Indus Water Treaty - The Unfairness That Kashmir Faces

10 April 2015
Rising Kashmir
Bashir Assad

Srinagar: 'India is too indulgent of Jammu and Kashmir, and sends unaccounted millions here. J&K has very little of its own, and no contribution to the national pool. Everything comes from Delhi, and your politicians have filled their coffers with the money sent by Delhi over decades. If Delhi stops funding you all, your state will be financially bankrupt.' I was pained when a Delhi-based friend hurled these words at me during a recent discussion. I was amazed at his complete ignorance of Kashmir, and gave him a piece of my mind. But this blatant lie is now the truth for millions of people like him. My heart stung, and I felt intense, heartburning pain. The bitter truth is that millions of Indians today have no knowledge of the suffering and the agony Kashmiris have suffered due to the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and the flawed power-sharing agreements. I tried to make the outsider understand the peculiar situation we are confronted with, owing to the exploitation of our resources by India through its subsidiary, the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC). However, it was like 'bhainse ke aagey been bajana'. I was incensed at the perception that 'the merciful, benevolent Indian state' was nourishing Kashmiris. Regardless of whether India or NHPC hands over the power projects to us or not, I find it difficult to live with this completely erroneous perception that Kashmir is surviving - courtesy the few hundred crores that Delhi gives us annually for developmental activities. Only one part of this statement cannot be disputed: that our politicians have filled their coffers with the money that comes from Delhi. Ironically, even the politicians who denounce Delhi have filled their accounts with such ill-gotten money. About this perception that Kashmiris survive only on the money handed out by Delhi, does India know that in 1947, our import-export ratio was 1:3? Now, courtesy the flawed policies of Delhi vis-à-vis Kashmir, it stands at 7:3. Do these self-proclaimed Kashmir experts know that since 1978, the hydro power taken by NHPC from J&K to other states is valued at Rs 2 lakh crores? We are given just 2 percent of the power generated from our own hydro-electric power projects at Salal, Dulhasti, Uri and so forth. For years now, earnest Kashmiris have been fighting for the return of power projects 'illegally and unconstitutionally' run by NHPC in Jammu and Kashmir. NHPC pocketed the entire benefits of Kashmir's water resources. In 1975, this company came with a kitty of Rs 2,000 million. Today, its kitty stands at Rs 3,870,180 million. It's a hike 193.5 times, and J&K must find its rightful share in this hike. We are partners in this fortune built by NHPC on our resources, and one-third of this share must come to us. But the amount has not been paid for decades. So Delhi must pay the principal and also the interest on it. Salal, Uri-I and II, Dulhasti and the Sewa II power projects are managed by NHPC, and generate 1680 MW of electricity. The state's share is a mere 12 percent. The state is producing only 308 MW from projects regulated and run by the Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (JKSDC), falling under the state sector. The Baghliar project produces another 758 MW. The total requirement of the state, both domestic and industrial, is 2500 MW. See the irony: J&K purchases back its own power from NHPC to the tune of Rs 3500 crore annually. The injustice is not restricted to the power projects alone. The taxes which go into the kitty of the central government, the losses incurred due to the Indus Water Treaty, the cumbersome and tedious process of fund-releasing by the Central government - we have borne the brunt of all of this. The financial mismanagement by the successive regimes of J&K has made matters worse. The lapse of Rs 6000 crores approximately by the state government on the last day of the financial year ending on March 31, 2015 is only a case in point. After the Partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, the water disputes attained an international dimension. Six rivers of the Indus basin originate in the Himalayas, and pass through Jammu and Kashmir (on the Indian side) before crossing over to Pakistan. This led to the internationalization of the water dispute, and a negotiation process began to agree over the terms for use of water in the Indus basin. The World Bank mediated this process and attained multilateral funding to compensate Pakistan for the losses suffered by it due to the terms of the treaty called the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). The treaty came to be regarded as a model treaty for dispute resolution between countries that share rivers. However, it caused great injustice to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The inherent discord in Indus Waters Treaty is manifest in hydroelectric power projects in Jammu & Kashmir where India and Pakistan are asserting their right over water resources of the Indus basin. As the two countries wrangle over the waters of the Indus basin, J&K has reason to be agitated. Both India and Pakistan gained from this treaty; J&K emerged as the only loser. If India and Pakistan compensate us for the actual losses from this treaty, the estimated outstanding could go beyond Rs 1.25 lakh crore. As for the generation of hydroelectric power, the actual loss as against the potential loss is even more interesting. Our potential capacity has been reduced under the IWT because we are allowed to create heading dams (i.e. dams that create a head of water for power generation) but not storage dams that allow water to be stored for the lean season. IWT regulations stipulate that dam water must be released within 24 hours. This reduces power generating capacity in the lean season. Uri, for example has a capacity to generate 680 MW, but will not be able to realize this potential. This is true for other projects on Chenab basin and Jhelum. Under pressure from the civil society, J&K government initiated steps to assess and quantify the losses to the state on account of the Indus Water Treaty. In 2013, the state government engaged Halcrow Consulting India to quantify the losses. The company pulled out of the project for unknown reasons. The move was aimed to get an independent estimate of the losses which in turn can be used during discussions with the central government for compensation. Rough estimates suggest that the figure runs into billions of dollars. The State Finance Commission constituted through a legislation recommended that J&K should seek compensation for the losses incurred by it on account of Indus Water Treaty from not only India but also Pakistan. It was for the first time that a recommendation for seeking compensation from Pakistan was made by a quasi-official panel. The State Finance Commission, in its report submitted in 2013, pointed out that the opportunity cost of economic growth and development forgone as a result of IWT bottlenecks, needs to be assessed from September 1960 to August 2010. The report goes on to recommend that J&K can claim compensation for IWT losses from Pakistan through the government of India. In absence of certified actual figures, one can safely say that if India compensates the state for the losses on both the accounts, ours will be the richest state in the subcontinent. As for the Delhi being 'generous in providing funds', it is not doing us any favour. We receive the funds as a matter of right, under the norms set for other states of India. The day Punjab, Haryana and other states do not get their share from the central government, India can stop funding us too.