- Equally important is to settle mutual differences
Still reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, another severe crisis is staring Pakistan in the eyes. According to the National Disaster Management Authority, swarms of locusts have already devoured large quantities of crops in 61 districts in the four provinces of the country. Heavy rains in Yemen and Saudi Arabia prompted the spread of locusts into Iran and then into Pakistan in March 2019. The pest has already pushed tens of thousands of small farmers into penury. What is worrisome is that the ongoing locust incursion is a potential precursor to bigger and deadlier attacks from locusts breeding in East Africa which can migrate to the Pakistan-India border regions in three weeks.
Locusts travel nearly 150 km per day, moving from one country to another and consuming crops spread over thousand of acres in a few hours. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) attempts to bring together the affected countries to jointly respond to the threat. It is a matter of satisfaction that despite tensions running high between Pakistan and India, the two neighbours are cooperating with each other and with Iran and Afghanistan, who are members of the FAO’s regional commission.
There is a need for Pakistan and India to join hands to wipe out common threats, destroying the locust being just one. Climate change continues to play havoc in both the countries and its highly negative impact can only be mitigated by timely exchange of information and mutual cooperation. A real time exchange of statistics about rainfall in the catchment areas and water levels in rivers flowing from India can help minimize the devastating impact of the floods. The current differences over water sharing can be reduced through mutual negotiations and by both sides following water conservation policies. The neighbouring countries can help each other in dealing with natural catastrophes also.
Pakistan and India have no doubt several disputes that continue to embitter their relations. Increased cooperation over joint threats can pave the ground for settlement of more complicated issues like Kashmir. What makes one skeptical however is the jingoistic policy being pursued by PM Modi not only towards Pakistan but also towards some of the other neighbours.