WAR ON WATER RESOURCES WOULD SPELL DISASTER FOR THE WORLD
By Sajjad Shaukat
While Pakistan is already facing multiple crises of grave nature, India has been playing the water card in order to intensify political unrest, economic instability and social strife in our country that could cause a nuclear war.
In this regard, three-day parleys between India and Pakistan ended on March 30 this year without producing any result. Islamabad raised technical objections against the Nimo Bazgo Dam and Chutak hydroelectric plant, terming the same as a sheer violation of Indus Water Basin Treaty of 1960. Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner Syed Jamaat Ali Shah said that New Delhi had assured that no other project is under construction except these two ones. Pakistan sought changes to the design of Nimo Bazgo Dam. But India rejected the demand.
While speaking in diplomatic language, Indus Water Commissioner of India G. Auranganathan said: “India never stole or blocked Pakistan’s share of waters and has assured Pakistan that New Delhi would implement Indus Water Treaty in letter and spirit.”
In international politics of today, these are deeds, not words which matter, so ground realties are quite different as to what G. Ranganathan indicated in his statement.
Meanwhile, Chairman Indus Water Treaty Council Hafiz Zahoor-ul-Hassan Dahr has stated that previous 131 rounds of talks between Pakistan and India under Indus Water Treaty bore no fruits and the latest series of dialogue would meet the same result.
However, water of rivers has become a matter of life and death for every Pakistani as New Delhi has continuously been employing it as a card of blackmailing diplomacy.
In the recent past, Indian decision to construct two hydro-electric projects on River Neelam which is called Krishanganga in Indian dialect is another violation of the Indus Basin Water Treaty. As regards the background of the treaty, notably, after partition, India went to war against Pakistan for the illegitimate occupation of Kashmir which continued in one form or the other from October 1947 until January 1949. Owing to war-like situation, New Delhi deliberately stopped the flow of Pakistan’s rivers which originate from the Indian-held Kashmir. Even at that time, Indian rulers had played the water card as a tool of political blackmailing against Pakistan. Nevertheless, due to Indian illogical stand, Islamabad sought the help of international arbitration. The Indus Water Treaty allocates waters of three western rivers of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to Pakistan, while India has rights over eastern rivers of Ravi, Sutlej and Beas.
Since the settlement of the dispute, India has always violated the treaty intermittently to create economic crisis in Pakistan. In 1984 a controversy arose between the two neighbouring states after India began construction of the Wullar Barrage on river Jhelum in the occupied Kashmir. New Delhi halted construction work in 1987 after Pakistan lodged a strong protest over the project, stating it violated the Indus Water Treaty. The issue of Wullar Barrage has also been discussed in various rounds of talks, being held under composite dialogue process between the two rivals, but Indian intransigence continues.
In the mid 1990s India started another violation by constructing the Baglihar dam on the Chenab river. In 2008, India suddenly reduced water flow of the Chenab river to give a greater setback to our autumnal crops. Islamabad on September 17, 2008 threatened to seek the World Bank’s intervention on the plea that New Delhi had not responded to its repeated complaints on the issue appropriately.
Nevertheless, by intermittent violations of the Indus Water Treaty, New Delhi, in fact, has been using water as a tool to pressurise Islamabad with a view to getting leverage in the composite dialogue especially regarding Indian-held Kashmir where a new phase of protests and state terrorism has started, and where people have intensified their struggle for liberation.
Indian diplomacy of employing water as a card of diplomacy could also be judged from a latest development. India has secretly supplied technical assistance to the Afghan government in order to construct a dam over Kabul River which is a main water contributor to Indus River. It is another Indian attempt of further intensifying various crises in Pakistan.
Notably, by applying such a shrewd diplomacy of water, New Delhi intends to fulfil a number of nefarious designs against Pakistan. India wants to keep her control on Kashmir which is located in the Indus River basin area which contributes to the flow of all the major rivers, entering Pakistan. It is determined to bring about political, economic and social problems of grave nature in Pakistan.
As regards the Indian clandestine aims, in this respect, a report, published in the “New Scientist” in 2005 pointed out a number of issues in relation to Pakistan by writing: “Violation of the Indus Basin Treaty could lead to widespread famine, and further inflame the ongoing conflict over Kashmir. Pakistan relies on the Indus river and its tributaries for almost half of its irrigation supplies, and to generate up to half of its electricity. Pakistan also fears that India would use various dams as a coercive tool by causing floods in Pakistan through sudden release of dam waters.”
According to an estimate, unlike India, Pakistan is highly dependent on agriculture, which in turn is dependent on water. Of the 79.6 million hectares of land that makeup Pakistan, 20 million are available for agriculture. Of those 20 million hectares, 16 million are dependent on irrigation. So, almost 80% of Pakistan’s agriculture is dependent on irrigation.
It is notable that many of Pakistan’s industries are agro-based such as the textiles industry. Besides, 80% of Pakistan’s food needs are fulfilled domestically. Thus an interruption of water supply would have broad-ranging effects. For example, when the country suffered a drought from 1998 to 2001, there were violent riots in Karachi.
As half of Pakistan’s energy comes from hydroelectricity, at present, our country has been facing a severe crisis of load shedding which is the result of power-shortage in the country. Recently, people in a number of cities like Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad etc. lodged violent protests against the load shedding, culminating into loss of property and life.
At present, Pakistan has already been facing multifaceted challenges coupled with a continued phenomenon of terrorism like suicide attacks, bomblasts etc., committed by the militants who enter our country from Afghanistan where Indian secret intelligence agency, RAW has established training centres for anti-Pakistan activities—New Delhi also uses water as a tool by increasing its scarcity, making life too often miserable for Pakistanis with the unlitmate aim of creating poverty which could produce more terrorism in turn. And is likely to deepen differences among Pakistan’s provinces over various issues which are directly or indirectly related to water.
Latest reports suggest that India has been constructing 52 illegal dams including five large ones, of which as many as 32 small dams had already been completed while 12 others would be finalised in 2014. Besides, New Delhi is also constructing Kargil Dam, the second largest in the world on Indus.
India had seized 70 per cent water of Chenab and Jhelum rivers as a result of which over 0.9 million acres of land, being irrigated through Marala Headworks, is now presenting the view of Thar and Cholistan deserts. While the Baglihar Dam is already causing an annual loss of Rs140 billion to Pakistan, and it is feared that India would soon stop entire water flow of Chenab and Jhelum rivers, turning 18 districts of Punjab and six districts of Sindh into a desert.
Unlike the past shrewd diplomacy, being contested through the traditional methods, India has changed it, encompassing all the spheres. Now, war diplomacy with non-lethal weapons can be more harmful in damaging the interest of a rival country or enemy. It will be conducted in non-war spheres, entailing non-military means and tactics as part of the new warfare. In this connection, India plays the water card to damage all interests of Pakistan so as to convert the latter into Somalia or Ethiopia.
Sajjad Shaukat is a regular writer for www.oly.com.pk He writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.