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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The tunnel of hope

TODAY'S PAPER » NATIONAL » NEW DELHI May 11, 2012 The tunnel of hope JAVED NAQI SHARE · PRINT · T+ Cut off from the world for six long winter months, Kargil residents are eagerly waiting for the Zojila tunnel to bring in development Snowbound:Zojila would be more accessible post the tunnel's construction. Inhabitants of a remotely located high altitude district of our country are forced to be “imprisoned” in snow-covered valley for almost six months every year as the only link — the Zojila Pass that connects the district to the outer world becomes inaccessible during winters due to extreme weather conditions, thereby beginning a period of isolation and great suffering for the people of Kargil. Kargil, a small district spread over 14000 sq. km, in Jammu and Kashmir was carved out from the Ladakh district in 1979. Till the Kargil War, this land was a forgotten tale surviving in the vast Himalayan plateau unknown to the rest of the country, leave alone the world. Though Kargil attracted much attention as a battlefield, the problems and issues of the indigenous population were overlooked; and till date, they haven't received the due recognition. Extreme cold, dryness, high radiation, low humidity, low oxygen, desert landscape and limited water sources — these represent the climatic conditions of this serene place. These, of course, have a detrimental effect on the inhabitants. For example, low fertility, high mortality, mental retardation and alteration in physiology are some of the leading effects impacting the locals. Drass, a small town to the west of Kargil, is renowned as the second coldest inhabited place, with the temperature dipping down below -45 °C. The district is home to a population of a few lakhs and they carry out their day to day life under severe environmental stress. The ethnic groups living here are the Baltis, Purigpas, Dards and Brokpas. The Muslims are the majority whereas the Buddhists form the second largest community. The main occupation of this population is cultivation, horticulture, animal husbandry, while a few are in government service, trade and commerce. The district is poorly developed and ranks at the bottom in infrastructural facilities and overall socio-economic development. This adds to the hardship of the local populace, leaving their survival at the mercy of nature. The isolation during the winters worsens the share of misery of the local inhabitants. It means losses in education, health, rural infrastructure development and, most importantly, sustainability. Tourism contributes greatly to the economy of Kargil's neighbouring district Leh; however, here the tourism industry is dependent on the Srinagar-Leh highway. Despite having a huge potential for winter sports, Kargil suffers due to the six-month inaccessibility. Its greatest asset is at the same time its biggest drawback! During summers, the locals as well as the administration focus their efforts on stocking the basic amenities for the winters — thus other crucial development issues continue to be ignored. It is pertinent to mention that before Partition, Kargil was an important trade centre in the Pan-Asian trade network. With the closure of the famed Silk Route and creation of India and Pakistan, the region has become totally isolated from the rest of the world. Mohammad Ashraf, former Director General, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism, points out, “This border area was never really cut off even during most brutal winters”. He adds, “Kargil-Skardu was an all-weather route of great importance, which connects Gilgit and thence Central Asia”. It is only after the emergence of political borders that the area was totally blocked during winters.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Human-Wildlife Conflict in Kargil: Precipitation of India-Pakistan Rivalry?

It is no denying fact that the vendetta between India and Pakistan has never come to halt since the inception of both countries. Both the countries have had tensions prevailing over period and again. Be it cross border terrorism, territorial dispute or any other issue, the countries have seldom come down to negotiations and the same has further led to so much of collateral damage which many of us are oblivious. One among such damage is the damage to the wild life. We often believe that the war which are fought between nations restrict to only human lives and property but we seldom notice that such war has a huge impact upon the wild life as well. And this impact counts a lot because most of these animals which breed on the borders are already at the verge of extinction. And most of them have even extinct due to the catastrophes of the war. One of such animals which hold a very cardinal role for both the nature as well as the mankind is the Snow Leopard in the border district Kargil. It can be argued that the tension between the two countries has to a great extend resulted in human-wildlife conflict in Kargil and thence threat to wildlife sustainability in the region.

Kargil, a district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in North India is a remote, arid-cold and high altitude area. The region gained prominence to the outer world after the Kargil War which was fought in 1999. Kargil serve as the suitable habitat for many endangered wildlife species like snow leopard, Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus langier), Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus), Asiatic ibex (Capra ibex), Ladakh urial (Ovis vignei vignei), musk deer (Moschus spp.), pikas, and hares (Maheshwari et al 2010). A joint study by J&K Department of Wildlife Protection and WWF reports 16 direct and indirect evidence of Snow Leopard in Kargil and Drass (Maheshwari et al 2010). Since the district lies on the line of control which demarks the territorial divide between India and Pakistan, the region has witnessed the brutal brunt of the Indo-Pak enmity. The conflict has impacted not only the lives of the people due to militarisation and cross border shelling but it also seems the conflict has not even spared the flora and fauna of the region. And predominantly it had a very bad impact upon the existence of the Snow Leapord which is known as Scion in Balti language in Kargil. Similarly, the other wildlife species are now rarely seen in the region. As Asihwarya Maheshwari of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) points out, “it is here in Kargil that one of world’s most elusive creatures- the snow leopard, roams wild and free,”. Maheshwari adds, “during my research I have learnt about the tremendous decline in wildlife sightings, post-1999 Kargil war, so much so that even the common resident birds had disappeared”.

