All parties working on this
project are doing so out of respect for the natural
environment. Their stance is, thus, inherently apolitical, while
recognizing and respecting political processes needed to achieve their goals.
Three areas of relevant activity are noted below:
interested in the scientific value of the region – for both natural and social science research -- have proposed the idea of a peace
park. The Karakoram Science Project was initiated by former U.S.
Ambassador to India, Harry Barnes, and the eminent geologist, Jack Shroder,
in 2003 with support from institutions such as the National
Geographic Society. There is also
interest from planetary scientists and glaciologists such as Jeffrey Kargel, potentially under NASA auspices,
to make the area available for
research experiments, given its high altitude and rocky, glaciated
environment (making it suitable as a terrestrial research environment
with attributes similar to terrain on Mars).
Under the auspices of the
Kashmir Study Group (initiated by the Kashmiri-American businessman, Farooq Kathwari), the idea for using the peace park concept as a tool
for conflict mitigation has been proposed by geographers Joseph
Schwartzberg and Nigel Allan.
To provide a sound research base for this purpose, Allan has also
compiled an authoritative bibliography on the region.
researchers such as Saleem Ali, are interested in the planning
mechanisms by which common environmental protection goals can be used to
bring hostile players together. Unlike peace parks between friendly
neighbors, the Karakoram peace park provides a greater challenge.
Thus, understanding the process for peace-building in this context may
great value for other areas of conflict resolution.
Mountaineering and Tourism
Mountaineers have also been
avid supporters of the peace park idea, particularly since the
establishment of the Sagarmatha International Peace Park between China
and Nepal. The momentum in this regard comes from both indigenous
mountaineers such as Harish Kapadia and Sayed Hamidullah, and from
foreign mountain climbers such as the Italian initiative "K2-2004", in
celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the first summiting of K2.
The Italian effort also has a research component, inspired by late Professor Ardito Desio,
who led the first successful expedition in 1954, as well as direct government backing from the Italian
Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry Policies and the parliamentary
group, “Friends of the Mountains.”
Taking advantage of this opportunity for international sensibility and
awareness raising, an informal Italian working group has been created
with the aim of providing support for the implementation of the Central
Karakoram National Park in commemoration of K2's 50th anniversary
and, subsequently, at the establishment of a peace park.
Some joint climbs between
Indian and Pakistani mountaineers have also been conducted to support
this cause. Two notable climbs were held in 2003 – one in Switzerland, the other in South Africa. The latter was organized in association
with the World Parks Congress and led to the Didima Declaration on
September 7, 2003. This declaration, signed by 60 delegates from 27
countries at the Maloti-Drankensberg Mountains peace park between
Lesotho and South Africa, called for further international efforts “to
strive for a just world which secures our shared resources for the
benefits of all people through peaceful cooperative efforts which
transcend national boundaries.”
Additionally, the tourism
potential of the Karakoram is immense and there are numerous adventure
tourism outfitters who would revel at the opportunity for safe access to
this unique region.
The International Institute for Peace through Tourism also strongly
support the Karakoram peace park proposal and is willing to share
experiences of other economically-driven tourism ventures that have led
to peace initiatives.
Indeed, this may become the most direct utilitarian / market approach to the
establishment of the park.
3. Environmental Conservation
Environmentalists in both
India and Pakistan have also been advocating the establishment of a
peace park for several years. The Karakoram range includes fragile ecosystems that
have been impacted by military presence and the lack of proper
conservation management regimes.
Endangered species, such as
the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep,
and Tibetan gazelle, are found at lower elevations
of the Karakorams. Furthermore, the huge amount of freshwater stored in
the glaciers constitutes an important feature of the hydrologic
balance for much of South Asia. Melting of the glaciers due to
activities in their immediate vicinity or as a result of climate change
deserves careful monitoring and attention and is ranked among the
Worldwide Fund for Nature’s Global-200 areas “critical to global
The World Commission on
Protected Areas (WCPA) in cooperation with various officials from the World
Conservation Union (IUCN), have formed an ad hoc working group on the
prospects of peace parks and published a detailed report on transboundary parks of this kind.
The idea for a peace park, specifically in the Karakorams, was brought up
at a workshop of the WCPA held in Dhaka in June 2003. As a follow-up, an ad hoc working group has been formed and an electronic
petition forum was started by the Mumbai-based environmental group Sanctuary
presentation in favour of the Siachen Peace Park was also presented at
the V World Park’s Congress held last September in Durban by a
representative of the informal Italian working group during the
Governance Stream of the Transboundary Protected Areas for Peace and
Co-operation sub session
A Unified Stance
All these initiatives reflect
the broad spectrum of support for this project from the grassroots and
beyond. The next step lies in bringing the issue to policy makers and
overcoming some of the physical and political constraints to the idea.