Dr Muhammad Khan
DURING his meeting with the Pakistani delegation on May 22, 2018, the World Bank Spokesman was generous enough to say that, “The Indus Waters Treaty is a profoundly important international agreement that provides an essential cooperative framework for India and Pakistan to address current and future challenges of effective water management to meet human needs and achieve development goals.” But, this guarantor of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) has failed to prudently and impartially mediate between Pakistan and India over the continuing water issues, between India and Pakistan. Pakistani delegation met the World Bank officials after Indian Prime Minister; Narindra Modi inaugurated the Kishinganga Hydro Electric Power project on May 19, 2018. Pakistan raised its concern over the construction of Kishinganga project many a times since 2007. But, there has been only discussion without any fruitful outcome.
No doubt, the IWT-1960 is a very comprehensive document for the water (river) distribution formula present between Pakistan and India. A well-known US scholar and expert of South Asia Mr Stephan P. Cohen once said that, “The Indus Waters Treaty is a model for future regional cooperation, especially on energy, environmental concerns, and even the management of the region’s impressive water resources.” While developing this hypothesis, the US scholar was impressed with the contents and framing of the IWT. He perhaps was ignorant of the Indian manipulation of IWT and using this treaty to her benefit and against the lower riparian, Pakistan. Being upper riparian, India has been manipulating with western rivers, whose water was exclusively dedicated for Pakistan. Going into history, ‘Indus River System’ comprises three eastern rivers; Ravi, Sutlej and Beas and three western rivers; Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. As per 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. Indeed, India manipulated the partition plan of Sub-continent in such a way that, it got the possession of all major head works, of Indus River System, releasing water to Pakistani area (after partition). Indeed, the partition of the Punjab was manipulated in such a way that, it got possession of areas adjacent to Kashmir and control of all water sources and head-works. This discriminatory partition was well planned and executed by British India to appease India.
Since the partition of India suited her in all respect, therefore, just after a year of decolonization, through a pre-planned strategy, India stopped the water flow to Pakistani areas, creating a crisis for the agrarian economy of Pakistan. Pakistan was forced to pay for the water for some time and later, international mediation, facilitated the process. Indus Water Treaty (IWT) worked well for some time; however, India started manipulating with the water of the western rivers in 1980s. In a series of manipulations, 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 Hydroelectric Power project over Neelum River just completed in May 2018. A number of dams and water storages have been made or under construction on all these rivers, where Pakistan had exclusive rights. 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.
Apart from the water manipulation along western rivers, India was supposed to release a certain amount of water for maintaining the environment along the watercourses along three eastern rivers. Nevertheless, it has never regarded those clauses of the IWT. Rather release the water during monsoons, causing flood in vast areas of Pakistan. In a way, India is involved in water terrorism in Pakistan. Indian water terrorism effect Pakistan in two ways. It control and manipulate the water of the western rivers through the construction of a number of barrages, water divergences and dams, thus eventually converting the huge agricultural land into desert. India knows that, Pakistan has agrarian economy and through water terrorism, it can destroy Pakistani economy. Secondly, India release huge water in all rivers, during rainy seasons and monsoons, another way of damaging Pakistani economy.
The continuous water manipulation of India is indicative of the fact that, in future New Delhi will use water as a “weapon of war against Pakistan.” Though this was a perception few years back, however, it is rapidly becoming a reality. 2018 is being viewed as the worst year, on account of water sacristy in Pakistan. There has been no snow fall and less rains since November 2017 and the summer seems to ever harsher, as being experienced. The former Pakistani Commissioner of Indus Water Mr Jammat Ali Shah is being seen as the man, who harmed the Pakistan and did not report the exact situation, once India was manipulating the water of these western rivers. Nevertheless, there has been no worthwhile improvement even after he left the country in mysterious circumstances. There is need that, Pakistani officials who have been associated with Indus Water Commission since 1980s, who deliberately ignored the Indian water manipulation must be questioned.
All the international arbitrations and negotiations with World Bank have favoured India; therefore, Indian water manipulation may invite water-based conflicts between Pakistan and India. The sooner, India realizes its responsibility, the better would it be for the 1/5th population of the world. Then, there is a nuclear dimension in the region. Being most populous country, India would be at stark disadvantage. UN, World Bank, US and all major powers must fulfil their obligations of convincing India to stop manipulation of IWT and allow free flow of water to the lower riparian, Pakistan, which is facing worst water crisis.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.