Uncia uncia, the Snow leopard, world’s most elusive feline, usually occurs in the mountains at elevations of 3,000 to over 5000 m (10,000 – 17,000 feet). They prefer steep, rugged terrain with cliffs, ridges, gullies, and slopes interspersed with rocky outcrops (Jackson and Hunter 1996). The total number left in the world are estimated about 4,500 – 7,500 in 12 countries of Central Asia s, viz., Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekista (Fox 1994; Jackson and Hunter 1996). The Snow leopards are protected in nearly all countries under national and international laws. The species has been listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) of India and is listed as endangered in the 2008 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as globally "Endangered". They are listed in Appendix 1 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 1977) to check export and import of their body parts.

This is pertinent to mention here that the line of control passes through the habitat ranges of Snow Leopard and other wildlife. Hence the area is highly armed and full of military activities including military movement, firing practises etc. These activities disturb the ecological balance and thus leading to displacement of the Snow Leopard from its habitat. As a result the animal moves to the inhabited low lands in search of shelter and food for survival. During the struggle for sustainability it damages the food crops and attacks the livestock. Losing the livestock is a big economic loss for a rural family. A study on human-wildlife in Kargil and Drass reports 73 cases of livestock depredation by Snow Leopard and the total livestock loss is estimated around four million. According to the study, domestic livestock comprised 45.5% of the diet of Snow Leopard (Maheshwari et al 2010). This shows the high proportion of livestock depredation and represents the extreme of large carnivore-human conflicts in Kargil and Drass. Ironically the population which actually should protect the animal as the same symbolises the local identity to stand and survive in the harsh conditions see the animal as a threat. This makes the animal more vulnerable to extinction. Thus the India-Pakistan conflict and the aftermath militarisation and related phenomenon threaten the existence of Snow Leopard in addition to creating human-wildlife strife. In such a situation the issue of conservation and all the efforts put in by both the countries being the signatory to conventions on wildlife conservation in the region becomes a futile exercise.

Taking into account all the issues it is high time for India and Pakistan to demilitarise the line of control and make a trans-border peace park in order to save the Snow Leopard from complete extinction. The countries could learn lessons from various other precedents by places like The Åland Islands, Morokulien Peace Park, the Euro city of Haparanda-Tornio and Oulanka-Paanajärvi transboundary national park. These Nordic examples provide valuable lessons for cross-border cooperation as their experiences of the softening of borders through practical approaches, all of which could be utilized in areas along line of control, the most visible site of confrontation and hostility between India and Pakistan. In particular, it provides useful ideas to create a peace park on areas across the line of control, which is a heaven for wildlife harbouring endangered species. By doing so, it will begin a process of joint cooperation between the countries and will further ensure peace, prosperity and stability for generations to come. This will lead to the co-existence between humans and nature, promoting regional peace and stability, conserving biodiversity and stimulating socio-economic development of the region. Last to quote Dr Nelson Mandela on this cause, He says “I know of no political movement, no philosophy, and no ideology that does not agree with the peace parks concept as we see it going into fruition today. It is a concept that can be embraced by all”.

Photo credit: Aishwarya Maheshwari, WWF-India.
(The author, a native of Kargil, is Assistant Professor in Higher Education and can be mailed at

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Social Connectors Imperative to Kashmir Solution

Social Connectors Imperative to Kashmir Solution
Date: 7 Dec 2011

Social Connectors Imperative to Kashmir Solution


The Jammu and Kashmir dispute continues to be one of the major unresolved conflicts in the Indian subcontinent. In the past we saw wars being fought but even that couldn't help resolve the issue. Neither big summits nor much hyped confidence building measures has thus far succeeded. Since the emergence of India and Pakistan, Kashmir is always defined in terms of facile labels. Padgaonkar, journalist and head of the interlocutors on Kashmir, points out, "the entire issue of Jammu and Kashmir has been posited in ideological terms, largely as a Hindu Muslim problem. Second, it was posited also in terms of Indian and Pakistani nationalism. And third, it was posited in terms of Kashmir nationalism". The internal socio-cultural diversity and the pluralism of interest and aspiration it breeds are always ignored. This plurality is due to lack of good media or the social connectors to bridge the gap. Hence, it can be argued that social connectors are imperative to Kashmir solution.

In case of Jammu and Kashmir, the conflict is itself located at multiple levels; a territorial dispute between two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan; a conflict on communal lines and a conflict of identity and culture. Besides, there is another important and highly ignored layer of conflict, the intra-community conflict. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has several distinct socio-cultural features which gives complexity to the already complex problems of Jammu and Kashmir.

