World Bank Must Resolve Indo-Pak Water Dispute

World Bank Must Resolve Indo-Pak Water Dispute


By Safi Nasim

Water dispute between Indian and Pakistan cannot be seen in isolation, as it is part of India’s 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.

India demonstrated her unrealistic and hawkish attitude and response during the meeting of Indus Water Commissioners of the both countries, held in Lahore, on August 29-30, this year. Indian was represented by water Commissioner, Pradeep Kumar Saxena, Pakistan was represented by Mehr Ali Shah along with other senior officials. It was due to Indian stubborn attitude and unjustified and illogical stand that negotiations between the water commissioners of the two countries ended with no breakthrough. At the end of the talks, Islamabad warned to go for International Arbitration, if New Delhi ignored its genuine concerns over several controversial projects.

Pakistan is mainly objecting to the construction of two hydropower projects—1,000-Mega Watt (MW) Pakal Dul and 48-MW Lower Kalnal—on the Chenab River by India. Whenever the atmosphere gets congenial through diplomatic channels for meaningful dialogue between the two countries , the hawks in Indian Government start blame games and shut the doors for dialogue.

Oflate, 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 disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in end of two-day talks between Indus Water Commissioners of both the countries without any positive results. 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 Kalnal.
Pakistan has been raising concerns over designs of the aforesaid two projects since 2012. Both the projects were discussed at a meeting of two commissioners 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. 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. Pakistan fears India is 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. The Kishanganga Hydropower Project was in for specific criticism.The Kishanganga Project was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 19,2018. Islamabad now possibly fears that this and other dam projects could help India bleed Pakistan dry. India has managed to build about 400 dams after the Indus Water Treaty while Pakistan has not even managed to build the KBD.

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 victimize Pakistan by creating deliberate water scarcity with the aim to damage the latter agriculturally. Last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given clear cut orders to divert the water of Chenab River to Beas, which is a serious violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960.

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 disinformation 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 Islamabad had protested the inauguration of Kishanganga hydroelectric plant, claiming that the project on a river flowing into Pakistan will disrupt water supplies. It is well-known that Pakistan is a victim of water scarcity, because of being on lower riparian in relation to the rivers emanating from the disputed territory of 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.

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). Pakistan has registered its complaint and pleaded its case before the World Bank–the designated IWT mediator. Islamabad has also asked the United States 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.

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. 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 as a neutral arbitrator in this matter, as it has done before,” pointed out water expert Simi Kamal.

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 Jammu and 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 weapon to blackmail Pakistan.

The Indian decision to construct two hydro-electric projects on River Neelam which is called Kishanganga 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 disputed territory of 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.

In 1984, India began construction of the Wullar Barrage on river Jhelum in the disputed territory of 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. 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 Kashmir dispute. 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.

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.

Many industries of Pakistan 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. And half of Pakistan’s energy comes from hydroelectricity.

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 vigor’. The two-day talks of Indus water commissioners of the two countries had marked the first formal engagement between the two countries. Under the Indus Waters Treaty, New Delhi is bound to hold such meetings with Islamabad. But, last year, Indian Premier Narendra Modi had threatened to revoke the water accord with Pakistan.

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? The 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.

The writer is a political analyst; views expressed by him are entirely his own.