Washington: Environmental factors - like the present floods - could further weaken an already weak Pakistani state and add impetus to a return to military rule or a more bellicose posture towards India, warns a new US Congressional report.
"Environmental stresses, when combined with the other socio-economic and political stresses on Pakistan, have the potential to further weaken an already weak Pakistani state," says the background report prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) for US lawmakers.
"Such a scenario would make it more difficult to achieve the US goal of neutralising anti-Western terrorists in Pakistan," says the report on "Security and the Environment in Pakistan."
"Some analysts argue that disagreements over water could also exacerbate existing tensions between India and Pakistan," the report says identifying it as an issue that may be of increasing concern given the importance of this region to US interests for many reasons.
Examining the potentially destabilising effect of environmental factors combined with Pakistan`s limited economic development, the report warns that "these factors could contribute to Pakistan`s decline as a fully functioning state, creating new, or expanding existing, largely ungoverned areas."
"The creation, or expansion, of ungoverned areas, or areas of limited control by the government of Pakistan, is viewed as not in US strategic interests given the recent history of such areas being used by the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups as a base for operations against US interests in the region," it says.
"Environmental factors could also expand the ranks of the dispossessed in Pakistan, which could lead to greater recruitment for radical Islamist groups operating in Pakistan or Afghanistan," the report says warning: "Larger numbers of dispossessed people in Pakistan could also destabilise the current political regime."
"This could add pressure on the Pakistani political system and possibly add impetus to a return to military rule or a more bellicose posture towards India," CRS says describing it as an issue that has added "significant importance to regional security and American interests in Afghanistan."
The potential for environmental factors to stoke conflict between the nuclear armed India and Pakistan is also a concern, it says noting "These two historical enemies have repeatedly fought across their international frontier and have yet to resolve their territorial dispute over Kashmir."
"Further, a longstanding dispute over cross-border water resource sharing between India and Pakistan has resurfaced, possibly exacerbating existing tensions between the two states," the report says, but suggests "Should the two countries wish, however, this dispute also offers a renewed opportunity for cooperation, as has been seen in past negotiations."
Pakistan experienced what have been described as the worst floods in the country`s history. These floods reportedly killed over 1,100 people and devastated large parts of the Swat Valley where the Pakistan government is seeking to reassert its control after displacing Islamist militants.