Financial Times South Asia Bureau Chief James Lamont has written a flood of environment-as-political-dialogue stories this week! (Well, only two, but that constitutes a deluge in the world of environmental peacebuilding.)
On Monday he wrote about India and China’s agreement to work together to monitor Himalayan glacial melt. The potential decline in water availability from seasonal snow and glacier melt is finally seeping into the consciousness of policymakers outside the climate world, including the diplomatic and security communities. Lamont frames the step as a rare instance of cooperation in a strategically sensitive area at the center of a 1962 territorial war between the countries.
While it would be easy to make too much of such an agreement, it is a tangible recognition of the importance of the ecological unit rather than the national one. It highlights how environmental interdependence across national boundaries can force cooperation in the face of politically difficult relations.
On Wednesday Lamont used cheetah diplomacy between India and Iran as an entry point for his story on international attempts to address Iran’s nuclear proliferation threat. India is asking Iran to help reintroduce cheetahs on the subcontinent, where they are now extinct. In what Lamont said would be an “unusual” example of “high-profile cooperation” for the two countries, diplomats are arranging for talks ahead of a regional wildlife conference. This baby step in relations could be even more significant since the United States publicly acknowledged that India may be able to play an interlocutor role with Iran on the hot button nuclear program question.
While both of these developments are relatively small in the scheme of the larger strategic relationships, they are fundamentally aimed at (re)building relationships between countries by establishing patterns of cooperation where interdependence is obvious and necessary. Such efforts are just one tool in the often-neglected toolbox of environmental peacebuilding.