India Insight

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: a personal view of the water wars

 It was so long in the making,  so utterly predictable, that the news that Pakistan and India are now arguing over water carries with it the dull ache of inevitability.

When I was living in Delhi, which I left in 2004, a few analysts were already warning that the next war between Pakistan and India would be over water, rather than over Kashmir.  The mountain glaciers which fed the rivers which are the lifeline of both countries were melting, they said, and sooner or later India and Pakistan would blame each other for climate change. I did not take it that seriously at the time. Not even after seeing first hand how far the Siachen glacier - the world's longest glacier - had receded.  

Nor indeed did it properly register after talking to an Indian sherpa who had led the first Indian military expedition to Siachen in 1978 in what India considers part of its own Ladakh region  At the time, Ladakh was much colder, he said, and the snow on the glacier came right down into the valley. It had receded in recent years because of global warming, exposing the black tracts of scree I had scrambled up during my trip there. “It was like a beautiful road coming right down from K2,”he said, , “black moraine on either side.” There was nothing, and nobody there.

From the records of the India Office of the British Library, I unearthed an account written by the American explorer Fanny Bullock-Workman of her own travels in Siachen in 1911-12 -- so little consulted nowadays that the pages of her book began to come away in my hands.  She suggested that Siachen had been receding back in her days too,  so I was able to put the ebb and flow of the glacier down to natural changes in the climate.

Then a few years ago,  I made the drive from Srinagar in Kashmir to Leh in Ladakh and -- dangerous as it is to extrapolate from one's own experiences - saw the impact of global warming first hand.

The spectre of climate change in Kashmir

Its striking beauty is not the only thing that hits you when you visit Kashmir valley.

Though it was the kind of paradise I had imagined, I didn’t know there would be so many shanty towns set in such picturesque locales.

As I travelled through Kashmir, the breathtaking views did make me breathless but so did the smoke and dust. 

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan’s missed opportunities on Kashmir

India and Pakistan aren't always bickering, including over Kashmir, the dispute that has defined their relationship over more than six decades. Away from the public eye, top and trusted envoys from the two countries have at various times sat down and wrestled with the problem, going beyond stated positions in the public and even teasing out the contours of a deal. In the end of course, someone's nerve failed, or something else happened and the deal was off.

Beginning 2004  and up until November 2007 India and Pakistan were embarked on a similar course and very nearly came to an agreement on Kashmir, says investigative journalist Steve Coll in an article for the New Yorker. Special envoys from the two countries met in secret in hotels in London, Bangkok and London to lay out a solution and after three years they were ready with the broad outline of a settlement that would have de-militarised Kashmir.

An abstract of the article  is here and the Washington Post  has a story on it.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

War clouds over South Asia

There is a strange dichotomy in Delhi at the moment. If you read the headlines or watch the news on television, India and Pakistan appear headed for confrontation - what form, what shape is obviously hard to tell but the rhetoric is getting more and more menacing each day.

Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani promised a matching response 'within minutes" were the Indians to carry out precision strikes against camps of militants inside Pakistan, whom it blames for the Mumbai attacks.

And as if they were doing a dress rehearsal, Pakistan Air Force jets have been flying over Islamabad and Lahore for the past two days, prompting one blogger  to report that some people had called up media outlets asking if the Indian Air Force was on its way.

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