Pak-India Water Dispute Accelerates


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Sajjad Shaukat

Pakistan is a grave victim of water scarcity, because of being on lower riparian in relation to the

rivers emanating from the Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK). India has never missed an opportunity to

harm Pakistan since its inception; it is creating deliberate water shortages for Pakistan with the

aim to impair Pakistan agriculturally. Historically, India has been trying to establish her

hegemony in the region by controlling water sources and damaging agricultural economies of her

neighbouring states. India has water disputes with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. 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 of 1960. Therefore Pak-India water dispute has accelerated.

In this regard, an article By: Zofeen T. Ebrahim, Joydeep Gupta (Co-Authors) under the caption,

“India resists World Bank move to resolve Indus Water Treaty dispute”, published in The Third

Pole and reproduced-updated by a Pakistan’s renowned daily on January 6, 2017 is notable.

Zofeen T. Ebrahim and Joydeep Gupta wrote, “India has asked the World Bank not to rush in to

resolve a dispute with Pakistan over the Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects. Indian

officials told a World Bank representative in New Delhi on January 5 that any differences over

the projects can be resolved bilaterally or through a neutral expert. Pakistan has objected to the

projects–being built by India in Jammu and Kashmir–on the grounds that they violate the 1960

Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) between the two countries. After India rejected the charge, Pakistan

has gone to the World Bank–the designated IWT mediator.”

They indicated, “Islamabad has also asked the United States (US) government to intervene, and

has added the component of water security to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

agreement. Of the rivers in the Indus basin, the Indus and the Sutlej start in China and flow

through India before reaching Pakistan. The other four rivers–Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Beas –

start in India and flow to Pakistan”.

The writers pointed out, “The Kishanganga project is on a tributary of the Jhelum, while the

Ratle project is on the Chenab. The State Department in Washington has already said it wants

India and Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues bilaterally, a route favoured by India.”

Zofeen T. Ebrahim and Joydeep Gupta elaborated, “As the dispute flared up, the World Bank

had recently suspended all proceedings–the setting up of a court of arbitration or the appointment

of a neutral expert. On January 5, World Bank representative Ian H Solomon met officials of

India’s External Affairs and Water Resources ministries in New Delhi in an effort to break the

deadlock.The Indian delegation, led by Gopal Baglay, Joint secretary in the Ministry of External

Affairs, made a detailed a presentation on the two projects to support their argument that neither

project violated the IWT. After the meeting, a government official told journalists that the Indian

side had described the objections raised by Pakistan as “technical”, and therefore they would be

best resolved by a neutral expert.”

They wrote, “Pakistan has dismissed this suggestion earlier, and is seeking a full court of

arbitration. The World Bank had agreed to a court of arbitration and then to the appointment of a

neutral expert, leading to objections by both countries. That was when both processes were

suspended. Explore: World Bank pauses dam arbitration to ‘protect Indus Waters Treaty.’ At the

January 5 meeting, Solomon did not raise any question on the designs of the two projects,

according to the Press Trust of India news agency. Instead, he explored ways to resolve the

dispute. With nothing decided, the World Bank official is going from New Delhi to Islamabad to

continue this effort. The official added that India is fully conscious of its international

obligations and is ready to engage in further consultations to resolve the differences regarding

the two projects. Under the IWT, India is allowed only non-consumptive use of water from the

three western rivers in the Indus basin–Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.”

The co-authors mentioned, “The Kishanganga and Ratle projects are on the western rivers. They

are run-of- the-river hydropower projects that do not hold back any water, though Pakistan’s

objection is about the height of the gates in the dams from which water is allowed to flow

downstream. The three eastern rivers–Ravi, Beas and Sutlej–are reserved for the use of India.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan. The Pakistani government approached the World Bank last September,

saying the design of the Kishanganga project was not in line with the criteria laid down under

IWT, and sought the appointment of a court of arbitration. Since the Kishanganga project has

been going on for years, the “inordinate” delay by Islamabad to approach the World Bank would

give India more time to complete its projects, Jamait Ali Shah, former Indus Water

Commissioner on behalf of the Pakistani government, told”.

Their article pointed out, “However, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar wrote to the World

Bank on December 23, stressing that it was not withdrawing its request to set up a court of

arbitration. This was followed by a call from the outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry to

Dar, saying that the US would like to see an amicable solution to the transboundary water row.

Karachi-based newspaper…quoted diplomatic observers in Washington to say, “seriousness of

this dispute, particularly the fear that it may harm the treaty, forced Mr. Kerry to make this call.”

The writers explained, “For a while now Pakistan has also wanted to bring China into the picture.

