Dr Muhammad Khan
AFTER the threatening calls from the Indian Prime Minister to stop water flow for Pakistan, the Foreign Office of Pakistan reminded India of its responsibilities towards internationally guaranteed agreements and pacts. On December 1, 2016, Nafees Zakaria, the Spokesperson of the FO said in a weekly briefing that, “India has to abide by its international obligations, if it wants to be taken seriously by the international community.”
Earlier Indian Prime Minister gave a very irresponsible statement while inaugurating the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Bathinda. He said, “The fields of our farmers must have adequate water. Water that belongs to India cannot be allowed to go to Pakistan”. He further said that, ‘The government will do everything to provide enough water to our farmers.’ India has constituted a task force on the Indus Waters Treaty to ensure the farmers of Punjab and other states get each drop of water due to them, Modi assured the people of East Punjab. The FO spokesman further said that, IWT-1960 is a binding agreement under the ‘Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties-1969.’
This is the latest move from India, from its highest level; the Prime Minister threatening to stop the share of Pakistani water, in a way openly violating the global norms and treaties. In fact, water being an essential requirement for every living being, needs to be guaranteed. Unfortunately, at global level, with the rising population, changes in the climate and environmental degradation, this essential commodity is falling short of human demand. Pakistan in particular and South Asia in general are facing water shortage. Experts strongly visualize that, apart from hydrocarbons and other mineral sources, future conflicts and wars would centre on water sources.
In the South Asian region the water crisis is increasing with each passing day. Though there is water shortage in general, nevertheless, the climatic changes have further endangered the region. Over and above Indian water, manipulation and now direct threats have must be taken seriously. The inter-state water issues are rapidly becoming complex, leading to conflicts and even future wars as envisioned by US think tanks and even lawmakers few years ago. South Asian region spreads from Afghanistan to Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. India and Pakistan are two important countries of the region, having severe water issues between them, right from their independence in 1947. There are three main river systems in the region; the Indus River System, the Ganges River System and the Brahmaputra River system. The sources of the all these river systems are either in the Himalayan Mountains or Tibetan Plateau (otherwise part of Himalayan Mountains).
The Himalayan Plateau is an elevated plateau in South and Central Asia. The Tibetan Plateau also called; “the Roof of the World” is the world’s highest and largest plateau with an area of 2500,000 sq kms. At times, called as the ‘Third Pole’ the Tibetan plateau is the headwaters of the drainage basins of the water systems flowing in India and Pakistan and other surrounding regions. Having thousands of glaciers, this plateau is also known as the water tower, water storage for the region.
The Indus River system, comprises three eastern rivers; Ravi, Sutlej and Beas and three western rivers; Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. As per the Indus Water Treat (IWT)-1960, India got exclusive right over the water of three eastern rivers and Pakistan was given water of three western rivers. World Bank brokered IWT in September 1960, after almost a decade of hectic diplomacy and negotiations. Indus Water Treaty (IWT) worked well for some time; however, India started manipulating with the water of the western rivers in the 1980s.
India started constructing barrages, water storages and even divergences in the main watercourses of these rivers. Construction of Wullar Barrage stared in 1984, over Jhelum River. Baglihar Dam was constructed over Chenab River in 2008. Kishanganga Hydoelectric Power project over Neelum River is under construction. These are the major water dams and storages by India over the western rivers, whose water was exclusively reserved for the Pakistani usage. India is in the process of constructing dozen of dams and water storages over these western rivers in violation of the IWT.
Whereas, as upper riparian, Indian water terrorism is going on against Pakistan for decades now, it has not spared its own created state of Bangladesh. India is not releasing the due amount of the water from Ganges River to Bangladesh despite having a formal treaty between both. Despite, the current Government of Hasina Wajid is very friendly with the Indian State; yet, India has not honoured the agreements on water and many other areas, border disputes and even Indian anti Muslim/Pakistan role in Bangladesh. In the case of Nepal, India is a lower riparian country, yet, it has not allowed that Hindu state to utilize its water resources for its needed usage. Nepal has been severely constrained by India for the potential usage of its river waters for agricultural and electricity production.
Owing to the aggressive Indian postures on Kashmir and water issues, there are all chances of future conflicts in South Asia. This Indian attitude has even created an element of uncertainty both at regional and global level. The Spokesperson of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasised India and Pakistan to resolve the water issues bilaterally. Secretary General feels that, IWT-1960 is one of the “instruments promoting stability and peace”. It should promote cooperation, rather tension and conflicts. Pakistan strongly feels that, Indian strategy aims at desertification of Pakistan. Pakistani economy is basically an agrarian economy, mainly depends on water. Government of Pakistan must raise the Indian aggressive acts at global level and UN and major powers must take note of the statements of Indian Prime Minister.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.