These areas which are different ethnically and linguistically are further geographically isolated from each other by high mountain barriers. The barriers are so strong that many parts of Jammu and Kashmir exist more as closed communities without having any proper means and common space to interact and share with fellow citizens across the state. Thus people inhabiting one part of the state is held blind toward the lives of people in other parts of the state due to these intangible boundaries. This nurtures mistrust and misunderstanding amongst the people in the state as a whole. Lack of trust gives rise to perceptions of threat and insecurity in the masses. As a consequence this results in opposing views and different voices. These different voices deny the scope for general consensus on any approach to Kashmir solution with each approach being opposed by one or another. Thus even today it remains an impossible mission for many aggrieved parties on Kashmir. Similar pluralism also exists in Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

Simply confining a dialogue among few selected parties can not lead a viable way out on the issue. It is equally important to involve the opinion of mass to make intangible barriers more feasible and friendly. This is best explained by Harold Saunder in his PPP (Public Peace Process) concept.

Commenting on PPP concept, political scientist and conflict transformation practitioner Sumona Dasgupta writes, "this is a system where citizens outside the government can actually design steps to change conflict relationships in ways that create capacities to build upon processes for peace building". She adds, "PPP is based on the assumption that conflict is not just a clash between institutions but it also has an important human angle. This emphasizes citizens as actors in politics. PPP acknowledges that there are certain tasks that governments and states will do and formal negotiation and mediation is definitely important in the resolution conflict. But at the same time it also affirms a larger political process that is citizen driven. The conceptual framework of PPP is built around what we called sustained dialogue -- systematic dialogue amongst small groups of representative citizens who are committed to change. It involves a conversation and a five stage process which he has outlined - 1) coming together about a problem. 2) mapping a problem. 3) setting a direction, 4) scenario building and 5) acting together".

Unfortunately no serious attempt has been made to bridge the gap between the people of different regions and to involve them in the peace building process as the major actors. On contrary the parties and groups involved are always engage more on larger political differences. None of the parties has made serious endeavour to connect the people in order to reduce the barrier between them.
It is very important to scrap the internal geographical barriers and connect people through all the ways and means of connections. These connections will act as social connectors and provides avenues where communities can interact, understand, identify areas of differences and develop a widely acceptable solution. For example it is vital that Kargil should have Zojila tunnel to be connected with people beyond Zojila pass throughout the year. The Zojila tunnel will act as social connector not only between Kargilities and beyond but it will also connect the larger population of Ladakh to rest of the valley and Jammu. Similarly, Leh and Srinagar should have more frequent flights than having air service once a week. In addition, efforts should also be made to open cross LoC roads like Kargil-Skardu, Jammu-Sialkot, Turtuk-Khapulu, Chamb-Jaurian-Mirpur, Gurez-Astore-Gilgit, Tithwal-Chilhan, and Jhangar (Nowshera)-Mirpur-Kotli. Making these borders irrelevant will help people in the state and across communicate and reach out each other without any geographical and topographical obstacle. Thus, these steps will not only help in addressing the problem of connectivity in the region but it will also facilitate to evolve a common consensus on Kashmir in future.

"I am called Tunnel Wala by many for my insistence on Zojila tunnel but believe me there is a new light and new hope across the tunnel".

(The author, a native of Kargil, is Assistant Professor in Higher Education and can be mailed at

[Kashmir Times]

An Open Letter To The Kashmir Interlocutors

An Open Letter To The Kashmir Interlocutors

By Javed Naqi

22 December, 2010

I am a voice from Kargil, an isolated barren island of forgotten people and I want to be heard. I have several questions.

I strongly believe that the call for Azadi/Freedom or for that matter political resolution and other similar demands is a concern that is secondary to us. The primary concern is on the issue of basic survival, which is threatened and remains at stake due to the geographical isolation and harsh climatic conditions of Kargil. Kargil is connected to the outerworld via Zojila pass, which becomes inaccessible atleast for six months in winters due to heavy snowfall and hence begins a period of isolation for the people of Kargil. This isolation results in great loses in terms of education, health, rural infrastructure and most importantly sustainability. During summers, the people and the government become more involved in stocking basic amenities for the winters. Thus, energy and time are invested into it and other major development issues in different sectors get ignored. We have little choice but to consume stocked stale food items, thus raising health concerns among the people of Kargil. Can you imagine how this impacts our well being and bodily and mental developments? This tragic existence rests far from the reality in which rest of India and the world lives.

The people of Kargil have been demanding construction of a tunnel through the Zojila pass or an all weather road for years but ability is forced into disability and disability is made more difficult. People who can make this happen have no justification to give. Pleas and requests find their place in the dustbin. The well-being of the people is a lip story. It hasn’t reached the hearts and the minds of those who have the power to turn the tables. The situation is gross and needs to be assessed.

This is what I feel is a sheer injustice and violation of Right to Life depriving Kargil of all weather connectivity. This gives an impression to a youth like me that the powers at New Delhi have always viewed Kargil as a battle field rather than a human inhabited territory. The aspirations and concerns of the local mass are always pushed back in the priority list and hence leaving the inhabitants to struggle for the survival.

If our country can give grants in millions of dollar in the neighbourhood for infrastructure vis-a-vis road development and connectivity, isn't it possible for the nation to spend a minute sum of it for its own people to connect them with the outer world round the year. The construction of tunnel at Zojila or all weather road will result in a dramatic shift in socio-economic development of the region. The dream tunnel will save crores of state money, now being spent for air maintenance and winter stocking of the region both by army and civil administration.

