Indian group foresees Pak-Kashmir water war
23 March 2005
The News International
Islamabad: Sensing the future water wars between India and Pakistan, a timely report has been released by the Strategic Foresight Group of the International Centre of Peace Initiatives in Mumbai, 'The Final Settlement', which was made available to The News. India is not likely to consider abrogation of the Indus Basin Waters Treaty with Pakistan, even in the event of any future war but since Pakistan's primary interest in Kashmir is to secure its water resources, a water war between Kashmir and Pakistan is inevitable in the future. Published by the Strategic Foresight Group of the International Centre for 'A conflict over land between the people of Kashmir and the government of India will soon become a thing of the past. On the other hand, a water war between Kashmir and Pakistan is inevitable in the future,' it observes. Divided into chapters of Fire, Water, Earth, the report says that the agenda for containing fires spreading far and wide across the South Asian region, introducing joint water development, and converting the Line of Control into a Line of cooperation is ambitious. 'It is impossible to implement such an agenda if the final settlement is perceived as a result of secret negotiations between ambitious men. It is not feasible to restructure relations between India and Pakistan if secret talks take place o the one hand and missile tests, terrorist training camps, and strategically planned dams and canals become the order of the day on the other. the final settlement is about tremendous forces of fire, water and earth, Above all, the final settlement is about our identity , about us, about redefining the kind of people we want to be', says the report. It says Kashmir on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control is predominantly agriculture-based, depending on farming, livestock and related activities. Though this region is well endowed with water resources, it is marginally irrigated. Worse, hardly any development projects have been envisaged. Apart from lack of development, the province also suffers from manipulations. Its resources are tapped, but the region is not duly compensated. Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 divided the Basin between India and Pakistan. As per Article III of the Treaty, India is under obligation to let flow the waters of western rivers to Pakistan. India can only use these waters for household and agricultural purpose. For instance, the new areas developed by withdrawals from river flows cannot exceed 120,000 hectares. The treaty also puts a restriction of 3.6 MAF of storage capacity on the western rivers. A major achievement of the treaty was to end the decade-long bitter controversy since partition. It opened the way for large development works in the basin in both countries. The post- treaty period led to an agricultural boom in both the countries, leading to higher levels of production, acreage, yield and rapid growth. The treaty assured Pakistan, permanent water supply for its canal system. The principal benefits were: - It helped Pakistan gain independence from India for ensuring its supplies by binding the latter to a formal international treaty. - The treaty helped regulate the flows of the Indus and its tributaries. About 80 per cent of the total water is produced during the monsoon period - July to September. Storage projects undertaken due to the treaty ensure water availability during winters and enhanced canal diversions. - It helped to revolutionize agriculture. The negative outcome for Pakistan was the loss of eastern rivers, and with this, land surrounding these rivers largely irrigated by traditional methods was adversely affected. However, this loss was compensated by the construction of storage reservoirs, canals and diversions. The other drawback was the rise in inter-provincial discord, especially in recent years, due to reduced flows in the Indus. The major benefits that accrued from the treaty were: - The treaty enabled India to harness the eastern rivers to its benefit. It helped in diverting waters to arid areas like Rajasthan and develop irrigation facilities. - India could also build run-of-the-river hydroelectric plants on the western rivers and flood control storage facilities, though no storage facilities have been built so far. The losses to India were: - Ceding western rivers to Pakistan hampered growth of Jammu & Kashmir, as water resources in the state could not be harnessed (as discussed later). - Increased differences amongst basin states as they began contending higher allocation of water. - Absence of an exit clause in the treaty shut India's options, though Article XII of the treaty provides for a modification of the treaty. Pakistan's awareness of its vulnerability to its upstream neighbour for economic viability had grown during the period of formulating the treaty. Furthermore, its justification for acquiring the Kashmir valley also found credence with the signing of the treaty. The treaty has thus far safeguarded Pakistan's water requirements. It has faithfully served both the countries as a means of forestalling water-related disputes. And despite being the upper riparian state, India has never used it as a 'black mailing' tool in spite of two major wars and constant skirmishes. Post-treaty, after 45 years, Pakistan can now argue that by submitting to man-made reservoir water, which has inherent complications, Pakistan has accepted an unjust principle of replacing perennial stream water. But it has to be borne in mind that had it not been for the treaty, Pakistan would have been forced to remain in eternal conflict with its neighbour Pakistan still has a solution in hand by improving the management of water resources and developing new projects, though it involves huge capital outlay. India, on its part, has never used the treaty as a bargaining lever to restrain Pakistan from providing support to Jihad-e-Kashmir. Nevertheless, there is bound to be an eternal sense of insecurity in Pakistan's mind given that any call on India's part to change the treaty can jeopardize Pakistan's water supply situation. If the treaty is revoked, Pakistan stands to lose its lifeline. In the long-term, the Indus Waters Treaty has favoured Pakistan. Assessing the present water situation, it is evident that India has had much to lose while Pakistan has been insulated from water-related adversities. For India, abrogating the treaty is an extreme step, which may be taken under coercive circumstances. On the other hand, given the bounty that the treaty has bestowed on Pakistan, the country might not entertain even the proposition of renegotiating the treaty. The Indus Waters Treaty would subsist till such time that: - India demands an irrevocable renegotiations of the treaty, for