Since its inception, India has never missed an opportunity to victimise Pakistan by creating deliberate water scarcity with the aim to damage the latter agriculturally. Indian extremist Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has given the concerned departments to continue construction of dams has ordered diverting water of Chenab River to Beas, which is a serious violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960. Therefore Pak-India water issue has accelerated.
Taking cognisance of India’s diplomacy against Pakistan, a seminar on the subject “Hydro Politics around Pakistan: Reassessing: The Efficacy of Indus Water Treaty (IWT)” was organised by the National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad on January 17, 2017. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar (Former DG ISI), the President NDU, including other experts on the subject highlighted the significance of IWT and the need for deliberations on the subject to find out a viable solution of the problem.
Gen Muzammil Hussain (R), (Chairman WAPDA) said that the subject of IWT is very important for the country. He, however, was unhappy to find out that not a single representative had come from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and even from WAPDA to attend this important seminar. Dr Zaigham Habib, while talking on “Hydro Hegemony in South Asia and Implications for Pakistan” regarded India as a Hydro-Hegemon stated, “neighbours view India with suspicion; it is difficult to conduct discussion on common-interest issues with her in good faith. India’s insistence on secrecy about hydrological data contributes to the distrust within the region. Timely and adequate information is never fully given to Pakistan, Bangladesh and others on water data and on National River Linking Projects.”
Mirza Asif Baig, Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters, dilated on the “Efficacy of The Indus Waters Treaty”. He mostly talked on the technicalities of the treaty and did not show any concern about the violations of treaty already being carried out by India.
Suleman Najib Khan regarded Indus Waters Treaty signed at Karachi a seriously flawed treaty, which did not serve Pakistan’s interests. He was very critical about the role and efficacy of Indus Water Commission. He was of the view that all the chairmen’s have failed to guard the interests of Pakistan, they neither have expertise nor the will to contribute positively. He highlighted the urgent need of making reservoirs on River Indus, including Kala Bagh Dam (KBD), to save the country from starvation in the near future. He, however, was opposed to Bhasha dam on purely technical grounds. He informed the audience that Kabul River contributes around 20-25 % to Indus River water, especially in winters. India is pursuing Afghanistan to build multiple dams on Kabul River which would further deprive Pakistan of much needed water. He was of the view that Pakistan should also get into some treaty with Afghanistan regarding continuous flow of River Kabul water.
He further stated that propaganda against KBD was deliberately launched to crate conviction in the locals that the natural drainages of Peshawar & Kohat valleys, which will be blocked as a result of back pressure from the KBD reservoir. Similarly, propaganda was also launched that the KBD reservoir will create water logging in Mardan, Charsada, Swabi, Pabbi, and Nowshera, despite all of them being higher than 915 feet from seal level. In Sindh, the propaganda was launched that KBD would restrict water supply to Sindh resulting into vanishing of Mangroves and intrusion of sea water. As a matter of fact, Sindh uses five times more irrigation water than Punjab. Flood irrigation on a 14 km wide strip keeps both the Pirs and Waderas happy and prosperous that’s why they do not want this water to be regulated.
Ahmer Bilal Soofi, Advocate Supreme Court, President Research Society of International Law, Former Federal Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and President WWF Pakistan spoke on “IWT and International Law: Options for Pakistan”. The main points of his discourse were as follows:- The IWT cannot be unilaterally terminated, according to Article 12 (4) of IWT; only a new treaty drafted and mutually ratified by both India and Pakistan can only replace existing treaty.
There is no provision which expressly authorises India to construct a certain number of dams. Neither is there one which prohibits India from making dams beyond a certain number. Clearly, therefore, the number of dams that India wishes to construct on the Western Rivers is an issue outside the scope of the treaty. IWC does not possess lawyers to contest its case at international level. He suggested that IWC must have a pool of good and qualified lawyers, specialised in international laws.
—The writer is freelance columnist based in Lahore.