From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Himalayan Orogeny
Mains level : Territorialization of Himalayas
A conceptual audit of questions related to geopolitics and security concerns while talking or thinking about the Himalaya is perhaps long overdue.
About the Himalayas
- The Himalayas are a mountain range in South and East Asia separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau.
- The range has many of Earth’s highest peaks, including the highest, Mount Everest, at the border between Nepal and China.
- Lifted by the subduction of the Indian tectonic plate under the Eurasian Plate, the Himalayan Mountain range runs west-northwest to east-southeast in an arc 2,400 km.
- It consists of parallel mountain ranges: the Sivalik Hills on the south; the Lower Himalayan Range; the Great Himalayas, which is the highest and central range; and the Tibetan Himalayas on the north.
- The Karakoram are generally considered separate from the Himalayas.
Identity of Himalayas: Only as a frontier
- We have been examining the Himalaya mainly through the coordinates of geopolitics and security while relegating others as either irrelevant or incompatible.
- In a certain sense, our intellectual concerns over the Himalaya have been largely shaped by the assumption of fear, suspicion, rivalry, invasion, encroachment and pugnacity.
- If during colonial times it was Russophobia, then now it is Sinophobia or Pakistan phobia that in fact determines our concerns over the Himalayas.
- Ironically it is the Delhi-Beijing-Islamabad triad, and not the mountain per se, that defines our concerns about the Himalayas.
A national Himalaya
- Border issues has given birth to the political compulsion of territorializing the Himalaya on a par with the imperatives of nationalism.
- Thus the attempt to create a national Himalaya by each of the five nations (Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, and Tibet/China) fall within this transnational landmass called the Himalaya.
India and the Himalayas
- India’s understanding of the Himalayas is informed by a certain kind of realism, as it continues to remain as space largely defined in terms of sovereign territoriality.
- It may be perceived that such an alternative conceptualization of Himalayas is not only possible but also necessary.
- National Mission on Himalayan Studies: It is a classic case in point that provides funds for research and technological innovations, but creating policies only for the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR).
A historical logjam of territorialization
- The Himalayas territorialization bears a colonial legacy which also sets up its post-colonial destiny as played out within the dynamics of nation-states.
- The arbitration of relationships between and among the five nation-states falling within the Himalayan landmass has failed to transcend.
- The lines of peoplehood and the national border never coincided; thus, it was bound to give birth to tensions while working out projects predicated upon national sovereignty.
- Given this historical logjam, what we can only expect is the escalation of territorial disputes as the immediate fallout.
Borders and their differences
- It needs to be recognized that political borders and cultural borders are not the same things.
- Political borders are to be considered as space-making strategies of modern nation-states that do not necessarily coincide with cultural borders.
- It needs to be realized that the domain of non-traditional security (cases of ecological devastation, climate change) is equally important.
- The Himalaya is a naturally evolved phenomenon should be understood through frameworks that have grown from within the Himalaya.
- Viewing the Himalayas as a space of political power is a violent choice, which actually enriched ultra-sensitivity towards territorial claims and border management.