reasons including, inter alia, water shortage - The political status of Kashmir changes drastically - India decides to abrogate the treaty - an extreme step in retaliation to cross-border terrorism. If the treaty subsists, northern India would eventually reach a point where meeting growing water requirements would become difficult. International laws do not permit linking one river basin to another. India then might be compelled to tap the rivers given away to Pakistan, especially the Chenab. Treaty-bound, India might fail in fostering socio-economic growth in northern states like Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab. The World Bank had envisioned that mutual trust would finally bind the two countries to the treaty. Instead, the two countries have chosen the path of hostility. The treaty has engendered a vicious cycle. Lack of trust between India and Pakistan forced the bifurcation of the Indus River Basin. As the gap between water availability and requirements widen in Pakistan, its desire to intensify jihadi operations will grow. Agricultural development will be affected, which in turn will produce a stratum of unemployed youth willing to service terrorist groups. This in turn would aggravate the mistrust and hostility between the two countries. This vicious cycle of depleting resources spawning unemployment and fueling terrorism is feared to intensify in the near future. Jammu & Kashmir in India has been the foremost loser as a result of this treaty as all the rivers surrendered to Pakistan were the major water resources for the state. Due to restrictions imposed on tapping of water resources, in conjunction with faltering policies of successive state governments, Jammu & Kashmir has been unable to grow to the optimum potential of its agriculture and electricity sectors. The limitations imposed by the Indus Waters Treaty that affect Jammu & Kashmir are: - The Treaty permits building storage aggregating 3.6 MAF on the three rivers of the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. - Of the 3.6 MAF water storage capacities, 1.6 MAF is for hydropower, 0.75 MAF for flood moderation and 1.25 MAF for general storage for non-consumptive uses including power generation. - It permits additional irrigation of just 1.21 lakh hectares from the effective date, 1 April 1960. Hydroelectricity potential in the state has been estimated to be around 15,000 MW, of which only 10 per cent has been harnessed so far. Currently, projects worth 1,600 MW are in various stages of development. Of the existing installed capacity in the state of 1,473 MW (state and central sector), 99 per cent is from hydel plants. There is little scope for any other forms of power generation, particularly thermal, in the state since there are not many feasible sites for such plants and the state's difficult topographical condition makes transportation of raw material impracticable. Moreover, all the power projects currently under construction in the state have become controversial due to continuous interference of Pakistan on the pretext of the treaty. The projects end up having long gestation periods and short working life span. Abrogating the Indus Waters Treaty would provide greater benefits and open up several avenues for unrestrained development of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. It can: - Improve hydroelectricity sector's potential as storage facilities could be developed - Pave the way for industrialization of the state - Improve irrigation facilities, which in turn would boost agricultural growth - Give rise to employment opportunities, which will indirectly keep a check on external interference in state affairs - Help attract private investments, propelling the state's position on India's investment map. The opportunity to tap the Jhelum and Chenab Rivers would provide windfall gains not only to Jammu & Kashmir, but also to the neighbouring states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana. The three states tend to be in conflict over the sharing of waters. The addition of Chenab and Jhelum would secure water availability for these states. The Indus Waters Treaty casts unilateral responsibility on India for compliance. It is an obligation that necessarily falls on all upper riparian states. Abrogation would not be defensible on any understanding of the international water laws or the international humanitarian laws. Further, abrogation will necessarily have to be followed by an engineering feat that would greatly strain the Indian economy. In any case, legally speaking, it is virtually impossible for India to abrogate the treaty. Article XII (4) states that 'provisions of this treaty shall continue in force until terminated by a duly ratified treaty concluded for that purpose between the two Governments.' The treaty does not provide an exit clause for India per se. Article 54 of Protocol I (1977) to the Geneva Convention (1949) prohibits any measures that could result in the starvation of people. It specifically refers to water resources and irrigation works. Abrogation is bound to incite reactions from the World Bank and the countries that were party to the treaty and have provided funds. The countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Britain and the US, are also India's major export destinations. India is aware of the implications of abrogation of the treaty. Therefore, despite growing protests from the Kashmiri people, no policy maker in New Delhi is ever likely to even contemplate this move. The act of abrogation on the part of India could cause insecurity among the other countries that are lower riparian to India. India's relations with its neighbours would also be affected, as India also has water treaties with Nepal and Bangladesh. The dominant political thought in India is to have civilized relations with neighbours, despite all odds. Therefore, India did not seek unilateral abrogation of the treaty in the wars of 1965, 1971 and 1999; therefore, India is not likely to consider abrogation in the event of any future war as well. The report concludes that the agenda for containing fires spreading far and wide across the South Asian region introducing joint water development, and converting the Line of Control into a Line of cooperation is ambitious. It is impossible to implement such a agenda if the final settlement is perceived as a result of secret negotiations between ambitious men. It is not feasible to restructure relations between India and Pakistan if secret talks take place on the one hand and missile tests, terrorist training camps, and strategically planned dams and canals become the order of the day on the other. the final settlement is about tremendous forces of fire, water and earth. Above all, the final settlement is about our identity, about us, about redefining the kind of people we want to be.