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Book Review: Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall

By: Kainat Saif

Tim Marshall is a british journalist, author and broadcaster and is famous for his analysis of developments in foreign news and diplomacy. In the book “PRISONERS OF GEOGRAPHY” through 10 maps of influential regions he explained how geography plays an important role in governing international relations; militarily, strategically, economically and diplomatically. By the very definition of geography it is ‘Physical features of earth’ for example River, seas, mountains, Climate etc. The aim after calling regions as prisoners of geography is to liberate people about how world events and human choices are bound by geography.

He looked into Russia, China, USA, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America, and The Arctic to discuss how their physical features i-e geography shapes not only their National Action Plans but also their foreign policies.

Strengths as well as Weaknesses both are determined by geography for example China and India both neighbors, not politically or culturally aligned but highest mountain range in the world is the reason that keeps them away from fighting. It is practically impossible to advance a large military through or over the himalayas.

To talk about Russia it is the vastest immense. Bear is the widespread sign for its giant size. It’s a russian word too, meaning ferocious but they call it medved meaning: “the one who likes honey”. The chapter on russia talks about world-war events, the role of NATO, and Ivan the great. It also explains about the dreams of Russians to take advantage of Indian ocean hence the Invasion in Afghanistan. For years Russians controlled the central heating of many homes until Britain stepped in. Before that, Russia was the second largest second to us, largest producer and Supplier of natural gas.

Americans are always envious from chinese. The book elaborates the history of china and chinese, Conflicts of china mainly with India and America. Economically, China is dominating the world’s markets through a principle “we will make the stuff for cheap – you buy it for cheap”. This not only dominates them in the world by generating revenues but also creates a lot of employment opportunities for its people.China is well deserved upcoming or what we may say is an emerging superpower in the world.

The US is blessed in terms of location on the earth if not perfect for sure bestest. The Chapter on America enlightens us with Importance of Mississippi, fertility of lands, security of the US, and relationship of the US with different countries. Americans also considered cuban missiles as their victory. Not only this America claims to become self-sufficient in energy with an additional amount to supply it in different regions. The concept behind Americans being called as “friends” was cleared, how american policies work based on interests only or more apt to say “vested interests”.

Western Europe being a more innovative region because of their favourable geographical conditions to supply them with enough food, they were proved to be creative. This chapter includes post WWII events, Relationship of Germany with Britain, Swedish Defence System, France fears of Germans and vice versa, Imigration of Refugees, European Convention on human rights and much more.

To talk about Africa, Not its single region is free from corruption hence destruction everywhere. Africa is larger than is portrayed on maps. Africa’s isolation from its own region and outside world is the second biggest reason after corrupt and malpractices of leaders behind its poverty. There are 56 countries in Africa, all poor and underdeveloped. This chapter talks about domestic and foreign exploitation of Africa’s natural resources, stealing and corruption, ‘Africa’s World War’ (Congo Wars), Conflicts and UN’s Peacekeeping missions, Malaria and Africans, political tensions and China’s developing projects in Africa.

The Middle East covers the Shia sunni aspect and reasons behind conflicts, artificial borders, Sykes Picot, coup D’etat in different regions, Formation of Al-Qaeda, Daesha and other non-state actors, Israel’s Air strike over Iran’s Nuclear project and Munich Agreement.

“India and Pakistan can agree on one thing: neither wants the other one around” aptly pointed out by Marshall. This chapter was filled with Pak-India Relationships with their neighboring countries, major wars, comparison of both, Formation of Dhaka, Secularism of India and democracy in Pakistan and Kashmir issue.

Tim marshall drew a comparison between north and south Korea. He also tells the reason why America threw bombs over Hiroshima and nagasaki. Moreover, relationships between Tokyo and Seoul are also explained.

Latin America’s old culture of powerful landowners, Drug Mafia in Mexico, diseases and dilapidated conditions, and isolation among internal regions are explained. It also talks about developments in Brazil, Chile, Argentina etc.

The arctic has more imaginary problems than real and indeed hard to tackle. This chapter is all about its mythical passage from arctic to pacific, common heritage of mankind and ice melting.

it’s time to put the ‘geo’ back into geopolitics. As rightly said by Micheal Palin:

“Geography is a subject which hold the key to our future”

The writer is a law student and can be reached at [email protected]

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