Challenges and How to Overcome Them
First, let us consider the physical
challenges of the establishment of the peace park and its subsequent
management. It is important for the initiative to have certain palpable
impact on visitors in order for it to truly be a peace park. Thus the
park should be accessible to visitors from all countries and should
also have a sound conservation management plan. Since much of the
terrain is at extraordinarily high altitudes, it will be exceedingly
difficult to enforce conservation plans without ongoing logistical
support and resources. This is where the army’s experiences on both
sides may be put to valuable use as discussed below.
Ideally, a peace
park would be a demilitarized zone where weapons of any sort would not be
allowed. However, absolute demilitarization maybe unrealistic in the
Karakoram case. Rather, a possible approach would be to have existing
military establishments on both sides lend their logistical support for
conservation management of the park. Soldiers thus would serve as
park rangers and help in managing the park. This approach would serve
two purposes: first, it would allay fears on both sides about border
security; second, it would provide a means for militaries on both sides to
work together for a constructive purpose – thereby building camaraderie and
Most of the
proposals for a peace park in the Karakorams begin with the outline of the
existing Central Karakoram National Park in the area of Kashmir held by Pakistan.
Officially established in 1993 and provided with an official
management plan prepared by the IUCN in 1999, though it is actually a park on
paper only. The military controls all management of the region.
Adjoining this park to the west is the Khunjerab National Park, which has
within its boundaries a portion of the Karakoram Highway and road access to China. This
region, which was part of the ancient Silk Route has also been proposed for
World Natural Heritage site status but because of ongoing tension in the
region the proposal
was stalled at UNESCO. On the Chinese side of the border is the Taxkorgan
Conservation area, established under the leadership of the
conservationist, George Schaller.
for the proposed peace park would best be undertaken in phases to promote
trust between the parties to the process. The
initial phase would extend the boundary of the Central Karakoram National
Park eastward in the area north of grid reference point NJ9842 to encompass the
Siachen Glacier area. Thus, a substantial majority of the park area in its initial phase would
be within territory occupied by Pakistan, with the smaller eastern portion in
areas occupied by India. While this asymmetric arrangement
might be viewed as problematic by India, there are compelling reasons why
both India and Pakistan would find it advantageous. Demilitarization of
a large part the of the Karakoram region would enhance the security of both countries;
and the joint peace-building measure would greatly reduce military expenditure
in a very costly and essentially pointless military struggle.
Later phases of the park might include further expansion into Ladakh to the
east, and the Khunjerab region to the west. Additionally, China would be a natural
partner to the north, where the Taxkorgan Conservation area could be
extended to include the Shaksgam Tract, thereby forming a trinational peace
park. However, the later phases of the park can only be developed once the
initial phase proves
successful with regard to visitor access and security.
Visitor access to an
international peace park should ideally not require conventional visa
documents – as is the case with locations such as the Sharm-al-Shaikh region
of Egypt. However, this is again not practical here, since such a mechanism
requires direct international airport access to the region. While Skardu and
Leh could potentially provide such access, the prospects for such a high
level of internationalization at this stage are remote.
Instead a more
realistic approach would be to allow visitors from either India or Pakistan
to be able to enter the peace park on their entry visas from either country,
while not allowing for crossover into the other country beyond the borders
of the peace park (an arrangement similar to that for the internal border
maintained by China in respect to Hong Kong and Macau). Over time these
restrictions could be eased.
A joint commission
to monitor the impact of tourists and also to provide a mechanism for
approving research projects within the park boundaries would be needed.
Involving China in a commission of this kind would be advisable even at the
outset, given the strengths of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the
access that researchers and visitors may need from the Chinese side of the
border. Such a commission would also provide a forum for direct
collaboration among scientists in India, Pakistan and China.
plans have already been prepared for the CKNP by the IUCN, broader international
guidelines for managing a highly diverse and potentially contentious
assemblage of stakeholders will be needed. Such plans call for collective ownership by the
concerned governments as well as by local population in the surrounding tracts in order for
the initiative to be successful.
The K-2 peace park
would probably be categorized as a Category-V conservation area under the
World Commission on Protected Areas categorization Scheme, indicating that
it is a “protected landscape, managed mainly for landscape conservation and
recreation.” Various methods for managing such areas provide a role for local communities in decision-making.
work by Adrian Phillips for IUCN could be instructive in further developing