THE countries surrounding India are faced with a neighbor who acts like a “bee in the bonnet”. There is not a single Indian neighbor who didn’t suffer in the hands of this belligerent. Since its creation India has not accepted the ground realities and failed to live like a responsible neighbor. In addition to interfering in their internal affairs, India has spatial and water related disputes with almost all her neighbors. As for water is concerned her thirst has found no bounds, not only the lower riparian rather few poor upper riparians have also been suffering, if given a choice India would like to gulp all the resources of her neighbors. Unfortunately, at the time of partition the Hindus and British Indian administration conspired and drew political boundary between Pakistan and India right across the Indus Basin, thus intentionally making Pakistan lower riparian of India. The headwaters were given to India, making Pakistan vulnerable as India was given physical control to cut off supply of water to Pakistan at will. Just after the partition, India stopped the supply of water to Pakistan from every canal flowing from India into Pakistan. These were later restored temporarily through an interim agreement, however to find a permanent solution Pakistan approached the World Bank in 1952 to settle the issue once for all. After long exhaustible negotiations for almost nine years, with India and Pakistan, the World Bank came up with a water distribution treaty, known as “Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)”. The sanctity of this treaty can be judged from the fact that it was personally signed by Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, President of Pakistan Ayub Khan and Senior Vice President of the World Bank, W.A.B. Liff.
The treaty withstood testing times including two major wars of 1965 and 1971 and is cited as a success story of international riparian engagement. As per the treaty all the waters of the Eastern Rivers were made available for the unrestricted use to India and Pakistan received all those waters of the Western Rivers for unrestricted use. The Western Rivers were to flow unrestricted without interference from India except for, domestic use, non-consumptive use and agricultural use and for limited hydro-electric power etc. The treaty fared well since its conclusion; however, the first dispute emerged in 1985 when India, without informing Pakistan and in complete violation of IWT, floated a tender to construct Wullar Barrage. Then in 1999 India started constructing Baglihar Dam on Chenab River.In 2007 India started work on Kishanganga – Ratle Project designed to divert water from the Kishanganga/ Neelum River to Jhelum River. Pakistan went to the international court of arbitration against these projects, as these violated IWTand would allow India to store, control, and divert the water of these rivers, but Pakistan lost these cases due to slackness/ biased judgments. Earlier, India violated the treaty and started constructing Salal Dam on River Chenab in 1978, though an agreement was reached between the two countries but India didn’t abide by the same as well. India is also working on/ constructing 1856 MW Sawalkot Dam, 1000 MW Pakuldul Dam, 1200 MW and 829 feet high Bursar Dam with the storage capacity of more than two million acres feet of water and 260 MW Gyspa Dam, with about 1 million-acre feet of storage capacity and many more smaller/ bigger dams and hydroelectric projects on Chenab and other western rivers.
The availability of water in Pakistan has already dropped from 5,000 cubic meters per capita, around 60 years ago, to 1017 cubic meters. This figure is expected to?further decline to 800 cubic meters over the next decade and get worse with the passage of time. For the last many years, the average water flow in river Chenab has drastically declined.With the present dams and hydroelectric power projects on western rivers, India has got the capacity to hold water for 25-26 days thus being able to cause acute shortage of water for winter crops in Pakistan. With the completion of all proposed projects there is a fear of Pakistan getting fully starved/ flooded by India, as her cumulative live storage capacity will have major impact on the timing of flows. India can utilize the same capability to drown Pakistan or use it against Pakistan Army in case of war. Mr John Briscoe, ?a water resources expert, former World Bank senior water expert and a professor at Harvard University, recognized Pakistan’s unhappy position in the following words: “This is a very uneven playing field. The regional hegemon is the upper riparian and has all the cards in its hands.”
It’s not only Pakistan rather all the low riparian states have been raising concerns over India’s tendency to use water of common rivers unilaterally without considering its human, social, economic and ecological implications on the lower riparians. Whenever Pakistan raised objection on Indian violation of IWT, through Indus Water Commission, India entangled Pakistan in unnecessary discussion with a view to gain maximum time to complete larger part of the controversial work. Frustrated from Indian attitude whenever Pakistan approached the Court of Arbitration or a Neutral Expert to protest, the time gained by India in mutual discussions enabled her to have substantial on-ground evidence needed to prove her stakes in front of mediators for the continuation of its projects, thus gaining undue concessions against the will of Pakistan.?India has made the IWC ineffective by delaying its meetings or by evading to participate in its meetings. India has not been sharing necessary data about constructions, storage capacity and water flow etc andalso denying tours/ inspection asked by Pakistan, to be arranged on a prompt basis as allowed in the Treaty. The favors given to India, so for, by the Neutral Experts/ Arbitrators, about the gated structures and the height of dams, are on the plea that they “conformed to engineering norms of the day”. If that be the case then the environmental hazards “of the day” confronting Pakistan should have also been considered before giving decision, and the Eastern Rivers should also be reopened as per the “internationalnorms of the day” about sharing common rivers. The World Bank/ Arbitrators must weigh the survival of over 20 million people over technical norms.
History has proved that whenever India acquired a capability it fully utilized it to her advantage disregarding the international norms and ethics. After building Farakha Barrage on Ganges River Indra Gandhi sought permission from Sheikh Mujeeb to fill the dam just for once to check its technical efficacy, thereafter India never let the water of Ganges go to Bangladesh and dried it causing environmental havoc in Bangladesh. It’s impossible to think that after acquiring the capability to hold water, India would not exercise it to harm Pakistan. The environmental havoc which diversion of Western rivers have caused in Pakistan are already overwhelming, the water tables have gone down and sub-surface water has turned poisonous resulting into rampant water borne diseases in Pakistanis.
Pakistan needs to raise this issue at international forums more vehemently, terming it a nuclear flashpoint between two nuclear rivals and a humanitarian crisis in making. Pakistan must take all Indian violations of IWT to the World Bank without wasting time in mutual discussions. We cannot afford any further slackness in pursuing our cases in arbitration courts, there is a need to have skilled and dedicated panel of law experts who can successfully fight Pakistan’s case.In the backdrop of water shortage and the challenges arising from Indian violations of IWT there isalso a need that we manage our water resources and adopt modern techniques of irrigation and agriculture. The time is running out fast, as a nation we need to wake up and demand from our leadership to save us from fast approaching drought. In the larger interest of the nation we need to shun our differences and build all the dams, declared fit by our technical experts on war footing.