priority
as the leaders had their hands full already keeping their massive territory together. They also
didn’t have the need to colonize far-away lands as India itself really had all the resources
they needed. The UK, France, and Spain colonized partially
because they had large, developed populations within small areas lacking enough
natural resources to advance their country’s power. India was a highly developed and powerful
country historically and it just didn’t have the
need to go outside its region. This is part of the reason why India is so
culturally unique but it also may have put them at a disadvantage through
their historical development as they were not
exposed to some of the technological advancements of other civilizations far away. India’s north-west border is really the
problematic one. Back in the 19th and early 20th
century, India was ruled as a colony of the British Empire, but before the British came,
India was not truly a country but rather a loose collective
of regional powers. For example, in the 16th
century someone from this area would have never called themselves Indian—they were
Bahmani. With the British, this entire area was brought
under the rule of one central government that reported to the British crown. This entire area, with nearly a thousand different
languages, hundreds of different ethnic groups, and six
different major religions was grouped into the one
crown colony. Unsurprisingly, the British rule didn’t
last for long. After World War Two, the
nearly bankrupt crown folded to pressure and decided to give up the now unprofitable territory,
but the way they went about leaving the sub-continent has had far-reaching consequences. Many
of those in charge of the transition were followers of a theory that stated that the
diverse people of India were singularly differentiated by
their religion—not their ethnicity, language, or any
other commonality. The idea was that within India there were
two nations in the same territory— the Hindu one and the Muslim one. So, in what they believed was a step that
would reduce violence, those in power split the country
into two—India and Pakistan. The idea was that
Pakistan would be the country for Muslims, while India would be the country for Hindus. Over
the months following the partition, tens of millions of people crossed the border to settle
in the country for their religion and in the ensuing
violence up to a million people died. This whole plan was destined to fail. Pakistan was given land with few resources
and it was a country split in two. East Pakistan was separated from the capital
in West Pakistan by nearly 1,000 miles of hostile territory. To think that the two parts could exist as
one country would be absurd and, unsurprisingly, east
Pakistan eventually revolted and became an independent Bangladesh in 1971. India and Pakistan have been at odds almost
continuously since their partition. They have fought countless times and it’s
now almost engrained in culture for Indians to hate Pakistanis and vice versa. This is far from surprising given that the
two countries were created through concentrating the two
groups that were already at odds, but from an Indian
perspective, the border with Pakistan is a problem because it just looks like this. It’s open, flat,
and relatively sparsely populated compared to the Pakistani side largely because of this—the
Thar desert. The Thar desert pretty much ends right at
the border with Pakistan which means it’s easy for Pakistan to build up their military
infrastructure at the border while it’s hard for India. If
Pakistan invades India they would have to cross this desert which would be difficult,
but overall Pakistan has a greater advantage by having
a populated and inhabitable area on their side of the
border. This border is India’s greatest geographic
weakness and it has helped fuel the ongoing conflict. If there were a significant river or mountain
range or something in between these two countries, they might have been able to coexist,
but as of now, the India-Pakistan conflict seems
almost endless. As the two largest countries in the world
and neighbors, India is most commonly compared to China. In 1980 the two countries had nearly identical
GDP’s and over the past 50 years their populations have grown at similar
tremendous paces, but China has now taken the
lead as the more developed country with a GDP five times greater. But India’s economy is now
growing even faster than China’s. They’re benefiting hugely from one of the
greatest trends in business—outsourcing. Believe it or not, this success can even too
be loosely linked back to geography. The British came to India because of all the
natural resources it had, but their presence back then is part of the reason why
the economy is growing so fast today. There’s no
doubt that the British empire did a lot of bad to the country that has caused huge economic
damage, but during their reign English literacy got good and the country continues to excel
in the English language today. In fact, India is second only to the US in
number of English speakers at 125 million. Of course due to their enormous population
this is only 12% of their people, but businesses worldwide saw the opportunity presented
by a cheap labor market with such good english literacy. The first wave of outsourcing came as businesses
moved their accounting, human resource, and customer support operations
to India, but today India is benefiting from something different. India has become a major destination of software
development outsourcing as Indian developers can do much of the work
for a fraction of the cost of western workers. The
reason India is able to serve this industry is because the country has a lot of educated
people, but it also has a lot of uneducated people. India produces tons of really smart people,
but their educational system also lets many others fall
through the cracks. It’s an unequal system but it
means that the country has a big subset of its population that’s educated enough to
work medium-skilled jobs in English. This is unlike China which has a perhaps more
equal system that produces a huge population educated enough
to work low to medium skilled manufacturing jobs. Part of the reason India’s educational system
might be like this is because the country has
a lot of isolated rural areas. Transportation is very hard in this country
due to hostile terrain, lack of infrastructure, and a hugely dispersed
population. In fact, the entire country historically was
pretty much split into two by this hilly region halfway down the sub-continent. China, on the
other hand, benefits from a much more urbanized population which makes it easier to set up
a smaller number of better schools concentrated
in large cities. The urbanization level of a country
actually correlates very strongly with the quality of their educational system. All the least
urbanized countries like Chad, Afghanistan, and Burundi also have some of the lowest ranked
education systems. Of course correlation does not equal causation
since as a country develops economically it tends to urbanize, but it’s
doubtless that it’s easier to educate a population that’s
concentrated into large cities than spread out. Even the US hasn’t fully solved the problem
of how to educate a spread-out rural population
and there’s a huge disparity in quality of education
between big cities and small towns in America. Overall, in India, there are some great schools
in the cities, but the rural population is often
left behind with sub-par education. India is the country it is today because of
its geography. It inhabits an amazingly diverse
and resource rich area that has successfully been able to serve as home to well over a
billion people. The sub-continent developed into such a diverse
area because it’s always been hard to get around due to natural barriers and size. When the British came they tried to integrate
all the different nations into one country by building
up railway and road infrastructure, but still today
India is a country of nations. Much like the US they’ve created a federalized
government with different states each with a level of autonomy
acknowledging that a one-size-fits-all governance system can not work with so many people with
different ideals, issues, and wishes. The country
benefits hugely by having a favorable geography for agriculture which has allowed it to grow
into the second most populous in the world. Economically, its numbers are its assets. With so
many people, there has to be a good amount of highly educated people who can drive innovation,
serve as a workforce, and raise the development level for the entire country. As one of the fastest
growing economies in the world, the next ten to fifteen years will be crucial for India
and serve as a determination on whether it will be a
great developed superpower of the future or if it’s
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Comments (7)

  1. Islamic invasion destroyed India.

  2. INDIA Education System Is Worse, Corruption Is Over In Country

  3. First correct your knowledge. The british had looted india not united india

  4. If they had no contact how come Buddhism flourished in China,you are wrong and during ancient times there was ample communication along spiritual lines and monks Criss crossed the mighty Himalayas in search of spiritual nourishment.
    The communication block is relatively recent culprits being the British Raj and Chinese communism

  5. Pakistan was made to be muslim state.
    But India came into existence as secular country.

    That was so sweet to hear

  7. China and India had no trade !!
    My phone is a Realme
    My watch is Mi Band 3
    All Chinese Products

  8. Good analysis… but you have not considered the Navy of the Cholas in the south.. it almost had all the Sumatra , java archipelago as it's colonies

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