Water Dispute: India’s Hawkish Diplomacy against Pakistan
Water dispute between Indian and Pakistan cannot be seed in isolation, as it is part of India hawkish diplomacy, hegemonic and radical mindset, undermining Pakistan’s earnest efforts to normalize relations with New Delhi.
India’s relations with its neighbors have always remained marred due to her arrogance and portraying herself as a big power. There is no neighbor around India, which does not suffer from her arrogance. Her arrogance and loathing towards Pakistan is based upon Partition which India never forgets and blames Pakistan for it.
The case in point is Indian hawkish response during the meeting of Indus water commissioners of the both countries, held in Lahore, on August 29-30, this year. Indian delegation was led by water commissioner Pradeep Kumar Saxena. Pakistan was represented by Mehr Ali Shah along with other senior officials.
It was due to Indian illegitimate stand that negotiations between the water commissioners of the two countries, lingering water sharing disputes ended with no breakthrough. At the end of the talks, Islamabad warned to go for international arbitration, if New Delhi ignored its concerns over several controversial projects.
Pakistan is mainly objecting to the construction of two hydropower projects—1,000-megawatt (MW) Pakal Dul and 48-MW Lower Kalnal—on the Chenab River by India.
Whenever the situation is favourable for a meaningful dialogue between Pakistan and India, the extremist ruling party BJP and RSS create conditions to cook up lame excuses to pollute the diplomatic ambiance. Off late, when Pak-Indian water dialogue was resumed, Indian deep state through an orchestrated media hounding unleashed Pakistan maligning campaign.
However, in the Lahore meeting, India refused to address Pakistan’s objection over designs of two hydropower projects on the River Chenab in Occupied Kashmir, resulting in end of two-day talks between Indus water commissioners of both the countries without any positive development.
Pakistani side asked India to reduce height of the Pakal Dul reservoir up to five meters and maintain its 40-metre height above the sea level. The objection was also raised on spillway gates of the project, similar design objections were raised against the construction of Lower Kalnai.
Islamabad has been raising concerns over designs of the two projects since 2012. Both the projects were discussed at a meeting of two commissioners held in 2014. Both the commissioners shared the annual water releases data with each other and other technical issues.
It is notable that on August 7, 2018, under the caption, “Pakistan fears India getting ready for water warfare through dams”, Indian TV channel Zee News though pointed out Pakistan’s apprehensions, but, admitted that India has initiated water warfare against Pakistan.
In its news, Zee News criticized a statement of the then caretaker Pakistani Minister for water resources Ali Zafar where he suspected that there could be Indian hand behind construction of Kalabagh Dam. “Opposition for Kalabagh Dam (KBD) is from the political pundits in Pakistan who have a known attachment with India…He has also skammed India’s Kishanganga Project yet again. Whether Kalabagh Dam construction commences in near future or not, the fact on ground that is pinching India is that Pakistan has finally decided to construct Diamer Bhasha Dam which is likely to commence very soon. Several Dam projects in India have been…Pakistan fear India getting ready for water Warfare through dams. Speaking to members of the press, Ali Zafar then pointed an accusatory finger at India and said that several dam projects across the border have been in violation of water treaties signed in the past. The Kishanganga Hydropower Project was in for specific criticism…The Kishanganga Project was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi on May 19. Islamabad now possibly fears that this and other dam projects could help India bleed Pakistan dry. India has managed to build about 400 damns after the Indus Water Treaty while Pakistan has not even managed to build the KBD. It (KBD) is very important. It is life — and it should be built as a priority.”
In fact, while heading a four-judge bench hearing regarding Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams case and taking note of the water scarcity in Pakistan, including its implications, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan Mian Saqib said on July 30, 2018 that “construction of dams in the country is the responsibility of the elected government and the judiciary is just assisting it in this matter. The decision to collect funds for the construction of such projects is not controversial and the government can take over the responsibility if it so wishes. We will ensure that public money, collected for the construction of dams should not be misused.” Referring to the Kalabagh dam, Justice Nisar said:” Consensus would be left to the public and their elected representatives.
The government established the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dam Fund after the Supreme Court issued directives on July 4, 2018 that construction of the two dams should start immediately and appealed to the people, including overseas Pakistanis, to make a contribution for executing the projects.
It is mentionable that from the very beginning India had initiated water warfare against Pakistan. Since its inception, India has never missed an opportunity to victimise Pakistan by creating deliberate water scarcity with the aim to damage the latter agriculturally. Last year, Indian extremist Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given the concerned departments to continue construction of dams and ordered diverting water of Chenab River to Beas, which is a serious violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960. Therefore, Pakistan-India water dispute has been deepened.
