"It is an unfortunate reality that South Asia remains one of the most disaster-prone regions of the world,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Monday in response to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi’s offer to help with flood relief in Pakistan. "As we chart a course to advance our common goals of peace and stability, we must also focus on addressing the deeper causes of recurrent floods and on strengthening the preparedness and resilience of our communities against natural calamities. I believe closer collaboration in disaster management should be a part of our agenda of peace and development in the region."

More than 300 people have died of floods and landslides in Jammu Division, Kashmir Valley, Neelum Valley (in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir) and Pakistani Punjab over the last few days. As the waters recede, numbers are likely to rise. At a time when it seemed all of Srinagar was going to drown, Prime Minister Modi went there to observe the situation, promised all help, and refrained from making any political remarks, except offering Pakistan help with relief and rescue across the Line of Control.

Had it been Manmohan Singh offering Pakistan help in situation, Modi, his party and its rather loud supporters on the streets and the internet would have been critical of the statement. They would have criticised him for worrying about Pakistanis when Indians were trapped in the floods. Who should be the first priority, they would have asked.

It’s funny that those across the Line of Control are, in a sense, not Pakistanis, and many of those on this side of the Line of Control don’t want to be Indian. It’s strange that across the LoC is a place the map of India tells us is in India, but that Modi has to offer Nawaz Sharif help in rescuing those people we believe are Indians.

There were some on Twitter who were trying their best to say that we should ignore floods in Kashmir. The animosity came from the fact that many in the Kashmir Valley resent India and would like to be a different country. Yet there were "proud Indians" on Twitter doing their best to tell the world they don’t care about Kashmir.

Geography over history

The messy history of the Jammu and Kashmir conflict has a sobering lesson from geography. Nature does not respect borders or ceasefire lines. The floods have wreaked more damage on both sides of the border, even to army infrastructure, than the cat-and-mouse shelling that the Indian and Pakistani armies carry out rather often these days.

The floods are the second such lesson in less than a decade. The 2005 Kashmir earthquake had also offered a similar message. Before nature’s fury, the fighting between India and Pakistan over Kashmir appears petty and childish.

Before there were borders, there was just geography. There were valleys and mountains and rivers, and yes, there were floods and earthquakes and landslides. Perhaps some of what we are seeing is climate change at work. Reports of environmental damage at Siachen Glacier, and the havoc that can cause, do not seem to alarm us.

That the two sides need to collaborate to prepare for natural disasters in ecologically sensitive and seismic Jammu and Kashmir is obvious. Yet such collaboration is impossible with two nuclear-armed militaries standing eyeball to eyeball on a ceasefire line, ready to go to war any time.

Sabka Kashmir

Resolving this imbroglio requires us to move from a situation of seeing the geography of Jammu and Kashmir as exclusive territorial domain to a shared one. In keeping with his philosophy of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas", Modi needs to move to a position of "Sabka Kashmir". That would require not only letting Pakistani authorities meet Kashmiri separatists in Delhi, but also a lot more broad-mindedness.

Thankfully, we already have a roadmap to implement the policy of Sabka Kashmir. The Four Point Formula evolved by General Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the only feasible way to resolve the Kashmir problem, and by extension the India-Pakistan problem. These four points are an open border, local autonomy, a joint mechanism to allow both sides of J&K to work on matters of common interest and demilitarisation. In other words, Kashmir can belong to India, Pakistan and also itself, all at the same time.

It is only in Sabka Kashmir that the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the governments of India and Pakistan would be able to put a joint effort against the fury of nature and the threat of natural calamities.

While the European Union is an obvious example of the new way of thinking about borders, more pertinent for Kashmir is the South Tyrol province in northern Italy, which shares its sovereignty with Italy and Austria. Shared sovereignty as a solution to the J&K conflict is a practical idea, not a romantic one. What is romantic is the Indian hope that the Kashmiris will one day stop demanding azadi, or the Kashmiri idea that their azadi will drop like manna from heaven, or Pakistani wishful thinking that it will liberate Kashmir one day.

Whether or not the political and military leadership of India and Pakistan are ready for such a solution, the people of J&K, Pakistan and India must give it serious thought. We must demand Sabka Kashmir.