Visualising the Himalaya with other coordinates

SourceThe Hindu

Relevance: The countries in the Himalayas has to look beyond geopolitics and security to protect the interest of humanity

Looking at the Himalayas only through the prism of geopolitics and security concerns ignores its other crucial frameworks.

India and other countries lying in the Himalayas is so far has been examining the Himalayas mainly through the coordinates of geopolitics and security, while relegating others as either irrelevant or incompatible.

Ironically, it is the Delhi-Beijing-Islamabad triad, and not the mountain per se, that defines our concerns about the Himalayas. If during colonial times it was Russophobia, then now it is Sinophobia or Pakistan phobia that in fact determines our concerns over the Himalayas.

Creation of a national Himalayas:

In the case of Himalayan studies, it has given birth to the political compulsion of territorialising the Himalayas. Thus, the attempt to create a national Himalayas by each of the five nations (Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, and Tibet/China) that falls within this transnational landmass called the Himalaya.

  • The Himalayas remains as space largely defined in terms of sovereign territoriality. This is in contrast to alternative imaginations such as community, ecology, or market.
    • For instance, the National Mission on Himalayan Studies under the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change is a classic example of that. India is creating policies only for the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR).
  • States have dominated the agenda of defining the domain of non-traditional security (such as climate change, human trafficking, migration, etc.) and traditional security threats (such as military, political and diplomatic conflicts) with the help of the Himalayas. But they never initiated work towards the collaboration.

Why the territorialisation of the Himalayas is still prevalent?

  • The Himalayas’ territorialisation bears a colonial legacy that also sets up its post-colonial destiny as played out within the dynamics of nation-states.
  • The arbitration of relationships between and among the five nation-states falling within the Himalayan landmass has failed to transcend the approach derived from the given categories of territoriality, sovereignty, and difference.
  • The fact that the lines of peoplehood and the national border, especially within the context of the Himalayas, never coincided. This is bound to give tensions while working out projects.
  • Given this historical logjam, what we can only expect is the escalation of territorial disputes as to the immediate fallout when infrastructure development projects in the border areas.
Suggestions to work on the entire Himalayas:
  • Human security cannot be effectively appreciated through the paradigm of sovereign territoriality. So, to protect the interest of humanity, the nation-states have to come together.
  • Anthropological, historical, cultural, and ecological ones have to take privilege over the statist meaning (territoriality, sovereignty, and difference)
  • The countries have to refer to the Himalayas as one of the largest biodiversity hotspots, the largest water tower of Asia. Similarly, The Himalayas needs to be visualised with an open eye and taken in as a whole instead of in parts, unlike the previous initiatives.
  • It is necessary to address the concerns of trade, commerce, community, ecology, and environmental issues associated with the entire Himalayan range.
  • Further, Policymaking, state-building strategies, and diplomatic relations are worked out in relation to the Himalayas.

The time has come when we need to take position between the Himalayas as a national space and as a space of dwelling, instead of avoiding our encounter with this ambivalence.

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