Hydro-politics in South Asia: Impending omens of war – III

Indus Water Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan to use the water available in the Indus System of Rivers located in the north of the subcontinent. Modi is on record to have threatened to stop the flow of waters of the rivers allotted to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty.

Water

Bangladesh will experience a serious threat to its water supply by Indian activities upstream the Ganges river as well. The Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers merge in Bangladesh and flow into the Bay of Bengal. India’s damming of the Ganges River has already reduced its flow downstream. Soil salinity in Bangladesh has increased as a result and seriously damaged agriculture.

Thousands of Bangladeshis have been forced to relocate to north-east India causing, due to the demographic composition of the area, serious ethnic conflicts – the new citizenship law in India is only the beginning. Grim consequences are to be expected downstream in Bangladesh, which has little capacity to challenge them. Further reductions in its water supply could continue to create grounds for internal conflict in the country.

For Pakistan the main trouble is the Indus Waters Treaty signed in 1960 under the auspices of the World Bank. It is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan to use the water available in the Indus System of Rivers located in the north of the subcontinent.

Modi is on record to have threatened to stop the flow of waters of the rivers allotted to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty

According to this agreement, control over the water flowing in three “eastern rivers” of India – the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej – was given to India, while control over the water flowing in three “western rivers”- the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum – was given to Pakistan.

The stipulations of the IWT have been criticized for many years but with water scarcity hitting the subcontinent India has started encroaching upon the water resources by building new dams like the Kishenganga power project that withholds the water flow of the river Neelum into Pakistan thus depriving Pakistan and giving India a means to control or even cut off water for Pakistan.

In case of flooding India is able to and has already released flood water without precaution into Pakistan thus causing flooding on our side. India despite serious objection on Kishanganga power project on Neelum River and Ratle Hydropower Project on Chenab has gone on completing those projects.

Read more: Politicisation of water resources in South Asia: Impending omens of war -I

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 330 MW Kishanganga Hydropower Power Station in June 2018. It was completed during the period the World Bank ‘paused’ the process for constitution of a Court of Arbitration as requested by Pakistan in early 2016. The Pakistani request was opposed by India by calling for a neutral expert.

The intransigence shown by India and its defiance of international commitments is highly regrettable and proves Indian enmity towards Pakistan. Modi is on record to have threatened to stop the flow of waters of the rivers allotted to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty. Given this situation there is even a possibility of a water-related war between India and Pakistan which makes it a national security issue.

Regional power imbalances exist among countries sharing water from Tibetan rivers. Mutual hostility, suspicion and the absence of any legally binding international agreements hinder the likelihood of multilateral success. In 1995, an Agreement on the Co-operation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin was signed that acknowledged that the Mekong does not belong to anyone state.

The final idea of water management as of managing other cross-national problems is that this is one world and one humanity and depriving others from livelihood takes away my own humanity

The objective of the agreement was to ensure sustainable development and co-operation between the downstream countries, yet with the headwaters of the Mekong originating in Tibet, China chose to exercise its territorial jurisdiction and refused to join.

Since 1995 globalization has intensified and the impact of climate change has multiplied. It is high time to return to the problem of how to share water resources that are crossing multiple national border. The emerging situation has already undermined the idea of territorial sovereignty of nation-states; this development has to be acknowledged and put into use for achieving political solutions for cross-national and cross-regional problems that threaten the livelihood of millions of people.

Obviously, the water scarcity and water-sharing crises need to get de-politicized which is easy to demand but difficult to do. In a region where territorial problems are unresolved and have led to wars in the past and in a global atmosphere where China is placated as the new imperialist on the stage confidence-building measures have to be at the start of any political process.

Read more: Politicisation of water resources in South Asia: Impending omens of war – II

In addition, the countries and governments involved need a sustainable national policy of water management and strong institutions for its implementation. Thus, regional work requires the countries involved to do their homework. The final idea of water management as of managing other cross-national problems is that this is one world and one humanity and depriving others from livelihood takes away my own humanity.

Ikram Sehgal, author of “Escape from Oblivion”, is a Pakistani defence analyst and security expert. He is a regular contributor of articles in newspapers that include: The News and the Urdu daily Jang. The article was first published in Daily Times and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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