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Anjan Kumar Sahu asked: The government has repeatedly been saying that climate change is not a security issue. But, what is the view of the Indian Army?

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  • P.K. Gautam replies: India is a responsible regional and global power.  The Indian Army is a part of the democratic system.  The report of the IDSA Working Group, “Security Implications of Climate Change for India” (Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2009), explains why it is not considered as viable to take the issue of climate change as a security issue. India has the least per capita emission. Its securitisation in the sense of the Copenhagen School will make it more difficult and unfair. Rather, green consciousness of the Indian Army has been taken as a good practice at the international level, which has been covered in detail in my book, “Environmental Security: New Challenges and Role of the Military” (Shipra Publications, New Delhi, 2010). The Indian Army since the 1980s is the only army in the world which has had ecological task force battalions of the Territorial Army, undertaking greening projects in harsh terrain. The infantry which has the entire Himalayan border as combat zone is not very energy or carbon intensive. Carbon neutral foot and hoof mobility is the key which it sustains. Frugalness is also a virtue in war-fighting.

    But, overall, the military equipment of the three services is highly energy and material intensive. It is also destructive in its primary mission. It is incumbent that the Indian military also must be part of the adaptation and mitigation process of climate change and related matters, such as, arresting environmental degradation and restoration of natural capital with a green consciousness. The military’s effort in arresting climate change, including ozone depletion, is just one part of the spectrum. The Centre for Air Power Studies (New Delhi) is in the forefront of the initiatives on Montréal Protocol and Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) in the military, their reduction and phase out and banking till suitable replacements are found. Many foreign countries too have been assisted in this matter.

    For military operations under risks of climate change, you can also read my article, “Changing Geographical Factors in Planning and Conduct of Indian Military Operations”, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 32, Issue 2, March 2008 and  “Climate Change and the Military”, Journal of Defence Studies, Vol. 3, Issue 4, October 2009.

    Finally, the increasing role of military in climate-related disaster relief is well documented and will give you a new perspective. Military, to me, is part of the solution to climate change.