Colonialism ended up on paper when politicians demarcated a path of bifurcation that separated citizens sharing a common culture and climate into a zone of conflict for vested political interests. People across borders can’t meet. Geopolitical strategists have coined the term ‘rival’. Governments across the border have initiated many ‘peace negotiations’ and ‘dialogues’ to continue the further- deepening diplomatic round-up of dissolving the disputes between two historical siblings.
Meanwhile, people across the Line of Control (LoC) have been witnessing an unending race of arms and ammunition that has killed thousands of civilians and defense personnel over the last 70 years. Both countries have their respective arguments and allegations, but the governments have continuously disseminated misinformation and lies to the people of the respective countries.
The contentions have now reached such a monumental height that our diplomatic negotiations ignore humanitarian concerns to arrive at a unanimous consensus over issues of disaster and climate crises. The governments can’t even work jointly across the border on the issue of climate change which is intensifying the risks of disaster.
The Indus Water Treaty has been the bright spot of the Indo-Pak relationship despite the countries always being at loggerheads due to long-running conflicts, wars and distress. India and Pakistan were separated in 1947, but the rules governing the sharing of water were made in 1960.
However, the Pakistan government has been accusing India of constructing heavy dams and other projects over the rivers in the west. India is a high riparian state and such ongoing projects over the rivers in the west are causing a reduction in the flow of water downstream. The Indian government, on the other hand, has denied such charges by reiterating that India has never betray the Indus Water Treaty, despite being involved in four wars.
Both countries are vulnerable to natural disasters like floods and droughts. Moreover, Pakistan is also one of the most ‘water-stressed’ countries in the world as mentioned by the Asian Development Fund in 2013. Climate change is posing a serious threat to the life and economy of the Himalayan ecosystem.
Everyone is aware of the deepening conflict between India and Pakistan. But, being a large country, India’s responsibility in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is well understood. India should realise that we need to build a progressive environment of trust and confidence on humanitarian issues. Only then will be able to explore a sustainable future ahead of the time-frame set by three major global agreements – the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sustainable Development Goals (between 2015 and 2030).
In the 14th Green Climate Fund Board Meeting in Songdo, South Korea in 2016, there was a conflict over the scaling up of a project called the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood risk reduction in the Gilgit and Chitral districts in northern Pakistan. Here, Pakistan accused India of infringing on a major humanitarian project. India sorely needs to avoid such conflicts when after all, such projects are meant to prevent climate change-induced glacial lake outburst flood occurrences in northern Pakistan. In my opinion, it can do so by strengthening institutions and policy recommendations.
India should look into its ties with Pakistan in the field of climate change, apart from the lens of carbon emissions. Climate change is severely affecting the farmers and marginalised people of the two nations. Pakistan should also understand the relevance of India being a close neighbor. We are not only neighbors – we are also siblings.
Better relationships will help to ease tensions across the border. India should work on the major Sustainable Development Goals jointly with Pakistan. They can also deal with issues of water, sanitation and health together. Pakistan should also realise that India can play a vital role in making Pakistan a water-surplus economy in the future.
The countries also need to work on a comprehensive joint mechanism to counter climate change and reduce disaster risks. There is an urgent need to protect, preserve and safeguard the Himalayan ecosystem. Therefore, it is high time that we stop violence and the arms race and create an environment where people can travel across the border without fear or secrecy.
Ideally, we should be able to cross each other’s territories like birds without restrictions. Alas! The terms we have coined like ‘cross-border terrorism’, ‘surgical strike’, ‘nuke threats’, etc. are also hindering our efforts at preventing climate change.
Every year, there is a huge loss of life and economy in India and Pakistan. This loss is much higher than the other costs of the conflict. It’s ironical that two countries vulnerable to disaster risks and economic depletion have been engaging in a dispute over a part of land for decades. Setting political differences aside, let’s join hands in combating climate change and in reducing disaster risks.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.