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Climate change is not just an environmental issue in South Asia; it is also a major security concern. When overlaid with pre-existing domestic distress and inter-state rivalries that roil the region, it could well act as a tipping point that triggers or magnifies violent conflict. But appropriate policy responses, including institution-building, data-sharing and embracing a rapid low-carbon pathway, provide a way forward.
These are some of the conclusions we reached in a recent report published by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security titled “Climate Security and the Strategic Energy Pathway in South Asia.” The report examines the impact of climate change in three areas – the India-Pakistan rivalry, the China-India rivalry and within domestic security arenas in South Asia.(more…)
South Asia spans multiple countries that were formerly either directly or effectively a component of British India. These include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and the Maldives. The subcontinent has had a traumatic history in modern times. Political partition in the wake of independence from colonial rule in 1947 left enormous death in its wake, particularly in the northwestern part of the region. Major conflicts such as the 1971 India-Pakistan war (which birthed the new state of Bangladesh) and bloody civil wars in Sri Lanka and Nepal added to suffering in the region. In addition, democracy has often been on the defensive in South Asia, with Pakistan experiencing multiple military coups and Bangladesh and India going through shorter authoritarian spells in the 1970s and 80s.
With a population of nearly 1.3 billion, India lies at the geographic and demographic core of South Asia. India’s future, perhaps more than that of any other country in the region, is likely to affect the rest of South Asia. The other countries of the region are also critical for regional security. Pakistan and Bangladesh have a combined population of close to 400 million, but often get less attention, namely because of the presence of their massive neighbor, India. Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, though much smaller, impact the region in more subtle but important ways. As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, the major historical challenges South Asia has faced are being magnified by a complex set of risks. These include earth systems risk (such as climate change and pandemics), economic risk, governance risk, and inter-state conflict risk; the latter also with a dangerous nuclear dimension. Moreover, two external and competing major powers are playing a growing role in South Asia’s future – the United States and China – with complex and uncertain impacts on security.
As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, the major historical challenges South Asia has faced are being magnified by a complex set of risks. These include earth systems risk (such as climate change and pandemics), economic risk, governance risk, and inter-state conflict risk; the latter also with a dangerous nuclear dimension. Moreover, two external and competing major powers are playing a growing role in South Asia’s future – the United States and China – with complex and uncertain impacts on security.
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By Rachel Fleishman, Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific, The Center for Climate and Security
On November 30 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, I participated in an event titled “Climate Change and Resources Security: Challenges for Security and the Security Sector in South Asia” – convened just as Cyclone Ockhi hit Sri Lanka’s southeastern coast.* The storm provided a somber backdrop for the discussions. In his opening remarks, Sri Lanka’s Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Kapila Waidyaratne reported 7 killed and hundreds displaced. By the end of the session the confirmed death toll was 11, with more than 3000 having been evacuated. (more…)
In an important new report, “Climate Change and Security in South Asia: Cooperating for Peace,” Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC) authors Lt. General Tariq Waseem Ghazi (Ret.) of Pakistan, Maj. General A.N.M. Muniruzzaman (Ret.) of Bangladesh, and Air Marshall A.K. Singh (Ret.) of India recommend that the region’s leaders strengthen cooperation to reduce the potential for widespread human suffering, and further instability, in the wake of a changing climate. (more…)