20 Aug,2013


(Presentation Made on Behalf of Eco Monitors Society at the Eco Revival Summit 98 on 9th November 1998 at the India International Centre, New Delhi)

The military dimension has generally prevailed over most of the other dimensions of human existence since the dawn of history; but never to the extent that it has in our century. Coming even closer to our day and age it now tends to submerge most other dimensions, to the detriment of the planet as a whole. As a landmass the Himalayas, and the regions adjacent to the great mountain chain, have the dubious distinction of playing host to perhaps the largest concentration of military forces and destructive weapons systems anywhere in the world. The collective concentration of the forces of China, India, Pakistan and few other states could soon destroy one of the most magnificent natural habitats of the world. Individually, some countries like India and, possibly Nepal, Bhutan and China "have" started perceiving at the edges of their military vision that all is not well with the ecology of the region. In non-military segments awareness has come that an irreversible decline may already have set in. All the countries that derive sustenance from the mighty Himalayan sources have subconsciously realised that the day of reckoning is not far off. The audience present here does not have to be reminded of the suffering caused to hundreds of millions of people by unprecedented floods. In this presentation we will look at the inter-regional dimension of the problem in order to highlight the fact that unless the countries of the region come to their senses and join hands to reverse the eco-destruction of the Himalayas the future generations of Chinese, Indians, Tibetans, Nepalese and Pakistanis will not have much left to fight over. The eco-restoration of the Himalayas is now an ineluctable survival imperative for over a billion people living in and around the Himalayan region. The eco-revival plan being put forward for consideration divides the larger portion of the Himalayan region into five segments: i.e. areas West of the 75° E meridian, that is the Pakistan-Afghanistan sector; the India - Pakistan sector, the India-China sector and other relatively dormant sectors. The first sector West of the 75° meridian is outside the purview of today's presentation being the battleground for the power play of too many outside powers. We will take the remaining sectors turn by turn. Indo-Pak Sector (Jammu & Kashmir Sector) The J&K sector can again be divided into two sub-sectors i.e. Ladakh sector and areas to its North and remainder J&K. In the Ladakh sector the major dispute centres around Siachen. The highest battleground in the world has created, in addition to the human suffering undergone by troops of both sides, environmental devastation whose effects will only be known once the troops pull out. Tens of thousands of tons of human waste, oil and lubricants and other contaminants have penetrated the snowy vastness, not to mention the millions of rounds of small arms ammunition and mortar and artillery shells. We grew up with the phrase "pure as the driven snow". It has acquired a different meaning in much of the Himalayan landscape. We recommend an immediate de-militarisation of the Siachen region along the following lines: Non-military joint commissions to verify the exact position of the belligerents on the ground. After verification the documents to be deposited by the respective governments at the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Both countries would give written undertakings not to change the status quo after troop pullback for a minimum period of twenty-five years. In case of infringements, the ICJ to be empowered to impose heavy fines on the defaulting party. Concomitantly, China would give a written guarantee not to, in any way, take advantage of the demilitarisation to the detriment of the countries pulling back their troops. Other nations are not required to get into the act. · After submission of the documents to the ICJ complete demilitarisation up to designated lines would be effected within 180 days. · The Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan to jointly dedicate a memorial to the dedication and fighting spirit of some of the best soldiers in the world fighting under conditions which could be termed as the utmost in human endurance. Thereafter, joint Indo-Pak scientific teams to study the environmental impact of the Siachen folly and remedial measures for limiting damage to future generations. India-China Sectors The India-China sectors can again be further subdivided into three zones from the point of view of past hostility as follows: · No skirmish zone (since after the occupation of Tibet by Chinese troops) · Zones of continuous tranquility (for over thirty-five years i.e. since after the 1962 conflict) · Zones of hostility (or skirmish zones) Having delineated the sub-sectors we recommend the following pattern for gradual demilitarisation of the Sino-Indian border and ecologically fragile zones of Tibet. · In the first instance the Siachen demilitarisation model to be applied to the first two zones of the Sino-Indian border i.e. the no skirmish zone and the continuously tranquil zones. Similar deposition of documents before the ICJ along with identical pledges and penalties for infringement. China being a permanent member of the Security Council with veto powers that body has been given a wide berth. · Establishment of joint eco-restoration commissions to undertake joint eco- restoration work without prejudice to either country's stand on the boundary dispute. · Pledge before the ICJ that neither country would ever use the eco-restoration zones for military activities in the future or to launch any military operations through those areas. · The Chinese government to set up an independent commission for phased de-nuclearisation and demilitarisation of Tibet in anticipation of international movement of the nuclear powers in that direction. Regardless of the rate of that progress the Chinese government to unilaterally chalk out a massive twenty-five year programme for the eco-restoration of Tibet. World Bank and the Tibetan diaspora to assist. · The Government of India in concert with the Royal Nepal government to chalk out similar twenty-five year scheme for the full scale eco-restoration of the Himalayas in the entire sub-Himalayan and trans-Himalayan regions. Ex- servicemen Gorkha pensioners and Indian ex-servicemen to be fully incorporated in this mammoth task. At this juncture we have outlined a bare-bones scheme for the eco-restoration of the Himalayas on behalf of the Eco Monitors Society. We have already done considerable work to flesh out the scheme. At this conference, however, we would like to invite the views of the participants to refine the scheme during the sessions devoted exclusively to the eco-restoration of the Himalayas.: *Presented by Maj Gen (Retd) Vinod Saighal; Executive Director, Eco Monitors Society (EMS); 38, Babar Road; New Delhi 110 001. Tel: 23716314, 23355967; Email: vsaighal@vsnl.com