Water-sharing between India and Pakistan in context of IWT and history

(Originally published in Urdu on Dawn Urdu)
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If you read Urdu Newspapers regularly, you must have seen screaming headlines such as “India is Stealing Our Water!”, “India should stop building Dams on our rivers”, “India should abide by Indus Water Treaty” or “The Issue of Water is a National Security Issue”. This brouhaha is usually raised by Right-wing newspapers and Anti-India groups such Jamat ut Daawa(JuD). A seminar or rally to highlight this issue is organized every year and cunning Indians are chastized alongwith the spineless government of Pakistan. In the last few years, Flooding in different parts of Pakistan has also been blamed on India.
In the year 2010, JuD held a rally in Lahore on Mall Road, with Hafiz Saeed leading the procession and making an inflammatory speech. JuD’s mouthpiece newspaper “Jarrar” accused Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah to be an “Indian in Spirit”. A seminar held by the Nawai-Waqt group in the same year affirmed this accusation and concluded that India was stealing Pakistan’s water by building dams. In December 2010, Mr. Jamaat Ali Shah was removed from his post by Pakistan’s Prime Minister. He had worked at that post since 1993. After the dismissal, his offices were searched by law enforcement agencies and documents were seized. The main allegation faced by Mr. Jamaat Ali Shah was related to the 45-MW Nimoo-Bazgo hydropower project on the Indus River by India and how he didn’t “protect Pakistan’s interests”.

It is established knowledge that certain problems have to be understood in detail and taking a superficial view is not a wise move. Rhetoric and Sloganeering is only good because it sells well, but they mostly lack any substance underneath the veneer. It is always prudent to investigate and research an issue before raising hell.

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The issue of division of Rivers between India and Pakistan is historical in nature. One year after Partition, the standing agreement between governments of East and West Punjab expired, resulting in West Punjab government blocking water flow to Pakistan. Lets take a look at a popular textbook of ‘Pakistan Studies’ and what it says about this matter. The book “Pakistan Studies (Compulsory) for students of B.A, B.Ed, MBBS, BSc Engineering and other graduation courses” is written by Sheikh Muhammad Rafiq(an ardent Maududi Fan).
On the subject of division of rivers, following description is given,

“The Water dispute was one of the many conflicts that arose after Partition of India. Like all other conflicts, Indian government showed its animosity in this issue as well. Ministers and Bureacrats from West Punjab were planning to inflict a critical blow to Pakistan and upon the expiry of Standing Agreement on 31st March, 1948, India stopped water flow in all the rivers flowing to Pakistan. Pakistan was disgruntled at this behaviour. A high-level delegation was sent to Delhi to sort the mess out. After intense negotiations, a temporary solution was proposed and both sides signed on a Joint Declaration to that effect. As a result, the water supply to Pakistan was restored. According to Chohdary Muhammad Ali, West Punjab schemed against East Punjab and East Punjab was caught napping. The consequences for Pakistan were disastrous.”
The author has mentioned the Indus Waters Treaty fleetingly, in another chapter of the same book. He wrote,
“According to Indus Waters Treaty, Pakistan accepted India’s claim to waters of the three eastern rivers(Sutlej, Bias and Ravi). Link-Canals were constructed in Pakistan for the areas affected by this divide”.

In both instances, the author has committed Intellectual Dishonesty. In the first excerpt, he failed to mention the exceptional role in facilitating Pakistan’s request played by India’s Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The author also quoted Chaudary Muhammad Ali, a close friend of Mr. Maududi, and a leading source of “constructing” the Pakistan Ideology. In the second excerpt, the Indus Waters Treaty was not given its due historical importance(in a book that is supposed to teach history to Undergraduate Students). Indus Waters Treaty(IWT) was not just a simple agreement between two states, it was a landmark agreement in the domain of water-sharing. The author could have mentioned that this agreement has passed the test of time and despite three wars among the two countries, the agreement has not been violated even once. It took more than eight years just to agree upon any mutual understanding on the issue and later the drafting of the treaty itself. There were plenty of hiccups and additions and retractions and melodrama during the process. Internationally, this treaty is held up as one of the prime examples of peaceful water sharing among two countries that are perpetually feeling threatened from the other side.

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As for the chest-thumping on India stealing our water and building dams on the rivers, I would like to request the right-wing Ideologues to visit the World Bank Website and browse through Annexures C,D and E of the treaty(They can be obtained from this link). Annexure C discusses “Agricultural Use by India from Western Rivers” while Annexure D is about “Generation of Hydro-electric power by India on the western rivers” and Annexure E focusses on “Storage of Water by India on Western Rivers”.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a national news conference in April 2010 and said: “Is India stealing that water from you? No, it is not. Please do not fool yourself and do not misguide the nation. We are mismanaging that water”.

Many right-wing columnists mention “water wars” as the future, repreatedly in their writings. A lot of research on this topic has concluded that there is no possibility of any “water war” in the near future. In fact, concepts such as “Water rationality” have been introduced based on dozens of unfriendly countries co-operating with each other just on the issue of water across the globe. Thus, this war hysteria is unjustified and uncalled for.

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