Editorial
As the Pakistani side raised noises about how water divides India and Pakistan in the run up to the foreign secretary-level talks, it did succeed in pushing back terrorism as the central issue. The military and the political leadership as well as the conservative sections of the media raised enough hue and cry in trying to project water as the real bone of contention.

analysis
Water unites, water devides
Pakistan government and the political leadership have remained negligent in respect of serious research on the water issue but the time has come to redress and to make up for this default
By Ahmer Bilal Soofi
Let's give credit where it is due: the Indus Waters Treaty is a unique legal instrument and well-negotiated in the context of circumstances as they existed in 1960. It has survived at least two wars and, in fact, its continuation is viewed as a legal basis to make determination that the so-called war of 1965 was not a 'war' instead an armed conflict -- because the Indus Waters Treaty was not cancelled by the parties and hence it was concluded, by a commercial arbitrator, that the 1965 war was actually an 'armed conflict'.

"There is a need to review the spirit of the Treaty"
-- Syed Jamaat Ali Shah, Indus Waters Commissioner
By Waqar Gillani
The News on Sunday: A lot is being written about in the press about the water controversy between India and Pakistan. What exactly is the dispute?
Syed Jamaat Ali Shah: It is quite unfortunate that the people of Pakistan, including the press, have woken up to the issue after the passage of half a century. We want the Indus Waters Treaty implemented, in letter as well as in spirit. We want the fulfillment of the rights of both sides, as acknowledged in the Treaty.

Barrage of issues
How the dispute has affected the relationship between the two countries through history
By Sher Ali
Today, over a hundred and forty of the world's countries depend on shared water systems for some portion of their freshwater needs. Logically enough, due to the limitations of fresh water resources in the world, the potential of international conflict is also always there. The present level of awareness about the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 shows that in spite of the fear of conflict, for Pakistan and India this Treaty remains one of the few agreements that brings the two countries together on one table.

Water diplomacy
Like trade, technical mechanisms of water sharing along the lines of Indus Waters Treaty may turn out to be the best CBM between the two mistrustful neighbours
By Farah Zia
When the Indus Waters Commission began its annual meeting in New Delhi in May 2009 to discuss the water-sharing disputes - including Kishenganga dam project and sharing of Chenab river water - it was no less than a surprise. The three-day meeting was, reportedly, attended by the Pakistani delegation, led by Indus Waters Commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah who held talks with his Indian counterpart G Ranganathan. This was about six months after the Mumbai attacks. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were strained and the composite dialogue process stalled for all practical purposes.

view from india
Spirit of the letter
The time has come to rethink the IWT and rework it in a way that it addresses the issues we will face in the next 50 years instead of harping on issues we faced in the last 50 years
By Sushant Sareen
It would perhaps surprise Pakistanis to know that the rising crescendo in Pakistan over India's alleged 'water terrorism' is so far a complete non-issue as far as Indian public opinion is concerned. Other than the strategic community and journalists covering foreign policy, the Indian public opinion is unaware of the concerns in Pakistan over river waters flowing from India into Pakistan. Even the strategic community in India is somewhat bemused by the furore in Pakistan. The debate in Pakistan, which is generating more heat than light, is hardly helping matters. If anything, it appears ill-informed and more rhetorical than real because while a lot of noise is being heard about 'water theft' by India, there is as yet no evidence that would lend credence to this allegation -- a classic case of smoke without fire.

Treaty, no trickery
The real beneficiaries of the IWT
By Aziz Omar
For the citizens of both India and Pakistan, the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 signifies a water sharing agreement of the six rivers. It is commonly perceived that granting the use of the western rivers of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to Pakistan and that of the eastern rivers of Ravi, Sutlej and Beas to India was the only solution to a stalemate. The Treaty, signed in 1960 by the heads of state of both countries as well as the World Bank (then only known as the International bank of Reconstruction and Development) as a signatory, came about after more than a decade of tensions over the water usage of the Indus Basin. The successful signing of the Treaty was touted as a salve for the strained Indo-Pak relations as well as a preemptive against a possible war over the Kashmir region.

 

 

 

Editorial

As the Pakistani side raised noises about how water divides India and Pakistan in the run up to the foreign secretary-level talks, it did succeed in pushing back terrorism as the central issue. The military and the political leadership as well as the conservative sections of the media raised enough hue and cry in trying to project water as the real bone of contention.

This provided us an occasion to look at the reality behind the rhetoric.

For a long time, the Indus Waters Treaty worked for both India and Pakistan. Many have pointed out the fact that it has survived three wars and many incidents of terrorist violence. We have seen how the water commissioners of the two countries were meeting within six months of the most recent Mumbai attacks. And what a hearty news it was.