In this regard, a high-powered Pakistani delegation led by Pakistan ‘s Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali met with World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva and other senior officials in Washington on May 21-22, 2018 for resolution of disputes on Kishanganga Hydro Electric Power (KHEP) and Rampur Hydro Electric Power (RHEP). World Bank’s, senior vice president and Group General Counsel has forwarded a letter to Ashtar Ausaf Ali. The letter contains a summary of ideas to resolve the stalemate and proffers two proposals for which concerned authorities (MoWR/AGP) will shortly convene a meeting to finalize Pakistan’s proposals—Proposal 1: Pakistan accepts Indian request to appoint neutral Expert (NE) and Proposal 2: India accepts Pakistan’s request for emplacement of Court of Arbitration (COA).
The World Bank is working with Pakistan and India to resolve Pakistan-India disputes on Kishanganga Hydro Electric Power (KHEP) and Rampur Hydro Electric Power (RHEP) in light of the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).
A statement of the World Bank said: “The delegation of the Government of Pakistan also shared with the Bank their concerns about the recent inauguration of the Kishanganga hydroelectric plant” and the World Bank assured that it will address Islamabad’s concerns regarding Indian violations of the IWT.
But, quite contrary to the above, it has been observed that a deliberate and sustained dis-information campaign has been launched on both print and electronic media of India that Pakistan has lost its case of water dispute at international forum i.e. World Bank.
It is noteworthy that in the recent past, Prime Minister Modi had inaugurated the 330MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project in Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad had protested the inauguration, claiming that the project on a river flowing into Pakistan will disrupt water supplies.
It is well-known that Pakistan is a grave victim of water scarcity, because of being on lower riparian in relation to the rivers emanating from the Indian-Occupied Kashmir. New Delhi is creating deliberate water shortages for Pakistan with the aim to impair Pakistan agriculturally.
Historically, India has been trying to establish her hegemony in the region by controlling water sources and damaging agricultural economies of her neighboring states. India has water disputes with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Under the extremist government of Prime Minister Modi, Pakistan has become specially target, as India’s water terrorism continues unabated.
In this respect, in an article, Zofeen T. Ebrahim, Joydeep Gupta (Co-Authors) under the caption, “India resists World Bank move to resolve Indus Water Treaty dispute”, published in The Third Pole and reproduced-updated by a Pakistan’s renowned daily on January 6, 2017 is notable.
Zofeen T. Ebrahim and Joydeep Gupta wrote, “India has asked the World Bank not to rush in to resolve a dispute with Pakistan over the Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects. Indian officials told a World Bank representative in New Delhi on January 5 that any differences over the projects can be resolved bilaterally or through a neutral expert. Pakistan has objected to the projects–being built by India in Jammu and Kashmir–on the grounds that they violate the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) between the two countries. After India rejected the charge, Pakistan has gone to the World Bank–the designated IWT mediator…Islamabad has also asked the United States (US) government to intervene, and has added the component of water security to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreement…The Kishanganga project is on a tributary of the Jhelum, while the Ratle project is on the Chenab….As the dispute flared up, the World Bank had recently suspended all proceedings–the setting up of a court of arbitration or the appointment of a neutral expert. On January 5, World Bank representative Ian H Solomon met officials of India’s External Affairs and Water Resources ministries in New Delhi in an effort to break the deadlock. The Indian delegation, led by Gopal Baglay, Joint secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, made a detailed a presentation on the two projects to support their argument that neither project violated the IWT. After the meeting, a government official told journalists that the Indian side had described the objections raised by Pakistan as “technical”, and therefore they would be best resolved by a neutral expert…Pakistan has dismissed this suggestion earlier, and is seeking a full court of arbitration. The World Bank had agreed to a court of arbitration and then to the appointment of a neutral expert, leading to objections by both countries. That was when both processes were suspended. Explore: World Bank pauses dam arbitration to ‘protect Indus Waters Treaty.’ At the January 5 meeting, Solomon did not raise any question on the designs of the two projects, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. Instead, he explored ways to resolve the dispute. With nothing decided, the World Bank official is going from New Delhi to Islamabad to continue this effort…Under the IWT, India is allowed only non-consumptive use of water from the three western rivers in the Indus basin–Indus, Jhelum and Chenab…The recent stance by India where it “lobbied aggressively and influenced” the World Bank, he feared, had further undermined the already “fragile” treaty. “The WB needs to take the right action–which is to act as arbitrator in this matter, as it has done before,” pointed out water expert Simi Kamal…The Bank needs to maintain this role and not back off now, when its arbitration role is most required in the face of a belligerent Indian government.”
Nevertheless, New Delhi’s construction of several dams and new plans for more dams in the Indian Occupied Kashmir is part of its most hawkish diplomacy against Islamabad in order to further harm all political, economic, financial and social spheres of Pakistan.