I wonder when looking at stories of technological developments in our country, isn’t it possible for this technology to break the centuries old isolation of Kargil. As a youth who believes in change plus follows and admires wonders of mankind's ingenuity, I can’t take that Zojila tunnel is an impossible venture owing to the geo-climatic conditions. There are many examples of similar and much difficult projects carried out by different nations. China made it possible the miracle train to Tibet which traverse a mountain pass sitting 5,072 meters (16,737 feet) to rise up to the Tibetan plateau. Zhongnanshan Tunnel in Shaanxi province, China, is the longest two-tube road tunnel in the world. The 18,040-metre long tunnel, crosses under the Zhongnan Mountain.

I dread the winter isolation more than a war happening in Kargil. The war would come once in a while but this isolation knocks at the door every year. The war would kill during the war but this isolation kills every year. I often ask myself a question. What is happiness and what is national pride?

I want AZADI from the six months isolation during winter. I don’t want to see it as a fate as it has been accepted by my people for this long. This isolation has rendered us as the most backward district in the entire country.

Why are we quiet? Winters are there and Kargil, my destination is cut off from the rest of the nation. I raise my voice to save lives that perish due to approach being blocked in winters and so unavailability of basic amenities, for educational institutions shut down due to harsh climatic conditions, roads are completely blocked with no resources reachable, cultivation and irrigation comes to a standstill. Under such climatic conditions year after year human life is always at stake.
Javed Naqi
A Voice of an inmate youth from the freezing prison, Kargil.

Kargil: An Enduring Conflict

Kargil: An Enduring Conflict

By Javed Naqi

17 November, 2011

Since time immemorial conflict between states has been a regular phenomenon causing untold suffering and enormous loss of human life, fragmentation of societies and devastation of economies. This subsequently led to some of these countries closing their land borders with their neighbors and hence restricting cross border trade and people to people contact. Conflict in the Asian subcontinent had similar implications on the population and land. The borders are closed rendering people and families divided, and restricting movement and trade. However many failed to recognize a grave implication of this conflict. This is particularly in the case of a tiny border district within the territory controlled by India. The author argues that the aftermath of conflict in this region is a threat to human security.

Kargil, prior to the creation of India and Pakistan served as an important trade and transit centre in the Pan-Asian trade network. Mohammad Ashraf points out, ‘this border area was never really cut off even during most brutal winter’. He adds, ‘Kargil-Skardu has been an all weather route of great importance, which further connects with Gilgit and thence to Central Asia’. It is only after the emergence of borders that the areas on this side of the border got totally blocked during winter. Thus, the people of Kargil are virtually imprisoned in a frozen prison. The only link which connects Kargil to the outer world is via Zojila pass, which becomes inaccessible at least for six months in winters due to heavy snowfall and hence begins a period of isolation for the people of Kargil. This isolation results in great losses in terms of education, health, rural infrastructure and most importantly sustainability. It badly impacts the young people’s education and growth. As far as the health sector is concerned, in case of emergencies, people of this isolated district remain helpless. During summers, the people and the government become more involved in stocking basic amenities for the winters. Thus, energy and time are invested into it and other major development issues in different sectors get ignored. The people of the region have little choice but to consume stocked stale food items. Under such situation year after year human life in this part of the world is always at stake.

For years, the people of Kargil have been demanding the opening of the Kargil-Skardu road and construction of a tunnel through the Zojila pass but so far there hasn’t been any significant development on both the demands. It should be noted as in case of Kargil, the Indo-Pak conflict and the subsequent closing of the borders has completely confined people in their permanent habitats especially in winter, which was not the case before the conflict. Hence the very definition of conflict transformation in this case is different i.e. connectivity. This has not been taken into cognizance by the conflict parties- India and Pakistan. Even after four years since the Zojila tunnel project was approved yet not much has been done. The state has adopted a dilly-dally approach towards the construction of the Zojila tunnel. On the other hand, Kargil-Skardo road merely makes to the CBM document with no breakthrough every time.

The immediate alternative to gain confidence of people, to establish their faith in the peace process and to end the winter siege is expediting the construction of Zojila tunnel. This is because the other alternative Kargil-Skardu road has two hostile parties (India and Pakistan) and any development on the same needs a joint consensus from both the countries, which in the current scenario of mutual distrust seems very bleak. On the contrary, the Zojila tunnel doesn’t call for any two party endorsements and can happen through the involvement of a unitary actor as the entire Zojila tunnel construction work completely falls under the mandate of India. In this perspective the tunnel option looks more viable and by doing so the Indian state can start the peace process itself. It is hoped the work on Zojila tunnel is taken up very seriously so that the people of Kargil no longer continue to be a second citizen of the globalized world.

