News & Views
PRIME Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said: “Pakistan is willing to hold talks with India if New Delhi is serious about resolving the ongoing Kashmir issue.” Knowing the fate of the talks held with India in the past and cancellation of secretary level talks by India, Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan wishes to resolve all disputes through dialogue but emphasized that talks will only be focused on Kashmir dispute as it is core issue between the two countries. The premier said Pakistan offered holding dialogue on the outstanding issues on several occasions, but India did not reciprocate. He said this while talking to Pakistani journalists at the breakfast in Baku. Anyhow, it appears that Nawaz Sharif is convinced that Narendra Modi is not serious in holding meaningful dialogue, and he occasionally gives some gestures to show to the world that India wants peace with its neighbours.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his oath-taking ceremony. He attended the ceremony despite opposition by cross-section of the people. But Modi does not hide his hatred against Muslims in general and Pakistan in particular. During the last two years Indian army has violated the Line of Control and many a time resorting to firing on the LoC that resulted in casualties and damage to the nearby villages. Be it attack on Pathankot airbase or Uri base, India accuses Pakistan of supporting the militants. Modi never felt any qualms about claiming that India helped creation of Bangladesh, and now openly saying that he would ensure that Pakistan is isolated in the comity of nations. Using its clout in Afghanistan, India convinced Kabul to build a dam on River Kabul and set up Kama 2 Hydroelectric Project using 0.5MAF of Pakistan water.
But India failed in its sinister designs, and today Pakistan has excellent relations with China and also succeeded in removing the cobwebs of misunderstandingss of the past with Russia, and recently held joint military exercises. China has blocked an important tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo (Tibetan name for Brahmaputra River) to construct a mega dam, in a move that might impact water flow to India and Bangladesh. “The Lalho project on the Xiabuqu River in Xigaze, involves an investment of 4.95 billion yuan ($740 million),” Xinhua quoted Zhang Yunbao, head of the project’s administration bureau as saying. Brahmaputra flows into Arunachal Pradesh from the Xigaze region. The blocking of the tributary could have an impact on lower riparian countries like India and Bangladesh, though China had earlier said that it would not make large dams to hold water.
The move also comes as India has decided to review the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan to deprive Pakistan of water of all the rivers. Water issue between India and Pakistan is a serious matter and needs attention of the policy makers, as India is trying to use water as a weapon against Pakistan. Recent developments indicate that India is resorting to devious methods since it has completed some mega projects on River Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. India continues building dams on Pakistan’s rivers, and its projects are of a size and scope that many Pakistanis fear could be used to disrupt their hydropower efforts, as well as the timing of the flows on which Pakistani crops rely. Dams and canals, built in order to provide hydroelectric power and irrigation, have dried up stretches of the Indus River.
There is a perception that this is being done under well thought-out strategy to render Pakistan’s link-canal system redundant, destroy agriculture of Pakistan, which is its mainstay, and turn Pakistan into a desert. One does not have to be an agricultural scientist to know that water is indispensable to agriculture. It is a critical input into agriculture of a country especially when it is situated in an arid or semi-arid zone. Loss of storage capacity due to sedimentation in Tarbela and Mangla Dams is causing serious drop even for existing agricultural production. Food shortages and energy shortfall has already blighted Pakistan with the result that industry in all the provinces has also been adversely impacted that cause loss of production and exports. Therefore, construction of Bhasha Dam along with other dams is vital not only for our survival, but also for enhancing agricultural output.
Of course, by increasing electricity generating capacity, Pakistan can increase overall industrial productivity and also exports. In 2006, at the time of ground-breaking ceremony of Diamer-Bhasha dam, the cost was estimated at $6.5 billion, now it is around $15 billion. Successful completion of the Diamer-Bhasha dam would help develop agriculture and also generate cheap energy for industrial development. Bhasha Dam will eliminate flood hazards to a great extent and will reduce sedimentation in Tarbela reservoir, thereby improving the storage capacity and power output at Tarbela. It is unfortunate that during the last four decades none of the governments focused on construction of large dams to meet the growing needs of the increased population. It could be termed criminal negligence, as India has benefited from the procrastination on the part of Pakistan’s governments. Even while presenting the case of Baglihar and Kishanganga projects, Pakistani side could not convince arbitrator.
However, Pakistan should also look for the unconventional sources of energy to meet 21st century’s needs. Many countries have benefited from sprinkler and drip irrigation distributed through pressurized plastic pipes. Dasu hydro-electric project will produce more than 4000 mega watt, but the problem of water storage would remain, as it is ‘run of river’ project. Therefore, construction of Bhasha dam should not be delayed in any case. In the past, there have been wars between the countries over religions, usurpation of territories and control of resources including oil. However, in view of acute shortages of water in Africa, Middle East, Asia and elsewhere, the future wars could be fought over water. Our four provinces are desperately calling for sufficient water to cultivate their lands and are suspicious of each other on the distribution of water. The government must give top priority to construction of dams to address problems of water and energy shortages.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.