Pak-India water wars
S M Hali
Genesis: The origin of the water wars between Pakistan and India date back to the time of the partition of India in August 1947. India realised that in accordance with the 1947 Independence Act, the people of the princely state of Kashmir would not cast their vote in favour of India since they comprised a Muslim majority, which had already suffered under the yoke of slavery of Hindu monarchy for ages.
Through deceit, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, himself the scion of a Kashmiri family, manipulated the last British Viceroy of India: Lord Mountbatten, by first involving his wife Edwina in a romantic scandal and using her leverage, coercing Lord Mountbatten to prevail upon Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the Chairman of the India-Pakistan Boundary Commission to change the proposed boundary so that Gurdaspur could be awarded to India instead of Pakistan and India would gain ground access to Kashmir.
Using this leeway, India landed its forces in Kashmir and forced the Hindu Maharaja to abdicate and sign a letter of accession to join India. Pakistani forces tried to wrest the control from India and managed to liberate one third of the territory but Nehru managed to have the UN enforce a ceasefire. United Nations Security Council promulgated Resolutions on Kashmir, stipulating that the people of Kashmir decide their accession through a plebiscite.
India never let the plebiscite take place since it got what it wanted. The control of all the major rivers running through Pakistan, originate from Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
On April 1, 1948 India — taking advantage of its control over the head works — cut off the supply of water in every canal that crossed into Pakistan. India briefly restored the flow at a price. In July 1951, Pakistan accused India of cutting water supplies to its Wagha and Bhaun villages.
During the first years of partition the waters of the Indus were apportioned by the Inter-Dominion Accord of May 4, 1948. This accord required India to release sufficient waters to the Pakistani regions of the basin in return for annual payments from the government of Pakistan. The accord was meant to meet immediate requirements and was followed by negotiations for a more permanent solution. Neither side, however, was willing to compromise its respective position resultantly negotiations reached a stalemate. From the Indian point of view, there was nothing that Pakistan could do to prevent India from any of the schemes to divert the flow of water in the rivers. Pakistan’s position was dismal and India could do whatever it wanted. Pakistan wanted to take the matter to the International Court of Justice but India refused, arguing that the conflict required a bilateral resolution.
Indus Water Treaty: In 1960, the World Bank brokered the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), according to which, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, which constitute the eastern rivers, are allocated for exclusive use by India before they enter Pakistan. However, a transition period of 10 years was permitted in which India was bound to supply water to Pakistan from these rivers until Pakistan was able to build the canal system for utilization of waters of Jhelum, Chenab and the Indus itself, allocated to it under the treaty. Similarly, Pakistan has exclusive use of the western rivers Jhelum, Chenab and Indus. Pakistan also received one-time financial compensation for the loss of water from the eastern rivers. Since March 31, 1970, after the 10-year moratorium, India has secured full rights for use of the waters of the three rivers allocated to it. The treaty resulted in partitioning of the rivers rather than sharing of their waters.
The countries agreed to exchange data and co-operate in matters related to the treaty. For this purpose, the treaty created the Permanent Indus Commission, with a commissioner appointed by each country. The treaty could not, however, take into consideration all the river-relevant changes that the future was to produce.
Indian Water Terrorism: Two problems occurred; Pakistan did manage to build a link canal system for optimum utilization of its rivers and constructed the Mangla and Tarbela Dams but failed to construct any new dams, resulting in loss of waters during the Monsoons and the melting of the snow from the mountaintops. Even the Link Canal System, over period deteriorated through silting. This negligence also compounded the problem of flash floods and wreaking havoc in the country. On the other hand, India constructed numerous dams, some of them illegally. Reportedly, it also compromised the Pakistani Indus Water Commissioner, who willfully neglected to counter Indian machinations of water terrorism. Resultantly India is in a position to deprive Pakistan of waters during crucial seasons to create a drought or open the spigots to flood Pakistan. Allegedly, India also bribed certain Pakistani politicians to oppose the construction of the vital Kalabagh Dam and other dams to keep Pakistan deprived of water and energy. Chairman Wapda was forced to resign for advocating Kalabagh dam in his series of columns in local media.
There are some serious emerging violations of IWT as India plans to construct 155 hydropower projects in Kashmir and India isn’t sharing any information pertaining to the detail design, structural drawings, and design calculations of the upcoming projects.
India began building major hydropower projects in Kashmir in 1970s and now has 33 projects at various stages of completion on the rivers in Kashmir. Currently, the most controversial dam project is the proposed 330 megawatt dam on the Kishanganga River (also called Neelum in Pakistan-administered Kashmir), a tributary of the Indus. Its construction began in 2007 and is almost complete. The waters are to be diverted through a 24 kilometer tunnel for power production and the rest of the water flow is supposed to join the Wullar Lake and ultimately run through Jhelum to Muzaffarabad (in Azad Jammu Kashmir) — dodging the 213 km long Neelum, on which Pakistan is also building its own Neelum-Jhelum Hydro-Electric Project (NJHEP). Pakistan has also objections regarding the 850 MW Rattle hydropower project on Chenab River, which involves faulty designs.
Earlier in 2013, the International Court of Arbitration decided that “India shall release a minimum flow of 9 cumecs [cubic meters per second] into the river below the KHEP [Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant] at all times.” The judgment also dictated that “[a]t any time at which the daily average flow in the river immediately upstream of the KHEP is less than 9 cumecs, India shall release 100 percent of the daily average flow.”
Current Imbroglio: Today Pakistan and India are locked in a bitter water conflict. Though diplomatic exertions have prevented a major escalation, both countries are entangled in legal battles as more dams and power projects come up in IOK. In Kashmir itself, politicians and civil society groups of all hues have been demanding a review of IWT, which has been labeled “detrimental” to the region’s economy.
Pakistan and India are dangerously energy-starved and nowhere close to an agreement on disputed Kashmir. The intertwining impact of climate change and population pressures offer a forecast on their water conflict that is anything but encouraging.
Indian troops in IOK are wreaking havoc to make the lives of the Kashmiris miserable, while they are also orchestrating false flag operations in which terror attacks are carried out in IOK and India and Pakistan is getting the blame so that Pakistan’s position becomes weak.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hatching an odious plan to snatch Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan from Pakistan.
There is a dire need for launching a comprehensive campaign to highlight the importance of water storage, prevalent water issues between Pak-India, India’s water terrorism and implication for Pakistan and need for early resolutions. Despite the reservations expressed by the current Minister for water and power, Pakistan should continue lobbying that India has been violating the IWT and India should be compelled to abide by the IWT in its true letter and spirit since water is the “lifeline” issue for Pakistan and this could trigger a war between two nuclear weapons equipped states, India and Pakistan.
In case India raises the issue at official level, then Pakistan must seek arbitration and intense involvement of World Bank, International Court of Justice and other relevant international forums to resolve hydro related issues with India, after necessary preparation.