(The author, a native of Kargil, is founder of Kindling Accessibility Initiatives in Ladakh and can be mailed at

KARGIL: The Forgotten Land


“Development is not so much a matter of how much one has as it is of how much one can do with whatever one has”. (Ackoff, 2006)

Kargil, a district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is carved out from Ladakh district in 1979. This was an unheard forgotten land in the Himalayan plateau. It was only during the Kargil War that the region shot into prominence. Prior to the war, the district was not even known to the rest of the country and the world at large. Although Kargil received much attention as a battlefield, the problems and issues of the local population remain unnoticed under the sheen of Kargil victory.
Kargil with an area of 14000 sq km is remote, inaccessible and high altitude area in the western Himalayas. The climatic condition of the region is harsh with extreme cold, dryness, high radiation, low humidity, low oxygen, desert landscape and limited water sources. These exert deleterious effects on the inhabitants like low fertility, high mortality, retardation of mental growth and development and alteration in physiology. Drass, a small town in the west of Kargil, is reputed to be the second coldest inhabited place, with the temperature dipping down below -45 °C. The district is home to a population of few lakhs and they carry out their day to day life under these severe environmental stresses. The baltis, purigpas, dards and brokpas form the different ethnic groups of the population. The Muslims are the majority whereas the Buddhists form the second largest population. The main occupation of the population is cultivation, horticulture, animal husbandry and into government services, trade and commerce. The district is low developed and ranks at the bottom in infrastructural facilities and overall socio-economic development. This adds to the hardship of the local population and hence the survival is on the mercy of nature.

Poor Connectivity
Gone are the days when Kargil used to be an important trade centre in the Pan-Asian trade network. With the closure of silk route and creation of India and Pakistan, the region has become totally isolated from rest of the world. Mohammad Ashraf, former Director General, J&K Tourism, points out, ‘this border area was never really cut off even during most brutal winter’. He adds, ‘Kargil-Skardu has been an all weather route of great importance, which further connects with Gilgit and thence to Central Asia’. It is only after the emergence of borders that the area got totally blocked during winter. Thus, the people of Kargil are virtually imprisoned in a frozen prison. The only link which connects Kargil to the outer world is the Zojila pass, which becomes inaccessible at least for six months in winters due to heavy snowfall and hence begins a period of isolation for the people of Kargil. This isolation results in great losses in terms of education, health, rural infrastructure development and most importantly sustainability. It badly impacts the young people’s education and growth. Tourism, crucial to its economy, is dependent on the Srinagar-Leh highway. There exists a huge potential for winter sports and winter tourism, but tourism gets badly affected due to the six-month inaccessibility. During summers, the people and the government become more involved in stocking basic amenities for the winters. Thus, energy and time are invested into it and other major development issues in different sectors get ignored. The people of the region have little choice but to consume stocked stale food items. Under such situation year after year human life in this part of the world is always at stake. For years, the people of Kargil have been demanding the opening of the Kargil-Skardu road and construction of a tunnel through the Zojila pass but so far there hasn’t been any significant development on both the demands.
The state of air connectivity is not in a good shape and still Kargil doesn’t exist on the air map of the country. The only airport in Kargil is yet to be used for commercial flights. It requires upgradation which has been pending for a long time. Due to the hilly terrain, the runway needs to be extended by 3,000 feet for normal commercial flights. The current length is merely 6,000 feet, inadequate for flight service in hilly areas.

Energy dependence
Life in Kargil is completely dependent on energy sources like fuel wood to survive the winters. Due to desert landscape and negligible forest cover, the locals are wholly dependent on Kashmir valley and across for fuelwood to sustain life during the freezing winters. The same holds true for petroleum products and other essential commodities. One can imagine the state of living conditions under shortage of these basic requirements. There are no alternate energy sources to address the crises situation. The issue of energy is of paramount importance for this region. With energy being crucial to human survival, long-term plans need to be developed to tide over the crisis-like situation that crop up year after year.

Lack of employment and entrepreneurship development opportunities
Unemployment is a social issue of serious concern in the present times, both at national as well as state level. In the past few years the problem of unemployment in Kargil has increased at an alarming rate. Lack of entrepreneurship skills of the local youth adds to the problem of unemployment as there is no such institution in the district. The entrepreneurship development initiatives can be used as a tool to provide opportunities to the unemployed. Thus to cope up with the unemployment crisis in the district, there is a greater need to establish entrepreneurship development platform so as to infuse entrepreneurship spirit in youth.

Lack of research activities and facilities
Kargil bestowed with different geology has huge mineral resources and precious rocks. The region also homes many important medicinal plants and economically important bio diversity. There is no research activity and institution in operation to explore these reserves. It is imperative to establish research facilities to undertake studies to explore the hidden reserves for the economic upliftment of the region. Such facilities will also provide prospects of employment for the local skilled and unskilled youths.

No access to external market
The district produces world’s best apricot and indigenous fruit varieties. There is no access to external markets for these fruit crops. This adds to the economic backwardness of the district as compared to the other districts of the state. In view of this state of affairs, it is highly essential to create avenues to market the indigenous fruits in national and international markets so that the socio-economic conditions of the district are improved. It will not only play a significant role in improving the state of the local economy but also help in providing livelihood sources to a large number of educated youth.

