Washington: As Pakistan reels under one of the worst floods in decades, a Congressional report has warned American lawmakers that environmental factors including unresolved water dispute with India would lead to greater recruitment for radical Islamist groups in that country.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its latest report on Pakistan notes that the creation, or expansion of ungoverned areas, or areas of limited government control, 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.
In this sense, environmental stress is viewed as a potential "threat multiplier" to existing sources of conflict, the CRS, an independent research wing of the US Congress,
"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 CRS report `Security and the Environment in Pakistan` stated.
"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. This issue has added significant importance to regional security and American
interests in Afghanistan," it said.
The potential for environmental factors to stoke conflict between these two nuclear armed countries is also a concern, the report said, adding the two historical enemies
have repeatedly fought across their international frontier and 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. Should the two countries wish, however, this dispute also offers a renewed opportunity for cooperation, as has been seen in past negotiations," the report said.
The CRS warned the lawmakers that preliminary findings indicate that existing environmental problems in Pakistan are sufficiently significant to warrant a close watch, especially when combined with its limited resilience due to mounting demographic stresses, internal political instability, security challenges and limited economic resources.