By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

Over the years, the concept of national security, an essential component of the nation state(s), has undergone a constant evolutionary process. In the modern times, the security of a state is not only restricted to its defence, achieved through armed forces, but, it is a wholesome package whose essential elements are; the military power, economy, and the political power, exercise through a strong diplomacy.  Having a strong military power would ensure one aspect of the national security. Nevertheless, even this aspect would call for a sound economy for its sustenance as well as victuals for other aspects. Out of many facets of the economic power, self-sustenance of the state is the basic aspect.

Pakistan is such a state whose principal economy is agrarian based. This agrarian based economy needs a constant availability of water. Traditionally, the water catchment areas (water heads) are located somewhere in the mountainous region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. For centuries, water flows down to irrigate the agricultural lands of Punjab, Sindh and other parts of the Indus Valley and the locals as well as the people of Kashmir consumed its product, the food grains.  Indeed, there existed a historical mutuality between the Kashmir and the areas forming part of Pakistan. This relationship of interdependence is pre-partition of the sub-continent and even pre-canal system, hence everlasting in nature.  It was indeed, in the same context that six decades earlier, on the eve of independence of Pakistan, the father of the nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah through his visionary statement declared Kashmir as the “jugular vein of Pakistan.”

Unfortunately, because of the conspiracies hatched between British Government, then a colonial power in the sub-continent and the Hindu leadership, the fate of Kashmiris remained indecisive by denying them to become part of Pakistan. Later India invaded Kashmir once Kashmiris tried to make their way for an accession with Pakistan in October 1947. A part of the state was liberated by Kashmiri people from the Indian yoke, whereas, the bulk remained under the forceful Indian occupation.

In the subsequent years, India fully exploited the situation and successfully planned desertification of Pakistan by stopping the water of all rivers flowing from the areas of Kashmir under its occupation. So much so, India did not abide by the Indus Basin Water Treaty, concluded through the arbitration of World Bank in 1960. Over the years, India has constructed a number dams and water reservoirs on the Western rivers, whose water is entirely dedicated for Pakistan through the Indus Basin Water Treaty. In this way, India gained total control over the water sources of Pakistan. This control has enabled her to stop the Pakistani water once it is required for irrigation and power generation and release it to cause the floods in Pakistan once there is enough of it during monsoon or the rainy season.

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Apart from the economic interdependence and unbreakable linkages between Pakistan and Kashmir, the security of Pakistan and Kashmir is synonymous and interlinked. Historically, all natural routes to and from Kashmir are through Pakistan. This holds good to all parts of the state, viz; Jammu, Vale of Kashmir, or the Gilgit-Baltistan. Historically all armed invasion in Kashmir (except Indian invasion of 27 October 1947) took place through the areas currently forming part of Pakistan. Major invasions and foreign rules on Kashmir include; Mughals; from 1586 to 1752, Afghans; from 1752 to 1819, Sikhs; from 1819 to 1846, and Dogra rule; from 1846 to 1947. Similarly, Indian aggressions on Pakistan in the form of three wars have been through Kashmiri territory.

Besides, military and economic security linkages between Pakistan and the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the recent torrential rains followed by unprecedented floods throughout the country have proved that the security of Pakistan against natural calamities does not lie only within the geographical boundaries of Pakistan, but somewhere in the high mountains of the Jammu and Kashmir. Another natural calamity, the devastating earthquake of October 2005, simultaneously hit Kashmir and parts of Pakistan including the Federal Capital Islamabad. Together in both areas, it caused the deaths of over 73,000 people. Indeed the geo-politics of Pakistan and Kashmir is such that even nature does not divide them.  Majority of the people of both areas have the common ancestral backgrounds.

The low laying areas of Pakistan have a history of floods. In the last two decades, the floods of 1992 and 2006 have also caused devastating damages. The 1992, floods caused  damage to most of the bridges and road communications, connecting various parts of the state with Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhaw (KP). Besides, there were lot of losses to the property, crops and the civic facilities and buildings. However, the losses incurred due to the current floods are unprecedented. Out rightly, the flood swept away over 70% areas of the KP, with Nowshera and Charssada remained the major affected. Subsequently, the tidal waves washed away the major towns of southern Punjab, Sindh and parts of Balochistan. In Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, the flood caused severe losses in the areas situated alongside the riverbeds and torrential mullahs/ streams.  Landslides in various areas also caused severe losses and disruptions for the provision of essential foodstuff and other essentials of life.

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Although due to effective early warning system, the people were able to minimise the human losses, but most of the standing crops, livestock, houses, commercial centres, public properties, roads, and other facilities have been badly damaged. Indeed, the current flood losses have pushed back the affected areas into the history of backwardness at least for fifty years.  There would be a requirement of colossal efforts for the rehabilitation of the affected people, whose exact strength would be known once the floodwater would flow down Kotri Barrage to join the Arabian Sea. However, in any case the strength of effected people would not be less than 25-30 million.

There have been three significant features of the current wave of floods. Firstly, in spite of the water storage dams, water reservoirs and water diversions made by India in its occupied portion of the State, the excess water, after all took its natural course. The natural course of the water from Kashmir is through the land of Pakistan to the Arabian Sea.  Secondly, it did not cause damages in the areas where flow of water was channelized and controlled through dams, water storages, or reservoirs etc. This controlled pattern remained restricted to Indian occupied areas only. Thirdly, there was a uniform pattern of damages caused by floods in all provinces and federally administered areas of Pakistan without any discrimination of caste and creed.

Indeed, this is a warning that our successive governments and we as nation have badly failed to take preventative measures over the years against such like natural disasters.   Had there been water storage dams and reservoirs, this natural disaster could have been averted. Rather, this excess and runoff water could have been stored for those times once we normally face water shortages for irrigation and power generation. In this way, the losses to the infrastructure, human lives and to the crops and property could have been avoided largely.

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It is about time that we must awaken to address the security concern of the people of Pakistan from natural as well as other manmade factors. In order to preserve whatever is left, let us construct the dams and water reservoir to store the runoff and excess water, we have been wasting for years and years. Current floods have amply highlighted the likely locations of the dams and water storage sites if not known earlier. All we need to do is to be sincere with ourselves and start making dams from GB and Azad Kashmir to the low laying areas of Sindh and Balochistan.

The purpose of linking the historical facts and ground realities between Pakistan and Kashmir was that neither the geo-politics nor the natural phenomenon has made a distinction between these two areas, then why we draw the lengthy lines of divisions. This is true to various federating units (provinces) of Pakistan.  If Allah Almighty has made us a nation, why some people are bent upon to undo it.

It is therefore imperative that we must forget the ill happenings of the past and work together for the better future of Pakistan as a nation. Having different ethnic groups in different federating units does not mean different nation too. After all two brothers live in different houses without losing their common identity of having the same father.

Dr Raja Muhammad Khan has done his PhD in International Relations from Karachi University. Presently he is Associate Professor with National Defence University Islamabad,  a prestigious institution of Pakistan.

Dr Khan besides teaching, also does research on South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East and the Muslim World. He is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.

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