Flooding along the Indus River Valley in Pakistan, beginning in July 2010, seems set to be a pivotal strategic factor in the Northern Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf region. It should be expected to significantly affect the conduct and outcome of the US-led Coalition military operations in Afghanistan.
Despite this, the US and international response has been minimal, and just more than half the $460-million requested by the United Nations for disaster relief had been disbursed by mid-September 2010.
In terms of impact, the flooding is far more significant than the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the Haitians still have almost $2-billion in disaster relief funding awaiting spending decisions. The human, economic, and strategic ramifications of the July to September 2010 flooding of the Indus River Valley have yet to be seen.
The immediate loss of life and property has been the smallest part of the equation in Pakistan, but long-term loss of life, social dislocation, and political ramifications will be far greater as the loss of crops, planting cycles, livestock, infrastructure, and food stocks begins to take a toll on the populations of the affected areas, adding distinct pressures to the Pakistani domestic political and electoral processes. This, and the surge expected of malaria, malnutrition, and other health concerns as a result of the flooding, will impact negatively on the viability (and even the ability) of the Government of Pakistan to play the role which the international community demands with regard to the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s 2010 floods began in July as a result of the heavy monsoonal rains in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier), Sindh, Punhab, and Baluchistan provinces. By mid-September 2010, the death toll from the flooding was at least 1,800, but estimates show that the direct toll could rise to 40,000. The secondary-effects death toll is expected to be dramatically more than that, however, and the long-term political and social consequences even more profound.
It is significant that this defining natural disaster, with major ramifications for the global community, has been met with virtual indifference from the same international community which responded so comprehensively to the January 13, 2010, earthquake which struck Haiti, leaving some 223,000 dead and 1.5-million homeless. Equally significant is that India, geographically remote from Haiti, immediately dispatched physical aid to Haiti as part of the relief efforts, but made only a token response of some $5-million in cash to its immediate neighbor, Pakistan, when the crisis struck there.