With time other factors came into play. The agricultural and energy needs were on the rise and so was the population on both sides of the border. And water started becoming scarce because of inefficient use, wastage and climate change. A distinction was then drawn between the letter and the spirit of the water sharing agreement called IWT.

And then there were other factors that remained constant -- the mistrust and the near enmity between the two neighbours. There was of course the unresolved issue of Kashmir and three of these rivers flow into Pakistan through the Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir over which Pakistan had fought so many wars.

The technical and functional mechanism of IWT that aimed to unite the two countries ran parallel with the political side which was divisive, to say the least. Therefore whenever India started building a run-of-the-river dam on one of the rivers that flows into Pakistan (as allowed under IWT), Pakistani policy makers got jittery. They feared India would control Pakistan's water, harm its economy and either dry it up or flood it at its whims.

At a time when the Indo-Pak relations are at an all time low and both sides are equally nervous about their reaction in case there is another terrorist attack on the India soil, the IWT mechanism is a natural victim. No avenue of engagement, it seems, is acceptable at this stage.

But this is a worrying trend. Instead of building upon the strength of what IWT has achieved in all these years, and devising new mechanisms that ensure net gains for both sides, the two countries have picked on water as a dividing tool. This is precisely what we have argued against in this Special Report.

 

analysis

Water unites, water devides

Pakistan government and the political leadership have remained negligent in respect of serious research on the water issue but the time has come to redress and to make up for this default

By Ahmer Bilal Soofi

Let's give credit where it is due: the Indus Waters Treaty is a unique legal instrument and well-negotiated in the context of circumstances as they existed in 1960. It has survived at least two wars and, in fact, its continuation is viewed as a legal basis to make determination that the so-called war of 1965 was not a 'war' instead an armed conflict -- because the Indus Waters Treaty was not cancelled by the parties and hence it was concluded, by a commercial arbitrator, that the 1965 war was actually an 'armed conflict'.

We are now in 2010. The debate India is violating the Indus Waters Treaty has heated up again. The military strategists view blocking of water by the Indians as one of the justifications to seriously contemplate the use of nuclear weapons. Therefore, intelligent handling of this debate is crucial for the peace and mutual benefit of the two nuclear armed states. After all it is a sensitive relationship of an upper riparian and lower riparian -- of water distribution, water scarcity and preservation of water resource.

I fear this debate may not be handled intelligently by the two sides; particularly Pakistani -- because firstly, it has already been made a political issue by the political forces against India and secondly, the scholarship on Indus Waters Treaty is almost non-existent here.

This is shocking. Pakistan's survival is based on water -- and yet since 1960 there is no organised or institutional initiative to carry out proper research on the implementation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. The occasional reports by the government entities like the Ministry of Water and Power, projects study for reservoirs, occasional reports by consultants co-opted by the Ministry are not enough. Unfortunately, in Pakistan collection of facts and data are considered to be "research" when this is only a small part in developing a complete picture: Year-wise data of water flowing into Pakistan, its collection and tabulation either through the ministry or through the Indus Water Commissioner is deemed to be sufficient work done to handle the water resource issue of Pakistan.

The fact of the matter is that Pakistan needs to thoroughly research issues associated with upper/lower riparian states, such as to examine the legal modules developed in Europe, North America, Africa and Far East on upper/lower riparian states and assess their application to the Indo-Pak model; collect decisions and awards of arbitration amongst various countries to identify the directions in which international jurisprudence on water disputes is moving; collect all bilateral treaties of upper/lower riparian states to ascertain if the Indus Waters Treaty has fallen behind time or how can one innovatively use the existing provisions of the treaty.

It is interesting that Pakistan has never convincingly argued that notwithstanding the bilateral commitment under Indus Waters Treaty, India has an obligation towards Pakistan to preserve water in its catchment areas for the benefit of lower riparian use -- that is, Pakistan. Importantly, this obligation is under the principles of customary international law.

It can be argued that even if there is no Indus Waters Treaty, India is still under an obligation to let considerable water flow into Pakistan. The 1992 Convention on protection of trans-boundary water courses and 1997 Convention on the law of non-navigational uses of international water courses can serve as useful modules and codification of international laws as declared by the International Court of Justice in 1997. Particularly since the conventions support Pakistan's version.

It is believed that water sharing compels the upper/lower riparian states to coordinate water distributions -- and so "water unites". Regrettable, instead of taking the course of getting closer on account of water sharing issues, India and Pakistan are drifting in opposite direction of the "water divides".

Pakistan needs to focus on research on water laws. A group of legal experts need to examine the legal aspects of the water sharing treaties, the development of water laws with emphasis on obligations of an upper riparian state and assess cases of national and international courts. Such a group may be formed outside the government system -- to carry out indepth research on the issue and then make recommendations to the Federal government/Mofa. This research work may also help Pakistan highlight the legally justicifiable points before the US government, EU and other international players.

