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Dr.Akmal Hussain
Newspaper: The Express Tribune
Dated: Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The real victory at Mohali was for the people of both India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in an act of visionary statesmanship gave an invitation to watch the match together and Prime Minister Gillani graciously accepted it. The two Prime Ministers used the opportunity to give a clarion call for peace as the basis of building a better future for their people. An analysis of the political and natural forces at play suggests that our very survival depends on peace and cooperation between the two countries.

Let us begin by examining the danger of nuclear war. There are three features of the nuclear standoff that make nuclear deterrence unstable in the India-Pakistan context: (i) The flying time of nuclear missiles being less than three minutes, and lack of a second strike capability, means that misperception about each other’s intentions, particularly during periods of high tension, creates an incentive for first use of nuclear weapons. (ii) If the Kashmir issue and the emerging water disputes remain unresolved they create an underlying persistent tension. (iii) In a situation where the Indian establishment believes that Pakistan uses terrorism as a state policy, and where the Pakistani establishment accuses India of supporting the separatist insurgency in Balochistan, another Mumbai style terrorist attack can induce a punitive conventional military raid, which war gaming exercises suggest, could quickly escalate into a catastrophic nuclear exchange. It would kill hundreds of millions of people, destroy animal and plant life, radiate soils and undermine the prospects of production and social life in the subcontinent for the next ninety years.

Even in the case of the Soviet-US cold war context, where the flying time of nuclear missiles was at least 20 minutes, where there was no territorial dispute or operation of non-state actors in either country, the two states came within a whisker of nuclear war three times during the seven year tenure of US Defence Secretary Mr. McNamara. Given the current India Pakistan situation, the probability of nuclear war is higher than in any other region of the world in any period. If the people of the two countries are to move out of this shadow of death, the search for what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called, “permanent reconciliation” must inform the conduct of interstate relations.

Consider now the environmental threat. Cutting edge research by the Inter Governmental Panel for Climatic Change (IPCC), shows that due to global warming the frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events will increase. In South Asia it is predicted with high probability, that floods will follow droughts and coastal populations will be pushed back by rising sea levels, resulting in large scale dislocation of communities. Perhaps the most sobering prediction of the IPCC is that in the decades ahead South Asia will suffer a thirty percent absolute decline in yields per acre of food crops. On the basis of this evidence it can be argued that there are likely to be severe shortages of food, high food inflation rates and critical food insecurity, unless urgent mitigation and adaptation measures are undertaken through cooperation in South Asia. India and Pakistan in particular need to collaborate for joint watershed management, increasing efficiency of irrigation and water use and development of new heat resistant varieties of food grains. Finally close cooperation is required to build food silos in every district across the region to enable timely release of food stocks and avoid localized famines in case of severe food shortages. This is why Prime Minister Gillani’s wise counsel that India and Pakistan need to eschew conflict and focus on their people, is so important.

It is clear from the above analysis that if the threat of annihilation of our societies through nuclear war is to be defused, and if our economic and social survival in the face of the environmental threat is to be achieved, then the paradigm of conflict must be replaced by the paradigm of peace. The choice is stark: cooperate or perish.

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