The Water War

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The Indus River is a water time bomb which can explode at any time if India and Pakistan don’t cooperate on the issue. Any military hostility in the region would inevitably lead to an even more extreme water scarcity and trigger irreparable climate changes. 

On September 14-15, the second round of talks between India and Pakistan on the Indus Waters Treaty ended without any agreement. The negotiations between India and Pakistan failed amidst the current coolness in bilateral ties. While discussing the treaty, Pakistan raised certain objections regarding damming policies by India.

The change in climate is a threat to the world’s water resources particularly South Asia. Siachin, the second longest glacier in the world has been badly affected by the presence of Indo-Pak military troops and their gunpowder activities. After China, Pakistan is ranked second in the Water Shortage Index (WSI), emphasizing its helplessness to frequent water shortages.  Since both India and Pakistan is an agri-based economy majorly relying on Indus Waters besides monsoon the dispute over the water sharing is emerging a potential threat in sub continent.

In the past, Pakistan has faced lot more problems owing to the blockade of waters of the Indus River System by India. To solve the issue, Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan was signed with the help of the World Bank in 1960s in order to share the Indus waters peacefully between the two countries. The treaty was expected to put an end to water woes but there have been many constraints which have caused serious water scarcity. The treaty gives India the right to control the three eastern rivers, while Pakistan is allowed to control the three western rivers, including the Indus. 

However, the resentment between India and Pakistan can be interrelated to rising water demands and gradual depletion of water resources in the Indus River. At least lives of 300 million people depend on water from the Indus River, according to a new book from the UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health. In the book, titled Imagining Industan, 14 contributing experts urge the three nuclear-powered countries that share the Indus River basin – India, Pakistan and China – in addition to Afghanistan to prevent a global conflict by showing utmost restraint.

Essentially, the Indus River is a water time bomb which can explode at any time if India and Pakistan don’t cooperate on the issue. Any military hostility in the region would inevitably lead to an even more extreme water scarcity and trigger irreparable climate changes. The ever-rising water demand has led to pollution, water scarcity, shortages and worsened relations between India and Pakistan.  Geologists believe that the Baglihar dam, gives the grim warning about the Indias’ future intentions: “They will switch the Indus off to make Pakistan solely dependent on India. It’s going to be a water bomb”, maintained Bashir Ahmad, a Srinagar based geologist.

Moreover, India’s ploy to penalize those who challenge its status quo in Kashmir by blocking Pakistan’s water supply will meet the least success.  Way back, India has used the policy of water politics when it filled Baglihar Dam in Kashmir, which drastically reduced flows downstream into Pakistan at the harvesting time.  Baglihar has become a source of bitterness. Pakistan considers it as a threat to their existence, a conspiracy to divert, withhold or misuse precious water that is “rightfully” theirs.  If India continues intimidation as a tool to coerce Pakistan, it could produce extremists with an additional agenda to fight and declare jihad against Indian supremacy in the region.

Moreover, if India restricts water to Pakistan, it might invite China’s ire as China has high stakes in Pakistan through its 62$ billion dollar investment project called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 

Unquestionably China has control in the dispute. If India is the upper riparian to Pakistan, China is the uppermost riparian and has control on both. Both the rivers originate from Tibet which is a part of China and China is not a signatory to any treaty, so it is not restricted to follow any line. Since China controls the Tibetan plateau, the source of most major rivers of Asia, so it has a control on directions.  Given to the ground realities, it is high time for India and Pakistan to settle down the dispute amicably without inviting third party intervention that will deteriorate the fragile peace in the region and can trigger a major war in South Asia between the nuclear powers as predicted by the experts.

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