Adaptation and Resilience


1st April, 2020

China and India in the Himalayan climate crisis

Aditya Valiathan Pillai


This article describes an unprecedented threat to large parts of India and China emanating from receding glaciers in the Himalaya. It posits that this threat will require these countries to redefine their security calculus by moving beyond military and economic fixations to incorporate an ecological dimension. It suggests four actions – two regional and two international – that could help them set the tone for cooperation in coming decades.

Some of these actions may seem unlikely against the backdrop of stark geopolitical competition today but this article points out that the building blocks for action have already been put in place: research networks for glacial science; regional electricity grids; international finance institutions jointly led by India and China; and joint negotiating positions that define international climate negotiations. The art of diplomacy will vest in transforming these incipient actions into transformative projects that not only define the bilateral relationship for the rest of the century, but make a dent in staving off the worst of a Himalayan disaster.

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