Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
Trickle Down From The Last Straw

Courtesy of Climate Progress, some additional thoughts on the regional chaos that may emerge in South Asia if the Kashmir glaciers in the Himalaya continue to melt.  Since we blogged earlier about Stephen Faris’ original report in Foreign Policy that focuses focusing on Pakistan’s unsustainable dependence on Kashmiri waters – a dependence that only exacerbates the long-standing historical, cultural, and religious animosity between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir territory, we wanted to note the following conclusion of this analysis:

“…While the United States regulates the Rocky Mountains’ complex cyclical water flows with a series of dams, an infrastructure-based solution remains unrealistic for Kashmiri waters because the province is so disputed. If Pakistan and India co-develop and share a dam, the infrastructure could be used as a weapon during a flare-up of hostilities. One or both of the countries could try to induce flooding or block essential waterflows; meanwhile, neither side is likely to cede their land claims anytime soon.

However, climate change might just be the external threat that forces these nations to settle their Kashmir dispute. The food shortages and water scarcity crises that will soon already plague much of the planet could feasibly force both developing and developed countries, and Pakistan and India specifically, into constructive and cooperative agreements. By necessity, nations will need to work together or collapse under the weight of climate-based resource burdens – this is the future of foreign policy realism.

If cooperation fails to occur over Kashmir, then what happens next? Pakistan won’t just ignore the water flow issues – the government already dedicates thousands of troops to guard Pakistan’s limited wheat supplies, made scarce by (you guessed it) water shortages. And though Pakistan’s democratic institutions remain questionable, grain and water were in fact contentious election issues in 2008. The problem is not going away.

Pakistan, particularly, has a long history of state-sponsored low-intensity conflict in Kashmir, and this will likely continue in some form. Beyond that, any escalation in the region is purely speculative: especially considering that each side possesses nuclear arms, who can predict how the established political and social intensity of the Kashmir issue – incredible as it already is – will interact with the addition of mass water and agriculture shortages? Hopefully, no one will have to.

It’s easy in the West to get so distraught by the effects of climate change in our home countries and so distracted by our domestic policy battles that we often skip over how climate change could simply drive two nuclear powers to war. “The Last Straw” ends on a common-sense note: “If the rivers of Kashmir have the potential to plunge South Asia into chaos, the most effective response might be to do our best to ensure the glaciers never melt at all.”

Preventing outrageous levels of warming “might be” the most effective response? Clearly, we don’t have any constructive alternatives.”

This entry was posted on Monday, July 13th, 2009 at 12:17 pm and is filed under India, Pakistan, Tibetan Plateau.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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