Inadequate Electricity
The state of electricity in far flung villages is very poor with mere 3-4 hrs of supply in a day. The villagers have to resort to use of mostly kerosene lamps to meet their extra energy demand. This results in high recurring expenses as well as adverse affects on health. There is great potential of hydro power in the region due to good presence of springs and fast flowing glacier rivers. This can provide efficient electricity for lighting and micro-enterprises. This can have positive impact in terms of social, economic and environmental aspects which in turn can improve the living conditions of the region as a whole. The students in the villages will be able to contribute more time to studies. It’ll replace the harmful kerosene lamps that emit harmful fumes.

Poor means of communication
Today without adequate communication means the socio-economic and educational development is impossible. It has been augmented by the technological advancement in communication and the advent of internet was a landmark. Living and day to day operation is not possible without internet. In this age of internet, the region lacks proper basic communication means. Internet is out of question, the state of mobile and telephone services are miserable. The absence of private service providers makes the situation the worst. BSNL is the only one which is in operation and out of service most of the time. The low transmitting power radio station tunes for few hours in the evening and the DD station still waits for upgradation since its inception. As a result the rich cultural heritage of region remains obscure in the eyes of the outer world. The issue of communication needs a greater focus and radical improvement.

Poor Health Facilities
The district lacks the state of art medical facilities and health specialists. Most of the time, the locals have to travel to the valley and other states for health tests and major operations. There is an acute shortage of proper health infrastructure in villages. The people remain hapless in case of health emergency during the winter when the region is cut off from the rest of the country. Under these circumstances the survival of the local always remains at threat.

Poor Quality Education and Illiteracy
Youths are the agents of change. They can help bring change if only they are provided with quality education and mentor guidance. The youths of the region have great potential to be the changemakers but unfortunately they lack the platform to groom and perform. There are no career and educational counselling centres in the district to mentor the local youths. The quantity of institutes established in the sector of education has increased but there is no accountability shown on the quality. This results in increased school dropouts, migration of students to other states and illiteracy. It is high time to bring paradigm shift in the education sector to save the future.

Inadequate representation in policy and decision making
One of the prime factors of socio-economic backwardness of the region is lack of local representation in any decision making platform in the state as well as at centre. The people of Kargil are always ignored on this front and hence they don’t have any say in policy and decision making.

Poor Tourism and Sports infrastructure
Kargil has a huge potential for winter sports and winter tourism. Unfortunately both these sectors are in shambles due to sheer negligence. The district lacks proper and adequate infrastructure to accommodate the visitors. We don’t see any efforts to promote and publicize Kargil tourism through print and electronic media. Kargilites are great winter sports lovers and players from the region have played and represented India at international level. Due to favourable conditions the region can host international events but it falls back on promotion and upgradation of winter sports at par with international standards. The state of affair is dismal to the extent that more recently skating players in Kargil had to contribute money to prepare an ice skating ring in Kargil town at the bank of Suru river.

The list of issues and concerns of the population is long and cannot be scribbled down on few pieces of paper. These issues need response on war footing to support the sustainability of the people in this frozen land. The socio-economic development of the region demands for radical development strategy, a strategy built on new technologies taking into consideration the natural constraints and available resources of the region. Efforts should be made to replicate successful model of development from those parts of the world with similar conditions.

(The author, a native of Kargil is Assistant Professor in Higher Education and can be mailed at

Monday, December 24, 2007

HIV/AIDS As a Non – Conventional Threat to Nation States

The African State and the AIDS Crisis

Edited by Amy S. Patterson, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2005, pp.240, $ 51.62

Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues

Paul Farmer, London: University of California Press, 2001, pp. 375, $19.95

HIV/AIDS as a Security Threat to India

Happymon Jacob, New Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 2005, pp.97, $5.82

Reviewed By: Javed I. Naqi

“There are men who fight one day and they are good;

Others fight for a year and they are better;

There are men who fight many years and they are very good;

But there are those who fight all their lives:

These are the indispensable one!

Bertold Bretch, in Silvio Rodriquez’s song.

