Column – Sourajit Aiyar
Views expressed are entirely personal. Apologies for any unintentional offensive connotation
As the intensity and tenure of extreme cold wave increases each successive year in the subcontinent’s northern fringes, the region of Kashmir faces one of the worst brunt of this phenomenon of climate change. This phenomenon, which has forced Indians in northern cities like Delhi, Chandigarh and Shimla pack up as many as four layers of woolens, now poses a realistic solution to the decades-long Kashmir conflict.
What is India-Pakistan Kashmir conflict?
The dispute over Kashmir started right after the 1947 independence, which saw British India break into India and Pakistan. The rulers of the individual Princely states signed instrument of accession towards either country (or for independence). Pakistan comprised of British India’s Muslim-majority provinces, and hence it believed that Kashmir should have been part of it since the region was Muslim majority. However, Kashmir’s royal family was Hindu, and its Hindu king, Hari Singh, signed the instrument of accession towards India as it wanted India to intervene when tribal fighters from the west (Pakistan) started making advances towards Kashmir. Controversies and opinions have differed on both sides, and hence it was born one of the longest-running regional conflicts in the world, with both India and Pakistan occupying areas of Kashmir.
What is the current climatic situation in Kashmir?
However, the phenomenon of global climate change, where increasing heat is melting glaciers and increasing sea-levels in some places, extended periods of extreme cold weather freezing up other places, and changes in rainfall patterns causing extended drought in other places. As the intensity and length of the cold weather increases in the regions straddling the Himalayas and HinduKush, it is becoming increasingly difficult for locals to survive in such extreme conditions. More and more people prefer the option of migrating to warmer regions further south, rather than staying to face the harshness each year. Needless to mention, the freezing temperatures has also played havoc with crop production and cattle farming for the poor farmer communities in rural Kashmir, adding to their misery.
In such a challenging scenario, both separatists and Pakistan are allegedly reconsidering their continued claims. Separatists are reconsidering independence since the region itself does not have adequate resources to manage the challenges posed by the weather if it becomes independent. In short, independence might turn out to be an extremely expensive proposition for them. Similar worries are impacting Pakistan’s sentiments to call Kashmir part of its own, since the financial challenges of managing a region under extreme climatic stress is too much for a nation already reeling with domestic challenges in its provinces. Extended periods of extreme cold each year is also making China reconsider its plans to renovate its Xinjiang-Gilgit-Pakistan road infrastructure. Pakistan economy’s overt dependence on China has been believed to be an underlying reason for Pakistan’s claims to the region, since it would ease Pakistan-China connectivity. Hence many believe that as China’s interest wanes due to the high cost of constructing in the extreme weather in Gilgit and north-west Kashmir, Pakistan’s interest is also reducing as a whole.
So how Kashmir conflict will resolve?
In this situation, the continuance of the conflict might see an eventual end if the separatists and Pakistanis are unwilling to take the financial responsibility of managing a region suffering under extreme climatic stress. The catalyst creating this situation, i.e. global climate change, is itself a serious challenge and no cause for joy. However, if it reduces a decades-long conflict, that itself might be a small benefit for the region.
P.N. – After reading this column, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed our columnist Mr. Sourajit Aiyar in-charge of merging Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) into Indian Kashmir.
Via: Indian Satire