At the sixth meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the CPEC which was held in

Beijing on December 29, a special group on water storage was formed to pre-empt any “severe

water crisis” impacting economic and food security of Pakistan, an official statement said. After

a Chinese delegation visits Pakistan later this month, the JCC – the highest policy-making forum

of the CPEC – may consider including the Diamer-Bhasha dam into the CPEC agreement.

Planned at an estimated cost of around USD 15 billion, if Pakistan succeeds in getting the dam

financed under CPEC, planning and development minister Ahsan Iqbal would consider it a

“landmark achievement”. Both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have refused

to lend money to Pakistan for this hydropower project. Pakistani experts react leading lawyer and

former federal law minister, Ahmer Bilal Soofi termed the inclusion of water security into CPEC

essentially a |political choice for Pakistan and China” though the issue does not “squarely fall

within the otherwise commercial mandate of CPEC”.

Zofeen T. Ebrahim and Joydeep Gupta wrote, “Speaking to, Soofi said Pakistan

and China need to exchange notes on a “contradicting state practice of India as an upper riparian

to Pakistan and a lower riparian to China, that will help both the states to confront India.” He

further added that Pakistan should raise its voice at an international level that “India’s building of

reservoir and fully utilising the water storage capacity under the treaty poses a serious threat to

Pakistan in particular backdrop of India’s present posturing as it improves India’s capability to

manipulate water flows into Pakistan.” This was echoed by former commissioner Shah who said

the international community should be duly briefed about the “dilution of the violation of the

provisions of the treaty” by India. At the same time, he said both countries should continue to

work closely and quietly to resolve the grievances and find a middle ground”.

They added, “The recent stance by India where it “lobbied aggressively and influenced” the

World Bank, he feared, had further undermined the already “fragile” treaty. “The WB needs to

take the right action–which is to act as arbitrator in this matter, as it has done before,” pointed

out water expert Simi Kamal.The reason why the IWT, 74 pages long with 12 articles and 8

annexures and has no expiry date, has worked so far, she said was partly because the Bank acted

as a third party. “The Bank needs to maintain this role and not back off now, when its arbitration

role is most required in the face of a belligerent Indian government.”

According to the writers, “Kamal further said the solution lay not in the pause by the Bank “or

for hawks to call for dismantling the treaty”, but for both governments to act responsibly and for

the Bank to play its role in "containing adventurism by either government–in this matter the

Indian government”. Shah also felt when Pakistan plans to proceed with such cases, it never does

its homework thoroughly and therefore always appears the weaker party. The same was endorsed

by noted economist Kaiser Bengali when he told that he found “the intellectually

deficient and politically inane manner in which Pakistan has been pursuing the matter”, criminal.

Bengali had little confidence in the Pakistan IWT team. He said, “It has no strategy on dealing

with water issues with India. Pakistan’s chief negotiator for more than a decade and a half had

limited intellectual capacity to lead on such a strategically life and death issue,” he said”.

They indicated, “He said Pakistan keeps harping on the "spirit" of the agreement. “Four decades

after a treaty is signed, what matters is the letter of the print, not the spirit of the time when the

document was signed.” Bengali believed India was not violating the letter of the agreement.

“India has been building power plants on western rivers, but not diverting any water”. Nor, he

said, were Pakistan’s contentions on the design "substantive enough to warrant a full scale

confrontation”. He also observed, like Shah, that differences can and should be resolved in a

more “low key” manner. He feared that since India was not violating the treaty per se, if Pakistan

does take the latter to court, it will meet the same fate as the Baglihar Dam case of 2007”.

Zofeen T. Ebrahim and Joydeep Gupta maintained, “While Indian officials maintain that they are

sticking to the IWT, the government has hardened its stand in recent months after attacks on

Indian Army camps in Kashmir by suspected militants. (Read: South Kashmir's role in anti-India

struggle) New Delhi had earlier said it was setting up a task force to examine what projects it

could undertake in the three western rivers of the Indus basin under the ambit of the IWT. In the

last week of 2016, the government announced that the task force would be headed by Nripendra

Mishra, principal secretary to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

Nevertheless in light of the above article, it is mentionable that since the 9/11 tragedy,

international community has been taking war against terrorism seriously, while there are also

other forms of bloodless wars, being waged in the world and the same are like terrorism. Political

experts opine that modern terrorism has many meanings like violent acts, economic terrorism

etc., but its main aim is to achieve political, economic and social ends. Judging in these terms,

Pak-India water dispute which has become serious needs special attention of the US and other

major powers, as India remains stern on her illegitimate stand in this respect.

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