There is a vast literature on the subject of HIV/AIDS and its socio – economic and political implications. These three books under review are continued attempts on the topic by some eminent scholars. As their title indicates, the books share a common overarching theme, but they are complementary to one another in so far as they view the same subject matter through from alternate angles. While the first book throws light on African State HIV/AIDS crisis and States response to the epidemic, the second largely deals with social inequalities associated with infectious diseases and finally the last, examines the security implications of HIV/AIDS on India as a core.
“The African State and the AIDS Crisis” edited by Amy S. Patterson contains a collection of articles from a variety of world regions, which offers a thorough view of the socio – economic and political implications of HIV/AIDS epidemic in context of African States. This volume also examines the role of the African States in addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis. Through the chapters, the book questions how the African state, which is usually seen to be institutionally weak, limited in resources, and lacking in international power, has responded to HIV/AIDS. Though several of the themes are woven throughout the chapters, the book starts at the sub – national level with an examination of the effect of patriarchy, political culture and civil society on State actions to address HIV/AIDS.
Siplon in his individual piece argues that traditional institutions customary laws affects women vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, at the same time cause women to be underrepresented in AIDS policy making. In the subsequent chapter Farlong and Ball demonstrates that inefficiency on the part of civil societies resulted in ineffective AIDS policy making, thus increasing the vulnerability. Eboko in his write up moves beyond a narrow focus on civil society to illustrate how political cultures shape State actions on AIDS. He asserts that political cultures explain the variety of State responses to AIDS as in the cases of Cameroon and South Africa. These chapters set out continental macro causes for the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including, gender inequality, ineffective HIV/AIDS policies, ignorant political cultures and civil war. Next, the book investigates anti AIDS efforts at the national level. It questions the impact of economic and political transitions on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the ability of states to address AIDS, using the case studies of Ghana, Swaziland, Senegal, Uganda and South Africa. Digging out varied response of African States to HIV/AIDS pandemic, Patterson and her co – authors observe;
“The role of the State in HIV/AIDS has varied dramatically. While the governments of Uganda and Senegal have been proactively engaged in combating the epidemic, other governments such as Ghana and South Africa have been less eager to address the problem. The effectiveness of the State is often limited by domestic considerations. In particular, the tenuous relationship between the government and civil society in many African States such as South Africa has resulted in ineffective responses to HIV/AIDS epidemic. In other areas, such as Ghana and Swaziland this terse relationship has resulted in the State using AIDS funding to garner political favor, further impeding effective HIV/AIDS policy.” (Patterson, 2006)
Further it situates a national level analysis of AIDS policies in Uganda in the larger context of national and international security concerns, particularly in light of the weakness of the African State. In contrast to Happymon’s(2005) approach of how the virus may threaten State security and contribute to State failure, the piece by Robert and Barul investigates an interesting facet that how security threats impact HIV/AIDS. Finally the book turns to the international level, illustrating the role of African states in the development of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. It demonstrates the impact of the TRIPS agreement on the ability of African states to fight AIDS, arguing that the African State has proved fairly impotent in the face on International trade regulations.
Amy S. Patterson in this volume makes use of a broad range of up – to – date literary, scholarly and journalistic, policy and popular sources. The book is of considerable value for its insights into HIV/AIDS pandemic in African States. But some of the concepts outlined in this volume do not always compliment each other. For example, the role of international aid and its effect on the State remain confused. While international aid has undermined the autonomy of the State in decision – making, it has also increased the power of the state versus civil society. Thus creating an overall confusion as to whether the state could be a potential actor for proactive policy making, or whether the State is part of the problem. The conclusion raises questions about the future role of the African States in combating AIDS.
“Infection and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues” edited by Paul Farmer deals with Farmer’s medical experience in Haiti to provide a trenchant analysis of the biologic and social realities of chronic infectious diseases. An interesting facet that the work throws is the assertion that the cause of tuberculosis and AIDS, the two epidemics this book addresses, has as much to do with social inequality as they do with microorganisms. Using data mostly from Haiti, in addition to the data from the United States and Peru, Farmer argues that social and economic inequalities have powerfully sculpted not only the distribution of infectious diseases but also the course of health outcomes among the afflicted. The pathogenic agency of inequality is so great, Farmer maintains, that “inequality itself constitutes our modern plague”, a statement he seeks to demonstrate in the balance of the book. In doing so, he repeatedly acknowledges the work of his mentor Arthus Kleinman, economist Amartya Sen, epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson, and others whose work in a variety of disciplines over the past two decades has focused attention on inequality and lack of social cohesion and their adverse effects on हैल्थ.
Farmer argues that anthropological analysis falls short in explaining the causation of disease. He takes aim at anthropologists who explain the failure of tuberculosis – control programme among poor Haitians as the result of either an inadequate understanding of the local culture on the part of the practitioners or the supernatural beliefs of the local, or both. Farmer writes that it is not that cultural analysis is unimportant but rather that it misses the point when it does not place cultural perspectives in a socio – economic context. Farmer also derides the anthropological studies of the 1980’s that explained the emergence of AIDS in Haiti as the consequence of ‘exotic’ indigenous practices. Instead, Farmer argues, these researchers should have emphasized local and regional socio – economic conditions that impeded effective care and promoted dissemination of the HIV. Farmer is right in his illustration that the understanding of local and regional socio – economic conditions and political cultures are more important in order to produce an effective response against an epidemic in addition to the necessary biological causal agents. Looking back, Eboko (Patterson 2005)in his individual piece in the edited book on ‘African State and the AIDS Crisis’ makes the similar argument in context of Uganda where he draws correlation between HIV/AIDS epidemic and political cultures. He sketches the picture of very different official responses in different settings in the following lines;
