By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
On the assertion of Indian Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1948, Pakistan showed a flexibility to discuss the water issues separately from the Kashmir dispute. This act of Pakistan was the biggest blunder in our history. Earlier, India stopped the flow of water to Pakistan, as all the head works, regulating the water flow were situated in the areas located under Indian control. Keeping these head works on Indian side was part of the same strategy, through which Muslim majority areas of Gurdaspur and Pathankot were given to India, providing it geographical contiguity with the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Starting from April 1948, India intermittently stopped the flow of water to Pakistan, until the finalization of the IWT-1960. With lot of reservations about completely handing over of the Eastern Rivers to India, Pakistan accepted IWT, considering it as the best arrangement to avoid a conflict over water between India and Pakistan. From early 1980s, India started manipulating the water of the Western rivers. Pakistan kept a policy of silence, until the construction of the Baghliar Dam, once it resorted to a futile effort of the international arbitration.
In a recent report, entitled, “Avoiding Water Wars” in South and Central Asia, US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations projected likely wars between Pakistan and India. The Senate report reveals that, each water dam or water storage by India on the Western rivers; exclusively dedicated for Pakistan would have long-term affects on Pakistani agrarian economy. The report absolutely clarifies that; “The cumulative effect of these projects could give India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the sowing season.”
Apart from the 33 projects, nearing completion, India is planning to construct over sixty water dams and reservoirs, on the western rivers. These would cause serious water shortages for Pakistan, a lower riparian country. Effects of some of these are already visible on the agricultural sector of Pakistan. This huge number of dams has seriously threatened Pakistan’s agrarian economy and its potential capacity for the production of hydroelectricity. Due to the sensitivity of the issue and its impact on Pakistan, the issue if not resolved could lead to a confrontation between these nuclear armed countries.
Pakistan’s inability to preserve its water by constructing dams and water reserviours, cannot give India an excuse to stop or divert the water of Pakistani rivers. While betraying the international community on this excuse, India is planning to permanently deprive Pakistan from its share of water, thus converting the agricultural fields of Pakistan into the barren land. Besides, the current electricity requirements of the people of Occupied Kashmir is 5000 megawatts, whereas, India is planning to produce over 43,000 megawatts of electricity, through these dams and hydroelectric projects. This additional electricity in turn would be used to sustain the heavy industrialization of the India, otherwise, causing environmental degradation in the region. It is because of the growing industrialization of India, which is causing a rapid melt-down of the Himalayan glaciers.
As per Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “water security is vital in achieving our foreign policy and national security goals and … provides recommendations to foster regional cooperation and long-term stability.” The provisions of the treaty do not allow India with unconstrained space to manipulate with the water of the Western rivers. India therefore, is adamant to violate the treaty or else, it would not hesitate to abrogate it, to exercise its hegemony over the region. US Senate, however feels that, “A breakdown in the treaty`s utility in resolving water conflicts could have serious ramifications for regional stability.” US Senate Committee report on the likely future wars in South Asia over the water resources should be an eye opener for all South Asians. Pakistan would appreciate if US could play a role for bringing India to a negotiating table for the result oriented talks between both countries on all the disputes, water being one of them.