National Security and Climate Change

Written By: Abid Latif Sindhu

We have to have a regional framework or a convention on climate change with India and China. We may call this the strategic triangle of regional climate change. Pakistan is suffering due to massive industrialization of the neighbors. We may not share their thought and habits but we share the same wind. The commons of the region are taking a toll on us.

National security is not a very complex thing to explain. Once the atomization is done it comes to its bare elements. All the elements of national security therefore have an Interactive Geometry. Academically national security can be classified into military and non-military tinges. For all the elements of national security there is an independent threat attractor, for example food autarky can have availability of water and arable land as a threat attractor. For energy security, the rising price of furnace oil can be a threat attractor, for ethnic security the non assimilating policies can be a threat attractor, and so on. So the anatomy of threat is to be understood before venturing further down the hill. Threat is always multidimensional which can be identified even if it is invisible and abstract. Primordial instincts and the sixth sense has something to do with this, as all the living things have this inbuilt faculty, so threat be it external, internal, covert, overt, direct or indirect, has its signatures or rather the pre-signature effects. To identify threat, human brain has to be trained in emotional intelligence rather than conventional intelligence or wisdom. Threat perception is therefore a misnomer; everyone percieves as per own fears. Human brain here is tricked to think in algorithms.


natiosecclimate.jpgConversely speaking, territorial threat is the occupation of space or receding of space, by the entity which is threatened, from the one which is threatening. Territorial threat is a terrain comparison manifested through land, ocean, airspace, outer space, cyber space and most recently the terrain of human genome. It is not a mere SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities and threat) analysis, it is something much beyond; the Interactive Geometry of threat attraction. The reindeer in open will invite a predator, the fish in shallows will cling both the stinger and the hook.

The world around is not insular, after the advent of internet the iota of insularity if any had already dissipated in thin air or into a cyber cloud. An Indian author Tilak Devasher in his recent book “Pakistan: Courting the Abyss” have gone trading the traditional byline of "chickens have come home to roost", but the truth is different, situation at strategic level has not changed; threat since the Russian invasion of Afghanistan is persistant, but yes, the threat attractor has changed, the locus of application has shifted towards this side of the divide. It is not the threat perception which is required to be changed here, mitigating the chickens coming home scenario. Threat perception is a wrong call, actually it should not figure out in tackling the threat, the Interactive Geometry of threat is the vector which has to be catered because every threat passes through a phase of metamorphosis. Threat perception is a fixated concept. It keeps a people, a nation and a country tied up to ones own perception.

The four factors yearning to construct the cardinal national security of Pakistan are water, economy, education and population. All of these are somehow related to the geography and terrain of Pakistan. These threat attractors are outside the military realm of the definition of national security, but still tied up to geography and terrain, therefore has the commonality with military threat which almost always is territorial. Earlytwentieth century was a century of geo-politics at play, later at the time of Second World War, the world moved towards an era of geo-strategy being played by world leaders in different camps, who themselves were larger than the states which they were representing. After World Wars, the stage changed and the architecture moved towards geo-economics; the Marshall Plan, Pax Americana, the Bretton Woods, the Cold War and much later the disintegration of USSR were all examples of geo-economics at play.

Interestingly, we are again entering an era of geo-strategy, 21st century is the century of minerals, (not hydrocarbons), minerals are deep down in the earth, it is only a matter of how and when you dig, and dig right. That is the reason why African Congo, Liberia, Afghanistan, Australia and Pakistan etc. are beeping out the world Minerals map. Minerals are the new gold rush, the El Dorado phenomenon in the making.

Conclusively our focus therefore, should be on the preservation of all the frontiers and territories. All the territories are blanketed through the climate, the climate defines the availability of geography for any human activity. Making corollary to what we have discussed, climate is the most important factor in national security. Although climate is based on global commons, yet when the crops fail, the pandemic erupts, the drought sets in, glaciers melt and the mass movement of population takes place, then where do you find the state? Hanging somewhere in a stray of grass, may be floating down the river of eternal oblivion. That is why climate is a matter of national security. We are experiencing a campus revolution in our universities, people enrolling in droves for Ph.Ds, but the change at societal level is still not pliable. Our academics are pageants on the ramp who adopt the vocabulary of the West, and without own vocabulary of intent, bringing change is not possible.

Pakistan is facing nuclear paradox and the Stability-Instability paradox along with the Thucydides Trap, these three paradoxes lead us towards nuclear nationalism. These paradoxes are being tackled with appropriate and graduated response. The real paradox is the chlorine trap. The neighbor on the east and the emerging superpower on the north east are one of the biggest chlorine adding countries in our local atmosphere.

Chlorine is used in tanneries, cloth industry and the plastic industry. Almost everything which India and China are exporting is made up of either plastic or the refined fabric. The chlorine reacts with ozone and converts it into oxygen, thereby denuding the people from the protection against ultraviolet sun rays. The Montreal Protocol banned CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) because of the use of chlorine as the refrigeration gas. The Paris Agreement has almost failed to keep the global warming checked at 2°C above the pre-industrial levels.

Water towers of Himalayas (glacier) are melting at a much faster pace than perceived. Climate velocity has started taking place in Pakistan. Because of higher level of UVs in the atmosphere, the hogs in and around Potohar region are migrating towards Murree. The mountain people of Murree are quite disturbed because of this climate velocity. The Mountain Crow which was seen earlier at the height of 4000 ft is now seen above 5000 ft.

Soon in our cities UV alerts will also be included in the weather forecasts. The sunlight has not only acquired the bite, it is also destroying the crops and the crop patterns. Without water, wheat, rice and cotton, how will we feed the millions is a pertinent question. What number of people our Northern Areas or hill resorts can take once the exodus of taming millions moves from plains is another troublesome question.

Nations are nations because of their ideology or the ideological history. This is based on historical proverbs of people which transcend into metaphors. These metaphors then weave the narratives of a nation.

We need to review and re-orient our national security proverbs and metaphors toward new threat attractors. Threat perception alone being a sinew of intelligence will not do; it is going to be our Interactive Geometry which will save the day.

Remember hope alone is not a strategy. Yuval Harari in his recent books, Sapiens and Homo Deus, defined that how history of past and future, both can be pitched together to accrue paradigmatic metaphors to move forward, and write the future.

We have to have a regional framework or a convention on climate change with India and China. We may call this the strategic triangle of regional climate change. Pakistan is suffering due to massive industrialization of the neighbors. We may not share their thought and habits but we share the same wind. The commons of the region are taking a toll on us.

Pakistan, India and China's convention on climate change is the sine qua non for all three. The permanent smog of Beijing, the million of malnourished infants in India and an alarming rise in the number of carcinogenic ailments in Pakistan are indicators of clear damage to our climate. We all are linked through strategic Himalayas, and therefore, the locus of effect resides there. Our academia, security experts, scientists and strategists should be the track two (if not 1.5) between their countries to help policy makers in not only containing the threat which is near, real and clear, but also help them in identifying the algorithms of Interactive Geometry, where actually the threat resides.


The writer is a freelancer having a military background and regularly contributes for national dailies on issues related to national security, strategy and foreign policy. He is also a Ph.D scholar at National Defence University.

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