“Infections and inequalities: in a wealthy country, the specter of biological warfare, for which there is exceedingly slender evidence, triggers a sort of officially blesses paranoia. In a poor country tightly bound to rich one, real infections continue to kill off the poor, and we are told sternly to look harder for cheaper, more “cost - effective” interventions. At best, those of us working in places like Haiti can hope for trickle – down funds if the plagues of poor are classed as “U.S. security interests.” (Farmer, 2001)
Farmer highlights a “critical epistemology” of emerging infectious diseases that explores in detail how poverty and inequality cause infectious diseases to emerge in specific local context. Aiming to explain why infectious diseases such as TB and AIDS targets the poor, he fill his new work with harrowing public health case studies of the pathogenic effects of poverty and other grim social conditions. Farmer provides a well referenced analysis of everything from cell – mediated immunity to health care access issues. The studies outlined show that extreme poverty, filth and malnutrition are associated with infectious disease and what attitudes and behaviors contribute to the lack of understanding about disease. This connection finds amplification in the work of Happymon Jacob on ‘The Dangerous Factors: Poverty, Ignorance and Stigma’ (Jacob 2005), but I return to the specific empirical illustration in greater detail later.
In “HIV/AIDS as a Security Threat to India” Happymon Jacob, addresses India’s HIV/AIDS epidemic and seeks to build up the argument that the epidemic is a security threat to India. The book attempts to bridge the gap that exists between non – traditional security theories and issues. It argues that HIV/AIDS is rapidly becoming a security threat to India as the disease is affecting the traditional, economic, human and societal security of the country. It says that moreover, in India’s case it is necessary to highlight the dangers of HIV/AIDS in the country’s public as well as political leadership imagination as a security issue.
An interesting parallel that may be drawn between Farmer’s work and Happymon’s study is the desire to capture the often neglected aspect of HIV/AIDS pandemic. For instance Farmer’s close examination of poverty and social inequalities and Happymon’s stress on security implications of HIV/AIDS are never studied in greater depth as these authors did, thus raising questions for future research.
The book opens with an overview of India’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Its history and current status and also takes a brief look at the future of AIDS in India. He argues that there has been a steady increase in the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in India and has now changed its ‘focus groups’ and is increasingly concentrating on the general population and both the rural and the general areas. The author also throws light on the fact that how the disease is a traditional, human, economic and societal security issue. Various levels at which HIV/AIDS acts as a security threat are identified and there is an analysis of its impact on each of these levels. The author finds the future scenario of HIV/AIDS in India highly disturbing because of increased mobility in a highly competitive globalized economy and also the nature of the population that is most vulnerable to this threat. He adds that extensive spread of HIV/AIDS can shaken the pace of economic growth by slowing down the flow of foreign direct investment into India. The author argues that personnel of the armed forces and the state security agencies are highly vulnerable to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Thus the threat of HIV/AIDS is also linked by the author to the traditional military security arena, he records;
India has about 1.3 million military personnel. Since India has a large pool of potential recruits, the disease is unlikely to create a military security problem. However, the lack of recruits is not the only way a nation’s military can be threatened by HIV/AIDS. There are many more ways a country’s military can derail national security which it is supposed to safeguard. As mentioned earlier in a country like India, military personnel who are infected by HIV/AIDS and who would not divulge it due to the fear of losing their job and the social stigma attached to it could jeopardize military prowess and preparedness.” (Happymon, 2005)
Next he analyzes how poverty, ignorance and the social stigma attached to the disease can prove to be accelerators of the epidemic in the country. He writes that ignorance, poverty and social stigma are catalysts in spreading the disease and act as major roadblocks in combating the threat. He argues that wide spread poverty in India, can increase HIV/AIDS through malnutrition, sex for survival and due to the lack of access to health care. Further he makes the point that ignorance and widespread stigma about HIV/AIDS can make it very dangerous as it contributes to the suffering of those infected and their relatives.
Finally the author attempts to briefly describe the HIV/AIDS situation in Africa and compares the experience of African countries in combating the threat of HIV/AIDS to that of India. It highlights the fact that the Indian government must accord HIV/AIDS a special stature of security concern; otherwise India will overtake African States in HIV/AIDS epidemic and India’s situation would be where South Africa is today. He adds up Thai experience in combating the epidemic as a success model which India could emulate in order to reduce the epedimicity of the chronic disease.
The authors endeavor to relate HIV/AIDS epidemic to security threat is praiseworthy. I find Happymon’s study and style of presentation commendable, thus making the text highly accessible even to a general reading public. Several relevant statistics and a treasure of sources have been added. This further enhances the value of the book. However, the book is weak in its analysis and does not address issues that would help us to develop our understanding of the long term solution to this crisis. Nor does it addresses the State and non – state responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemics. More important than minor criticism, this piece represents a stellar contribution in the best tradition of applied social science while providing a bridge heal into the world AIDS pandemic. An interesting and though – provoking book, the piece by Happymon raises questions for further research.
In the final analysis, authors of the three books reviewed herein have tried their best to critically examine and analyze the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. We argue that, in the case of the books reviewed herein, HIV/AIDS pandemic is not only causing a devasting socio – economic and political impact on the nation – states but is also posing a great threat to the security of the nation – states. The books highlight the fact that HIV/AIDS poses new challenges to the existence of humanity. The studies try to show that the epidemic can be catastrophic depending how the states respond. The books therefore, make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the HIV/AIDS crisis and the issues to be addressed. It deals with new initiatives and global priorities and their relevance and implications for developing world in general and India and African states in particular. The winners over the pandemic in today’s world are those who gives top priority to HIV/AIDS crisis as given to other threats like war and terrorism and dealing the situation with well – planned and mass – based programmes, can only reverse the pace and the spread of the disease. That is the illumination brought to fore by these literatures.
Overall the authors of the three books are commended for accomplishing a great task that is to put forth a well argued, well organized and useful contribution on such a sensitive issue.