A common enemy —tiny but devastating as a swarm—has brought two hostile, nuclear-armed neighbours together to plot and unleash a joint fight. The foes in question are locusts (tiddi in Hindi) from Africa, the breeding ground of the pest that finds mention in early Sanskrit texts, the Bible, Egyptian tomb hieroglyphics, and Amharic folk songs of Ethiopia. The protagonist of immeasurable pestilence has flown this year from the Horn of Africa to Iran en route to Pakistan, and Barmer and Jaisalmer regions of Rajasthan’s Thar desert. Yes, Pakistan and India—neighbours not at talking terms since the Indian Air Force’s strikes on terrorist camps in Balakot. The ties plummeted further with the BJP-led Union government’s latest move to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy.
Yet, scientists and agriculture experts of both nations have been collaborating since May this year on the “little terrorists” threatening to devour everything in their path, flagging a possible threat to crops and food security. The region recorded a locust outbreak nearly a quarter of a century ago and the devastation was monstrous. Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said in a written reply to Parliament on July 23 that officials on both sides of the border were trying to contain the invader that has already damaged crops in Pakistan.