This week, we witnessed the devastating effects of climate change on Afghanistan and the country’s acute vulnerability to natural disasters. Flash floods in the wake of heavy seasonal rains killed at least 31 people in Afghanistan last weekend, leaving 74 injured and at least 41 missing. The devastating floods damaged more than 600 homes and hundreds of acres of agricultural land. The international community seems to have a moral imperative to contribute more to climate mitigation and adaptation efforts in Afghanistan—bolstered by recent efforts to strengthen climate resilience throughout the global south.
Meanwhile in neighbouring countries, record-breaking heat and devastating floods have been hitting this summer. In India, ethnic violence has sent shockwaves across the country, resulting in mass protests and outrage. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi briefly spoke on the incident after a shocking video surfaced of two women being paraded naked and assaulted by a mob.
In Pakistan, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently spoke with Pakistan’s foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, by phone, in which Blinken said democratic principles and respect for the rule of law are “central” to U.S.-Pakistani relations. Reports that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party would like Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to serve as prime minister in the caretaker administration that will take over next month ahead of elections raised fresh concerns about the country’s democracy.
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe travelled to India last week and produced further economic agreements. New Delhi has warm relations with Colombo, especially since it provided $4 billion in aid and support during Sri Lanka’s major economic crisis last year.
China, which has investments in the country that have generated controversy in recent years, launched a new project linked to its Belt and Road Initiative in Nepal this week. Beijing reportedly hopes to replicate the initiative in other countries as well, and this may be an attempt to push back against rising U.S. and Indian influence in Nepal.
Ultimately, efforts to address the devastating effects of climate change and other pressing challenges around South Asia require collaboration between governments and civil society. With fragile democracies, human security challenges, and mounting pressure from global powers, the situation in South Asia can seem daunting. But tense politics, economic woes, and global competition do not have to be mutually exclusive from international and regional cooperation, sustainable policies, and economic and social progress throughout the region.