In this connection, in March, 2011, speaking in diplomatic language, Indus Water Commissioner of India G. Ranganathan denied that India’s decision to build dams on rivers led to water shortage in Pakistan. He also rejected Islamabad’s concerns at water theft by New Delhi or violation of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, assuring his counterpart, Syed Jamaat Ali Shah that all issues relating to water would be resolved through dialogue. However, ground realties are quite different from what Ranganathan maintained.
Besides other permanent issues and, especially the dispute of Kashmir which has always been used by India to malign and pressurize Pakistan, water of rivers has become a matter of life and death for every Pakistani, as New Delhi has been employing it as a tool of terrorism to blackmail Pakistan.
In this regard, Indian decision to construct two hydro-electric projects on River Neelam which is called Krishanganga is a blatant violation of the Indus Basin Water Treaty. The World Bank, itself, is the mediator and signatory for the treaty. After the partition, owing to war-like situation, India deliberately stopped the flow of Pakistan’s rivers which originate from the Indian-Held Kashmir. Even at that time, Indian rulers had used water as a tool of aggression against Pakistan. However, due to Indian illogical stand, Islamabad sought the help of international arbitration. The Indus Basin 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, India began construction of the Wullar Barrage on river Jhelum in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. In the past, 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 has continued. In the mid-1990s India started another violation by constructing the Baglihar dam on the Chenab River. In 2005, Pakistan had again sought the World Bank’s help to stop construction of the Baglihar dam. Although WB allowed India to go ahead with the project after a few modifications, yet it did not permit the interruption of the agreed quota of water flow to Pakistan. In 2008, India suddenly reduced water flow of the Chenab River to give a greater setback to Pakistan’s 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. But, India did nothing to address the problem.
It is worth-mentioning that India had been using water as an instrument to pressurize Islamabad with a view to getting leverage in the Pak-India dialogue especially regarding Indian-Held Kashmir where a new phase of protests against the Indian illegitimate occupation has accelerated. In this respect, the then Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said on February 8, 2010 that Pakistan’s case on Kashmir and water was based on truth, and the government would fight it with full strength.
As a matter of fact, New Delhi wants to keep its control on Kashmir which is located in the Indus River basin area, and 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.
In this context, China Daily News Group wrote in 2005: “Another added complication is that in building a dam upstream of Pakistan, India will possess the ability to flood or starve Pakistan at will. This ability was witnessed in July of 2004 when India, without warning, released water into the Chenab River, flooding large portions of Pakistan. The history of conflict between these two nations makes it possible for New Delhi to use nature as a real weapon against Islamabad.”
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.
Notably, 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.
And half of Pakistan’s energy comes from hydroelectricity, and at present, our country has been facing a severe crisis of loadshedding which is the result of power-shortage in the country. During the recent past summers, people in a number of cities like Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad etc. lodged violent protests against the loadshedding, culminating into loss of property and life.
It is of particular attention that the then Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif had warned on February 10, 2015 that although the electricity shortage in the country would be overcome within two to three years, the scarcity of water is another issue looming in the country. The new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan has also expressed similar thoughts and is paying full attention to constructions of dams.
Undoubtedly, New Delhi employs water as an instrument by increasing its scarcity, making life too often miserable for Pakistanis with the ultimate aim of creating poverty which could produce more terrorism in turn. India is likely to deepen differences among Pakistan’s provinces over various issues which are directly or indirectly related to water.
In January, 2017, even the US administration has initiated the process for peacefully resolving the water dispute between India and Pakistan.
In this backdrop, after a pause of two years and ‘water war threats’ from the Indian Prime Minister Modi, Pakistan and India on March 20, 2017 resumed talks in Islamabad over the water issues with Islamabad welcoming the development, but vowing to defend its rights with ‘full zeal and vigour’. The two-day talks of Indus water commissioners of the two countries had marked the first formal engagement between the arch rivals, during the Mod-led India. Under the Indus Waters Treaty, New Delhi is bound to hold such meetings with Islamabad. But, last year, Premier Modi had threatened to revoke the water accord with Pakistan.
Nonetheless, if India is unwilling to listen to logical arguments from Pakistan on violation of IWT, just because she is a status quo power, what can Pakistan expect from India on major issues like Kashmir and peace in the region? Pakistan desires peace with New Delhi, but Indian attitude and highhandedness has left limited room for a meaningful peace initiative. No matter how sincere and earnest are Pakistan’s efforts in normalizing the bilateral relations, the hawkish mindset of Indian leadership slips away from dialogue through lame excuses? Pakistan’s media should highlight India’s hawkish, hegemonic and radical mindset undermining Pakistan’s earnest efforts to establish amicable relations with India.
After the latest meeting with the Pakistani delegation, we should hope that the World Bank will resolve the Pakistan-India water dispute. Otherwise, India’s hawkish diplomacy against Pakistan will continue.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations
Noted: Similar article updated.