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.