Monsoon has arrived in India and its great news for Indians because with it begins the season of joy in the country. Same is the case with many other nations of Asia that are dependent on the monsoon.
Well in this backdrop, it would be nice to remember the idea “Monsoon Asia” that was afloat in late 1950s as a way of regional cooperation among the nations of Asia that are dependent on monsoon. However, this vision was killed when India – China went to war in 1962 and now it’s almost a forgotten history.
Monsoon Asia was a visionary concept with far reaching consequences and had it fructified, it could have changed the politico-economic structure of the South and Southeast Asian nations.
The underlying idea behind Monsoon Asia was to make geography the basis of cooperation among nations and to undermine the political differences by bringing in economic gains for collective sustainable developmental activities.
However, the dream of Monsoon Asia based on shared geographical pattern of monsoon is now gone with the wind. What is left behind is its memoirs and hopes that if it could be revived, it may make tremendous impact on the lives of future generation.
This becomes more pertinent with Climate Change fanning its ugly head and calling for attention the importance the idea of revival of “Monsoon Asia” and forging alliances between nations based on such commonality is a talking point.
The idea of Monsoon Asia if given a fillip can not only change the fate of large number of people but also may help in meeting the challenges of the problems posed by the issue of climate change.
It is therefore necessary to know what Monsoon Asia is. The original idea was mooted in late fifties with as many as 23 countries of southeast and south Asia region coming under the fold of Monsoon Asia. The total population of this region was tipped to be more than 3.7 billion people (3,700,000,000) of which 64 percent living n the rural milieu.
The population growth of the Monsoon Asia region is still much faster than any other region of the world. China; India and Indonesia are the three most populated countries in Monsoon Asia region. In terms of land mass, Monsoon Asia occupied a huge geographical space with China being the largest land area followed by India.
In Monsoon Asia Tibetan plateau with its glaciers feed some of the greatest rivers of the region and is lifeline for two billion people. Now, when its ice and snow are diminishing and the ‘Climate Change’ activists are raising concerns about it, reviving idea of Monsoon Asia of cooperation could be a great idea.
Himalayas is the most important mountain range in Monsoon Asia. The Himalayas are also source of many great rivers that are part of many counties of the region.
The Mekong River is the longest river that starts in the Himalayas and flows through China, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea.
In India the river Ganges that is about 1,560 miles long, waters a huge area called the Indo-Gangetic plains. It is also a lifeline to millions of people. The Brahmaputra River, about 1,800 miles in length flows out of Himalayas and joins with the Ganges to form huge delta that makes the entire region very fertile for agriculture.
In China the Yangtze (Chang Jiang) river flows from the Tibetan Plateau accounts for much of the agricultural power in China. Yangtze combining with the ‘Yellow River,’ flow through the North China Plain that witnesses intensive farming activities.
Now when the ‘Yellow River’ is disappearing fast and ways and means of its revival is being thought out, cooperation under the banner Monsoon Asia could a bright idea to address this major environmental concern.
Further, the Himalayas block the clouds that forms monsoon and is a major source for rains in the entire region of Monsoon Asia. The monsoon formation takes place in two cycles; one summer monsoons that last from May to October and other, the winter monsoons that lasts from November to April.
The most common climates in Monsoon Asia region is humid subtropical and tropical wet type of climate. The most common vegetation zones in the region are broadleaf evergreen forest, rain forest and highlands.
Coal, hydroelectric power, and oil are the most common resources in Monsoon Asia. Farming, nomadic herding, fishing are the most common land uses in Monsoon Asia.
Monsoon Asia is known for production of coal and rubber. Manufacturing of cars and electronics, machinery, toys, clothing, and other items are done in the region. In Monsoon Asia, the most common religions are; Hinduism 28%, Islam 14% & Buddhism 12%.
One can go on giving any number of facts and figures to belt out the importance of Monsoon Asia that could regenerate interests in reviving this idea of regional cooperation.
In the same vein, it can be said that at a time, when India’s ‘Look East’ policy has become ‘Act East’, the idea of Monsoon Asia could provide the necessary platform of cooperation with the Southeast Asian nations.
Further, with BRICS grouping India and China has come together on the same platform, the two neighbors can very well cooperate on the idea of Monsoon Asia.
Last but not the least, the revival of the idea of Monsoon Asia can be considered from the environmental point of view. This is because most of the Climate Change concerns are centered on Himalayas and the Tibetan glaciers and they need attention. If the idea of Monsoon Asia could be revived such concerns can be collectively addressed.
It’s ironical that for long politics has been setting the agenda for peace and development. Mostly the issues related to geographical considerations are being overlooked. This thought process needs to be changed and people should be allowed to shape their future on geographical consideration like Monsoon Asia.
Monsoon Asia provides a window of aspirations to large number of people who may be willing to collectively pursue their developmental goals. The commonality of monsoon pattern provides them a ready-made launch pad to reshape their future.
We all know well that to know Asia and its people, one has to understand the monsoon pattern that’s formed here. It is not enough to read about it, or see it in pictures; it has to be a personal experience to enjoy the bounties of nature. Monsoon in Asia is preceded by desolation; it brings with it hopes; it has the fullness of summer and the fulfillment of autumn.
Nothing short of living through the monsoon can fully convey all it true meanings. The coming of the monsoon is a source of life to millions of people and also their most exciting date with the nature.
As far as India, the revival of the idea of Monsoon Asia would we’ll fit into the current pattern of diplomacy pursued by New Delhi vis-à-vis China and Southeast Asian countries.
The idea Monsoon Asia definitely is a peace dividend. It can mitigate differences and establish peace in the vast region of Asia. So let Monsoon Asia be the new clarion call for India.
[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org - The article's abridged version appeared in civil service India.]