Monsoon has arrived in India and its great news because with it begins the season of joy in the country. Same is the case with many other Asian nations that are dependent on the monsoon.
It is in this backdrop it would be nice to remember an ‘idea’ “Monsoon Asia” that was conceived in late 1950s as a way of regional cooperation among the nations of Asia that is dependent on the monsoon. However, India – China war of 1962 killed this vision and its high time that India should take lead and give a clarion call to revive the idea of Monsoon Asia.
Monsoon was a visionary idea with far reaching consequences and if fructified, could have changed political and economic architecture of the South and Southeast Asian nations that we see as it exists today.
The underlying idea behind Monsoon Asia vision was to make geography the basis of cooperation and to undermine the political differences by bringing economic gains to collectively augment further goals of sustainable development.
However, the dream of Monsoon Asia and the vision of cooperation based on shared geographical pattern of Monsoon has gone with the wind and now what is left is its remembrance and a hope that if it could be revived it could make tremendous impact on the livers of future generation.
Since long the considerations of politics and economics have ruled the roost but now with Climate Change fanning its ugly head, the importance of geography and its bounties are calling for attention. It’s time to revive the idea of Monsoon Asia and forge alliances between nations based on the commonality of monsoon pattern.
This could not only change the fate of large number of people who got the common link call Monsoon Asia but also may help to meet the challenges of climate change in the region.
In this context, it’s necessary to give a Birdseye view of the idea of Monsoon Asia. The original idea mooted in late fifties was that as many as 23 countries of southeast and south Asia region could be part of the Monsoon Asia. The total population of this region comprised of more than 3.7 billion people (3,700,000,000) of which 64 percent lived in the rural milieu.
The population growth of the region is much faster growth rate than any other region of the world. China; India and Indonesia are the three most populated countries in the Monsoon Asia. In terms of land mass, Monsoon Asia occupy a huge geographical space with China having 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, reviving idea of Monsoon Asia becomes all the more important.
Himalayas is the most important mountain range in Monsoon Asia. The Himalayas are also source of many rivers that are part of many counties in 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 and is lifeline to millions of people. The Brahmaputra River that’s about 1,800 miles long flows out of Himalayas and joins with the Ganges and 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 it has become a major environmental concern, there is need for its revival.
The Himalayas Mountain blocks the clouds that forms monsoons and are 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 the other is the winter monsoons that lasts from November to April.
The most common climates in Monsoon Asia is humid subtropical and tropical wet. 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 manufactured here. The most common religions in Monsoon Asia are; Hinduism 28%, Islam 14% & Buddhism 12%.
One can go on giving any number of facts and figures to belt out that could regenerate interests in reviving the idea of Monsoon Asia as a way of regional cooperation. In the same vein, it can be said that with BRICS when India and China can come together, why not the two can cooperate on the idea of Monsoon Asia.
At a time, when India’s ‘Look East’ policy has become ‘Act East’, the idea of Monsoon Asia is all that necessary of cooperation with the Southeast Asian nations.
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 are in need of attention.
It’s ironical that politics sets the agenda even for peace and development and geographical considerations are overlooked. This thinking process needs a change and it’s high time that for the sake of humanity allow the geographical considerations to shape the future of mankind. In such consideration the idea of Monsoon Asia has to be given a relook.
Monsoon Asia provides a window of aspirations of large number of people that maybe willing to collectively pursue their developmental goals on the commonality of Monsoon pattern. Let this idea get a needs lease of life.
Well to know Asia and its people, one has to know the monsoon pattern. It is not enough to read about it, or see it in the pictures or movies; it has to be a personal experience.
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 it can fully convey all it meanings which is not only the source of life to millions of people, but also their most exciting date with nature.
As far as India is concerned, the revival of the idea of Monsoon Asia would we’ll fit into the current pattern diplomacy pursued by New Delhi vis-à-vis China and Southeast Asian country.
The idea definitely is a peace dividend concept that can mitigate differences and bring peace in the vast region of Asia. Thus let Monsoon Asia be the new clarion call for India.
-Syed Ali Mujtaba