The Five Themes of Geography
The Five Themes of Geography

Mentor’s Comment:
This type of question in Paper One of GS is quite common and they combine some aspects of India like culture, society, religion with the geographic spread of our nation.

Start with an introductory paragraph regarding the first statement as in how geography influences human life in general and then in the same para jump to the linkage between physical geography and politics of India.
In the main body, you have to discuss how various geographical features like borders of India, location of natural resources, access to ports, the designation of voting districts, isolation of tribal units due to tough geographical terrains, political divisions created by vindhyas, regional political aspirations due to certain geographical features like raw resources or sharing of river water etc are a few of the many geographical factors that affect politics and a greatly influences its national as well as international policies and political institutions.

One other way to approach this answer is that you can also divide the answer into how these geographical features affect polity in terms of centre-state relations, government-people relations and international relations. The points will remain mostly same, only the sub headings will be changed.

This is going to be a large answer because of its various dimensions. So try to write bullet points or better flowcharts. Point to remember is that the question is asking about contemporary Indian politics. Therefore don’t lose focus in discussing ancient political system and geography in great lengths. Just a short mention and move to the main answer.

Geographical and physical conditions greatly affect the character, the national well-being of the people, and their political thinking. Physical geography is a key component in many political decisions and actions. The borders of countries, location of natural resources, access to ports, and the designation of voting districts are a few of the many geographical factors that affect politics. It is true that geographical location is a major factor in moldings the fortune of every State, and it greatly influences its national as well as international policies and political institutions.

Right from ancient times, physical geography played an important role in Indian political system. For example, the Aryan civilization could not exercise much influence on the Deccan. Likewise, in the Far South the non-Aryans language, customs, and ideas continued to dominate. The northern India, the Deccan Plateau, Peninsular plans and the Ghats-all possess special political and social characteristics of their own, which are quite distinct from each other.

Physical geography played part in the divisions of states and further divisions of states into districts.
Once the federal nation-state comes into being and national freedom became a reality, the regional sentiments and demands also manifest and assert themselves.
These sentiments and demands were based on the geography of the area like sharing the natural resources, water resources, connectivity to the mainland through modern modes of transport and communication, preservation of certain local traditions and customs etc.
Historically, northern Indian cities were situated on banks of rivers with fertile plains conducive to farming. It increased the population density of the region compared to its southern and eastern counterparts.
States of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (through which Ganga passes) have combined population of almost 280 million people and hence the highest component of seats in the Parliament.

India’s geographic reality; a lack of imposed boundaries, the immense population and the dynamic of a central government facing a vast geographic region; has created localized systems that shift constantly, resist central authority, and ultimately cannot be organized into a coherent whole, by a central government alone.
Therefore, we see strong regional parties and assertive state governments.
India’s internal divisions are defined by its river systems: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Narmada and so on. All of India’s major cities are centered around one of these river systems, a fact that has been instrumental in the rise of so many distinct political cultures in India.
Based on the physical features of the subcontinent and the communication system, it is to be noted that while the main river basins constituted the areas of attraction, the tribal regions constitute the areas of retardation.
The access to certain areas has been so difficult that they have remained completely cut off from the rest of the country. The vast sandy deserts, the un-penetrable forests and high ranges of mountains have provided shelter to the primitive tribes who were driven away from the plains. Thus their political inclusion in the national politics became difficult.

As these areas could not be easily approached the primitive tribes continued to evolve their own political culture, which is in existence even today. 6th schedule of Indian constitution is testimony to it.
The natural division through Vindhya ranges has been responsible for two separate histories of the north and south. This has also to a large extent kept South India immune from the political turmoil of the north.
States like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have developed to become one of the India’s most important entrepot states, because it has the backings of an ideal geography—an abundance of seawater. It has helped them the political bargaining powers with respective central governments.

Physical geography introduces significant pressure points on a India’s political development. For instance, the simmering river dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka clearly has geographical groundings.
The people who live in the prorupted part of the India (North East and Islands of Andaman, Lakshadweep) are far away from the rest of the country. Therefore, communications to them can be difficult. Information may reach them later than in the rest of the country which causes political problems.
Physical geography features were the highlight of major Indian International Borders with its neighbours. Features like mountains, rivers, deserts were used for identifying the boundary of India. Therefore, these bordering states have different political relation with Union of India politically and government of India is more involved and present through its agencies in these border states than other inward states of India.

Considering the totality of the geographical processes discussed above, the essential feature of the social geography of India appears to be the symbiotic relationship between centripetal and centrifugal forces in the Indian polity, producing a delicate balance of unity in diversity. Therefore, it is no overstatement to say that geographical phenomena always plays a major role in measuring the purpose of national policies and to some degree the character of the political institutions of any area in India.

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