Transboundary Cooperation between India and Pakistan worth a try

Quest for peace and using common natural and cultural landscapes as vehicle for long term cooperation for socio-economic and ecological stability that goes beyond borders
Transboundary Cooperation between India and Pakistan worth a try
Representational Pic

Dr. Rajan Kotru

Dr. Rafi Ahmad

To protect the natural environment of Alps and augur the sustainable development of this region a Framework Convention - as part of the international treaty - involving the European Union and eight states came into force in 1995 with various implementation protocols and declarations to be adhered to ranging between population and culture, nature protection and landscape conservation protocols to mountain farming, forests and more. Having undergone a prior consultative process of almost two decades it is incomprehensible that this region four decades back prior to the convention was the site of World War II, which by very rough estimates killed between 35 to 60 million people and resulted into unaccounted number of disabled or wounded population apart from having costed over US$ 4 Trillion monetarily. Taking cue from Alpine Convention, the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians (7 Nation Carpathian Convention) entered into force in 2006. It is the only multi-level governance mechanism besides the Alpine Convention, the sub-regional treaty-based regime for the protection and sustainable development of a mountain region worldwide. Even here countries were part of the second world war and Hungary and Slovakia as its members fought long drawn war. Strategies and Actions, inter alia, for countering Climate Change have been gradually added to their portfolios. The common message of both the conventions can be taken as: Quest for peace and using common natural and cultural landscapes as vehicle for long term cooperation for socio-economic and ecological stability that goes beyond borders makes the “Common Sense”. Similar attempts have been made in Africa and elsewhere through Peace Parks, which according to IUCN (2015) are protected areas that include some different land uses within their boundaries.

The three primary goals of transboundary protected areas are usually the conservation of biodiversity, socio-economic development and the promotion of a culture of peace and cooperation. However, the identification and designation of Peace Parks by cooperating jurisdictions should include only those areas where the agreed management objectives explicitly recognize both a protected area and a no conflict zone. Nevertheless, Peace Parks' creation is a form of ecological diplomacy that is gaining prominence.

What cross-border countries are trying to do is to frame environmental degradation as basis for genuine cooperation. In other relevant context, we have seen that international treaties often achieve their purpose. The Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War with Great Britain in 1783, for example, begins with a preface that declares intentions of both parties to “forget all past misunderstandings and differences,” and “secure both perpetual peace and harmony.”

The Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace, signed in 1994, includes a preamble, which declares the “termination of the state of belligerency” between the two nations. Eco-Peace NGO is actually bringing stakeholders from Israel, Jordan and Palastine to revive the much degraded River Jordan Basin commonly affecting their lives and livelihoods.

With few wars, failed political capital to mend fences, long drawn cross-border infiltration behind us isn’t it time that we look for new ways of building trust, understanding, reconciliation and co-operation between India and Pakistan.

In the above conventions, peace parks and treaties, several warring countries have opted for sharing biodiversity and cultural resource management skills and experience, co-operative research and information management and promotion of more efficient and effective co-operative management programmes, and equitable and sustainable use of natural resources, consistent with national sovereignty. But in a more direct way can impending Climate Change impacts and diplomacy around it be used to trigger a rethinking among the political, military and civil circles in both countries that welfare of man and nature is of much greater significance than a piece of land that at the end belongs to planet.

If planet sinks, we sink much before. With Pakistan largely in the downstream when it comes to its geography, any natural disaster (e.g., floods in Five Rivers), climate change impact on water sources, deforestation and forest degradation and major land use changes in the upstream India, are bound to expose nature and common man in Pakistan to threatening times that have colossal consequences than the misplaced quest for the piece of land.

Coherence between climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction is a defining issue for disaster risk governance in the 21st century. Adaptation to climate change is central to disaster risk management at national and local level. No country on the earth is immune to the rise in climate-related disasters (UN Agency in 2020). Addressing climate change for our own survival and transforming conflicts in and around transboundary lands often changing transboundary conservation area design, from transboundary governance, to institutions and cross-border agreements has been tested. In this way, transboundary conservation areas can transition beyond symbolic aspirations towards operative positive peace-building.

Adriano Vinca et al (2020) analysing Indus basin countries maintain that Indus Basin countries need to increase investments to US$10 billion per year to mitigate water scarcity issues and ensure improved access to resources by 2050. These costs could shrink to US$2 billion per year, with economic gains for all, if countries pursued more collaborative policies. Downstream regions would benefit most, with reduced food and energy costs and improved water access, while upstream regions would benefit from new energy investments.

It is time that we start on border between India and Pakistan, people to people contacts across border (e.g. interface between school children, women and eco clubs, local common village markets, biodiversity hotpots joint conservation, etc.) in a testing phase of future transboundary cooperation. A moratorium on Kashmir for two years that controls cross-border problems and just tests peaceful phase of this period before taking over the conflict issue may seem utopian, but what else you can do to meet climate change triggered challenges.

Carnegie Endowment (2020) concludes that cost of having war was also immense for both countries, especially Pakistan, which has been trying to match India’s nuclear and military stockpiles – an exercise both expensive and unnecessary, given the country’s more pressing concerns. In a nutshell, it is time that common man’s miseries are addressesd than consuming energies in political wrangling.

Dr. Rajan Kotru, LEAD Strategist, Trestle Management Advisors

Dr. Rafi Ahmad, Member, Trestle Management Advisors

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