Pak needs to re-read Indus Water Treaty : The Tribune India

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Pak needs to re-read Indus Water Treaty

Pakistan is reading too much for itself in the Indus Water Treaty and that is where all the troubles lie in regulating the provisions of the treaty.



Arun Joshi

tribune news service

Pakistan is reading too much for itself in the Indus Water Treaty and that is where all the troubles lie in regulating the provisions of the treaty. That’s why the treaty’s provisions have landed into a verbal duel and diplomatic wrangles between India and Pakistan, particularly after the September 18 terror attack in Uri in which 20 soldiers lost their lives.

A careful reading of the provisions of the IWT is very clear. India has an exclusive control over the three eastern rivers — Ravi, Sutlej and Beas — passing through Indian Punjab to Pakistan, while Pakistan has been given the monitoring control on the three western rivers — Jhelum, Chenab and Indus. India has limited rights to generate electricity and irrigation facilities under the treaty on the western rivers. All these three rivers pass through Jammu and Kashmir, the Himalayan state to which Pakistan also lays its claim.

The recent World Bank advice to Delhi and Islamabad was to sort out the matters between themselves. It has put the appointment of an arbitrator on the Ratle and Kishenganga projects in Jammu and Kashmir on hold – this was the demand of Pakistan. The Indian call for a neutral expert also met with the same advice.

Pakistanis have accused the World Bank of being partisan, and also claimed that the World Bank that had brokered this treaty in 1960 had no right to intervene in the treaty.

The fact is that whenever India has sought to build a hydroelectric project, Pakistan has raised objections with the sole purpose of delaying the execution of projects, thus depriving the people of Jammu and Kashmir of the timely benefits of the development that could have resulted with the commissioning of the projects.

Despite calling the Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir as its own people, Pakistan has thrown all hurdles in the textbook to stall the projects. It has raised objections at the bilateral level, as was witnessed in the case of Salal, Dulhasti and Uri projects, and has also moved the World Bank and sought arbitration – as it did in the case of Kishenganga and Baglihar projects. It has already raised a wall of objections for the Ratle project.

Its latest contention that it would not allow India to alter the provisions of the treaty is based on misperceptions. The only thing that India has maintained is that it will fully utilise the waters on its side of the border as defined in the 1960 World Bank-brokered treaty. There is absolutely nothing wrong in it. It is inexplicable how that alters the provisions of the treaty. Pakistan has no answers.

Pakistan has often shot itself in the foot by raising specious objections. For example, it was told by a World Bank-appointed neutral observer that India had not violated anything while constructing the 450 MW (now 900 MW) Baglihar hydroelectric project. Similar treatment jolted it when it objected to the diversion tunnel of the Kishenganga project in north Kashmir.

After the terror attack at the Uri army base, there was a thought that crossed through the minds of policy thinkers in India that the water flow to Pakistan could be checked and monitored strictly as per the share of India and Pakistan as enshrined in the treaty. Questions, however, were raised about what would India do with “the excess water in the absence of the necessary infrastructure.”

Alongside there was another reasonable question that since India could not build new projects overnight, India could not afford to stop the water. First of all, there was no intention of stopping the water.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had rubbished all the unfounded apprehensions of Pakistan’s senior functionaries that any tampering with the treaty would be “considered an act of war.” Modi had asserted that “we will not allow even a single drop of water to go waste” (meaning thereby that the needs of the farmers of Punjab and other states would be met first). In any case, India has full right on the three rivers passing through Punjab. As far as the extra water is concerned, when bridges are built and miles-long trenches are dug during war time, anything can be done by any nation to counter terrorism. Terrorism cannot be rewarded with water by overlooking the exact provisions of the treaty.

There is a need for Pakistan to re-read the Indus Water Treaty. Every time the World Bank cannot translate its meaning to Islamabad.


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