24.11.2023 Author: Abbas Hashemite

Pakistan’s Geostrategic Conundrum

Geography plays a significant role in shaping the destiny of the country. All the countries have to formulate their policies and relations according to their geographic and geostrategic needs. Pakistan is no exception. The country appeared on the globe on 14th August 1947 in the South Asian region. In the north of the country lies the rising superpower of the world, China. On its Eastern border lies the rising economies of the region and the world, and its arch-rival, India. Pakistan shares its Western border with one of the most unstable and chaotic countries in the world, Afghanistan. On the South-West of Pakistan lies Iran, a sanctioned country by the West and the United States. Pakistan’s geostrategic location enables it to become a bridge between South Asia and Central Asia.

Throughout history, Pakistan has been a prisoner of its geography. The country inherited an arch-rival, India, from the very first day of its inception. Pakistan inherited much less resources and weapons than India after the partition of the Indian Subcontinent. This economic and security need of Pakistan coerced the country to join the Western bloc during the Cold War and posed it against one of the greatest powers of the time, the Soviet Union. Pakistan played a key role in the region as a non-NATO ally of the United States. Pakistan paid a huge cost for this alliance with the United States and enmity with the Soviet Union. In 1971, its Eastern wing disintegrated as a result of Pakistan’s war with India, in which the United States left the country to its own against a much larger enemy by abjuring the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement signed in 1954. Pakistan had to develop Nuclear weapons to create a balance of power against India.

Pakistan’s security and economic needs along with its geostrategic location once again pushed the country to join the US-led War on Terror (WoT). The United States forced Pakistan to join this war by providing only two options: either with us or against us. Pakistan was left with no other choice than to join the US in this war. An era of destruction and terrorism in Pakistan commenced in the country due to this move. The cost incurred by Pakistan in 20 years of this war is more than $150 billion and more than 70000 lives. There have been hundreds of suicide attacks in Pakistan due to its inclusion in the War on Terror. Due to its geostrategic significance, the country became dependent totally on aid received from the West instead of focusing on promoting entrepreneurship and developing industry in the country. This dependence of Pakistan on US aid prevented the country from yielding the benefit of its proximity to the fuel-rich Persian Gulf, where 65% of global oil is produced. On the other hand, Bangladesh, which has less significant geography, has avoided involvement in the geostrategic issues and conflicts following them. It witnessed economic growth and technological advancement, by taking inspiration from its neighboring East Asian countries, in the time when Pakistan was fighting proxy wars for the United States.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s geostrategic location is also deemed as a gift to the country by God. It could help the country rise economically by collaborating and cooperating with the regional powers. In the words of Stephen P. Cohen, in his book The Idea of Pakistan, “While history has been unkind to Pakistan, its geography has been its greatest benefit. It has a resource-rich area in the north-west, people rich in the northeast.” Pakistan can provide a route for trade between India and Afghanistan. The collective trade potential between the three countries is predicted to be $20 billion.

The Arabian Sea lies in the South of Pakistan. The country is developing Gwadar Port with the collaboration of China on the Arabian Sea. Gwadar Port is situated near the Strait of Hormuz, which is also known as the International Highway of Oil, witnessing almost 70 percent of global oil transportation. The port possesses the ability to accommodate almost 2,00,000 tons of supertankers. Pakistan and China are also developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to benefit from the Gwadar port. The port will decrease the travel time by 10 to 20 days and cost for China’s trade with Europe and the Middle East as the route will be shortened by 3000 to 10000 km. It would also help China to secure its trade from its rivals in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Pakistan’s geostrategic location also enables it to provide a transit route to the Central Asian Republics through the Gwadar port. It will decrease the trade route distance by 50 percent in comparison to Iran.

Pakistan also holds the potential to connect the South Asian region with the resource-rich Central Asian countries. Pakistan can provide a transit route to both the regions through Wakhan corridor. The Central Asian Republics can also fulfill Pakistan’s energy needs. Pakistan has already signed CASA-1000 and TAPI to fulfill its energy requirements. CASA-1000 connects Pakistan with Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. As per reports, Pakistan’s exports to Kazakhstan are increasing at an annual rate of 29.2 percent annually. As per the TDAP report, mutual trade between the two countries stands at $219 million, which is lower than their actual potential. Meanwhile, TAPI is also an energy-related project between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Pakistan has also signed multiple agreements and MOUs with Uzbekistan to amplify regional cooperation. Pakistan’s geostrategic location has negatively impacted the growth of the country throughout history. But the onus of this lies on the policymakers of the country, who failed to formulate pertinent policies to yield benefits of its location. Pakistan holds a huge potential to leverage from its location. However, it first needs to reassess its policies and establish strong ties with the regional powers. This will also help the country to earn a soft image throughout the region and beyond.


Abbas Hashemite – is a political observer and research analyst for regional and global geopolitical issues. He is currently working as an independent researcher and journalist, exclusively for “New Eastern Outlook”.

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