South Asia’s extreme smog worsens each winter, helping to kill an estimated 1.2 million Indians and 128,000 Pakistanis annually—more than have died in either country from the COVID virus. As pollution this past winter exacerbated the pandemic, India’s and Pakistan’s governments responded with mutual blame. Yet COVID, and a sudden moment of détente between these bitter rivals, could offer an opportunity to address the smog crisis, and build rare collaboration with the only strategy that can work: a joint one. The governments, their U.S. and international allies and civil society should use this chance to jumpstart such an effort.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are in Asia this week for their first official foreign trip. They held meetings in Japan and South Korea. Blinken returned to the United States via Alaska where he and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan meet with their Chinese counterparts today, while Austin is in India. On March 12, President Joe Biden and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan participated in a virtual summit of the “Quad,” a strategic dialogue between the four countries aimed at ensuring an open, free and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
Hundreds of thousands of farmers have been protesting new farm laws on the outskirts of the Indian capital city of New Delhi since September 2020. The prominent presence of women in what is perhaps the world’s largest ongoing protest movement, and certainly the biggest domestic challenge facing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, has put a spotlight on the important role women play in agriculture in this South Asian nation; it also marks a milestone in women’s struggle for equality, and their leadership of nonviolent movements.
The U.S. Institute of Peace and His Holiness the Dalai Lama have joined to strengthen the abilities of youth leaders to build peace in the world’s most violent regions. These leaders are among their countries’ most effective peacebuilders. The dialogue with the Dalai Lama helps them to build the personal resilience they need to work against the tensions or violence in their homelands.