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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:54 GMT
Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan is located in South Asia and is bordered by Iran, Afghanistan, China and India. To the north are the Himalayan Mountains, which branch off into the Hindu Kush range. To the southwest is the vast Balochistan Plateau, which is arid and sparsely populated. In the south is the Thar Desert and a 650-mile coast along the Arabian sea. The Indus River begins in the Tibetan Plateau and cuts through the country’s eastern half. The river nourishes the fertile plains of the Punjab, the country’s populous core region and its political and economic heartland. Pakistan’s primary geographic challenge arises from its borders, which do not correspond to natural geographic boundaries. The modern borders of Pakistan were created in 1947, when the nation was carved out of the Muslim-majority northwest and northeast portions of India. The countries have fought three wars since independence, and each claims the territory of Kashmir. Bangladesh, then known as “East Pakistan,” gained independence from Pakistan in 1971 with India’s help. This reinforced the notion within Pakistan that India was an existential threat. Pakistan has long sought to gain influence in Afghanistan, both to secure strategic depth and to prevent Kabul from falling into New Delhi’s orbit. On the west, the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan — called the Durand Line — has remained contentious since the British created it in 1893. Kabul claims that Afghanistan’s true boundary runs deep into Pakistan to absorb the Pashtun tribal belt divided between both countries. The mountainous terrain has made the region difficult to govern, ensuring that the border remains porous.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:30 GMT
United States
United States
The United States encompasses territory spanning from the Arctic Circle and Central Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico and the North Atlantic. The Greater Mississippi Basin is the United States' core and serves as the underpinning of its role as a global superpower. The basin hosts an extensive network of navigable rivers that overlay the world's largest contiguous piece of arable land. This naturally interconnected river system facilitated integration among settlers and allowed for cheap transport of goods, providing the United States with the ability to feed itself efficiently and rapidly build up industry and capital to expand west. The Midwestern core gave early America strategic depth, while an expanding U.S. coastline, naturally indented with deep harbors, provided its opening to the world. After reaching the Pacific coast in the mid-19th century, the United States found itself insulated by two oceans. On the continent itself, geography again has worked in the country's favor: lakes to the north and deserts to the south insulate the United States' population centers, with both Canada and Mexico facing too many natural constraints of their own to seriously rival it. This unparalleled level of wealth and protection gives the United States options that few to no countries can claim. For one, the United States has used its wealth and security to build up the world's largest navy. Control of the world's major sea-lanes gives the United States the power to facilitate or deny trade to allies or rivals of the day. The onus therefore is on the United States to carefully manage its engagements abroad and build up strategic allies to protect its overseas interests and preserve its strength at home.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 16:41 GMT
Iceland
Iceland
Iceland is an island country situated at the confluence of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Most of Iceland’s terrain is uninhabitable. The island's interior, known as the Icelandic Highlands, is a combination of glaciers, volcanoes and lava fields. Two thirds of Iceland’s 320,000 inhabitants live in the lowlands surrounding Reykjavik, the country’s capital and largest city. Protecting Reykjavik (Iceland’s core) is the country’s main strategic imperative. The Icelandic economy historically depended heavily on fishing, which still provides 40% of export earnings. In recent decades, Iceland's economy has diversified into manufacturing, service industries and finance. Balancing its isolation with external economic integration is Iceland’s primary geographic challenge. Iceland has especially strong cultural and political ties with the other Nordic countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, because the island was under the rule of the Norwegian and Danish monarchies between the 13th and 20th centuries. Iceland became independent in 1918, and a republic was declared in 1944. Iceland's location also makes it geopolitically significant for Europe, particularly in light of the growing relevance of energy resources in the Arctic area. Moreover, Iceland’s location in the so-called GIUK (Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom) gap is strategic for naval military operations in the North Atlantic. Because of its geographic isolation, Iceland has to make a constant effort to keep strong economic ties with the rest of the world. The country therefore has to continuously reach a balance between maintaining independence and fostering deep ties with its eastern or western neighbors. The population's indecisiveness concerning Iceland's EU membership reflects that struggle.
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SITUATION REPORTJan 22, 2020 | 16:33 GMT
South Asia: Trump Holds Separate Meetings With Khan, Ghani
U.S. President Donald Trump held an hourlong meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, where both discussed a range of issues, including the Afghan peace process, boosting bilateral trade and the Kashmir dispute, Voice of America reported Jan. 21. Trump also met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to discuss the country's security situation.
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