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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Indian Blustering On The Indus Water Treaty

Indian right wing BJP Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in his speech at Kerala, talked of ‘one country’, implying Pakistan, which was stopping Asia from being the dynamo it could be in the 21st century. On the other hand, his recent actions belie these words and point out that the real culprit is India itself. India has announced that it will not be attending the SAARC meeting that was to be held in November in Pakistan. The day before, Narendra Modi along with some other cabinet members, most significantly Ajit Doval, had a meeting to overview the Indus Water Treaty and came out blustering and threatening that “blood and water cannot flow simultaneously”. They hinted that India would abrogate the 1960 Treaty signed by Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan, which has been enforced regardless of the tensions or the ups and downs in the relationship between the two countries.

This is a display of India’s ‘shooting from the hip’ style of politics in which they perennially allege that Pakistan is the bogeyman behind every bad thing that happens in their country and according to them everywhere else as well. After the Uri attack when the Indians started with their usual allegations sending out feelers across the globe on potential military action, they faced resistance by the global powers to such action, especially in light of India’s own existing compromised situation in Indian occupied Kashmir.

The Indians having realised that military options are limited, especially given that Pakistan is armed with nuclear capability, has realised that the war needs to be taken to another footing. They have started using diverse forms of pressure, from attempts to isolate Pakistan from regional and international politics to the latest tactic of threatening to revoke existing treaties. In May 2016, Modi made statements against Pakistan during his maiden visit to Iran. He has not sent any Indian representation for SAARC meetings that have been held in Pakistan this whole year apart from the recent anti-corruption meeting. Sushma Swaraj’s negative agenda in UN this year was only to tarnish Pakistan’s reputation and to portray it on the global stage as a state that ‘sponsors terror’ and to urge for it to be declared a pariah state outside the global comity of nations. It is not clear how India can throw stones at Pakistan’s glass house – but categorises itself in terms of condoning and participating in covert activities such as those engaged in by the Kulbhushan Yadev. And it is pointless to ask them about the war crimes they are perpetuating and have done so for decades on Kashmiri civilians.

AIong with this strategy, the Indian government has decided that it will unilaterally walk out of the Indus Water Treaty if necessary and if ‘Pakistan does not rein in its terrorists’. It is not possible to do this unilaterally, because the treaty has no clause to allow either party an opt-out without negotiations. They have suspended further meetings of the Indus Water Commission and have stated in the short run they will increase their consumption from the 3 rivers (Jhelum, Chenab and Indus) to the maximum twenty percent as allowed under the treaty. In addition, India has said it will rethink dam projects they put on hold, most importantly, the Wullar Barrage (Tulbul project) in IOK, which was suspended in 1987 after Pakistani protests over potential water shortages. Furthermore, as part of the Indian strategy to pressurise Pakistan to cede to Indian demands in the region, they have already been in talks with its western neighbour, Afghanistan, and have counselled them of the advisability of building dams on the river Kabul, which flows into Pakistan.

Realistically speaking India will not revoke the IWT, not least because it then sets a precedence in case of its future tensions with China for the latter to do the same as the upper riparian on the Brahmaputra River. However, right now for Pakistan, these events highlight the severe and gross negligence the country’s have engaged in at the cost of the country’s future. Not being able to build dams due to the politicisation of issues instead of understanding the need of the hour has been a mistake. Interprovincial issues exist in all countries; as I write this, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are both in the Indian Supreme court, arguing over their respective water rights and usage. The lack of interest shown by the Pakistani political leadership to address serious issues head on is one that is reflected from our everyday lives here. The current Indus Water Commissioner apparently works on an ad hoc basis and there were many questions regarding the integrity of the one before him, for not protecting Pakistan’s water rights.

No serious work is being done on water management given the reality of global warming and future water scarcity due to climate change alone. They need to look at wastage through irrigation as well as rainwater management; one international study done shows that the irrigated acreage in Pakistan will fall from 45m to 28m by 2040 creating massive food insecurity issues. Strong institutional structures to deal with this are needed on the provincial and federal levels as well as accountability from the Water and Power Department Minister. Water wars are going to be a reality in this 21st century and Pakistan needs to gear itself up instead of relying on an Inspector Clouseau style ham-handedness to get things done. This threat has provided the opportunity for the leadership to wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late.

Najma Minhas is a Director at Governance & Policy Advisors.



The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.