Given water is a national security issue, there should be multiple initiatives of research essentially conducted by water or legal experts. Possibly, a few persons can be send abroad to specialise on rights and obligations of upper/lower riparian states.

What Pakistan needs to focus on is that India continues to build hydro projects and dams, as they are technically permitted under the Treaty, but in the process the 'spirit' of the Treaty of 'satisfactory utilisation of the waters' is getting defeated. The rivers in Pakistan are visibly getting dry. Water flow has become scarce. Thus, the 'spirit' of the Treaty needs to be revived and pressed as an issue having preference over technical compliance of the Treaty.

During negotiations with India on the issue, Pakistan has so far only put the Indus Waters Treaty on the table -- as a basis to claim its share and to assert its right -- whereas it needs to put along on the same table a stack of material, legal references, conventions that place additional obligations on India to ensure that Pakistan as a lower riparian state is entitled to proper share of water. The time has come to redress and to make up for the default, otherwise we as a nation will continue to suffer.

The author is an Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan and President of Research Society of International Law. Email: [email protected]

 

"There is a need to review the spirit of the Treaty"

-- Syed Jamaat Ali Shah, Indus Waters Commissioner

By Waqar Gillani

The News on Sunday: A lot is being written about in the press about the water controversy between India and Pakistan. What exactly is the dispute?

Syed Jamaat Ali Shah: It is quite unfortunate that the people of Pakistan, including the press, have woken up to the issue after the passage of half a century. We want the Indus Waters Treaty implemented, in letter as well as in spirit. We want the fulfillment of the rights of both sides, as acknowledged in the Treaty.

Secondly, if I say there is no hurdle from the Indian side, that wouldn't be true either. There are certain mechanisms and design parameters that have been defined in the 1960 Treaty, between the two countries. If the conditions are not met, ultimately the required flow of water to Pakistan will be affected.

Let me also say that India has not reduced the due share of water to Pakistan. For example, when India set up Baglihar Dam, in 2008, the cusecs of water from India to Marala was reduced from 55,000 to 38,000. It was then that the issue was raised. We want that India should provide all information to us according to the Treaty, before it starts any project on the said rivers. For example, India didn't provide us information at least six month prior to starting a project on Indus. This is against the rules in the Treaty.

Thirdly, the Treaty allows Pakistan to question the designs of the dams and the projects started by India.

TNS: To what extent is this issue technical and to what extent has this been politicised?

SJAS: It's about the engineering of water. It's very technical for sure. The concerns have been raised by the media and from there they've gone to the parliament. So it becomes political any way.

We cannot tolerate deduction, reduction or cut in water. Pakistan uses the waters for agriculture via canals. This fact is recognised by the World Bank also.

TNS: What are Pakistan's key demands on the issue?

SJAS: Well, firstly, India should provide us complete information; secondly, there should be a resolution of differences; and finally, there should be candid cooperation on the part of both countries. Let me tell you, the Treaty allows the run-of-river projects and it also allows for daily water to the villages near the border or on the border. There are different conditions for border villages. As per the Treaty, India can irrigate up to 1.3m acres of land and it can store 2.85 million acre feet (MAF) of water. The run-of-river hydroelectric plants are also allowed. But there is no allowance for making power on Indus and selling it to Mumbai. These plants were allowed on the condition that they would be curtailed within Kashmir.

If things are going off, it means there is a need [for us] to review the spirit of the Treaty. The construction of Wullar Barrage by India has been put a stop to, thanks to Pakistan's principled stance. We shall protect our country's interests in all projects, including Baglihar Dam. The changes and implementation of 100 to 150 projects by India are harmful to both the countries and a Pakistani delegation will visit India to review Sindh basin.

Up till now India has constructed three big and eight small dams on Chenab river, in addition to 24 other projects that are in the pipeline.

TNS: Is it true that the Kishenganga hydropower project of India is in violation of the Treaty? Also, it is said that New Delhi has started preparations for building another big dam on Chenab river?

SJAS: We have repeatedly asked India to give us details of the proposed water storage and hydropower projects, including Bursar Dam. However, India's stance remains that it is aware of its legal obligations and will let Pakistan know of the project details six months ahead of the construction work.

We have also requested the government to quickly move the International Court of Arbitration in order to stop the construction of the controversial Kishenganga project. Pakistan has already nominated two members for the court. The procedure laid down in the Treaty requires the two nations to nominate two adjudicators, each of their choice, and then to jointly nominate three members to complete the composition of a seven-member court of arbitration.

TNS: Are you for a review of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960?

SJAS: No. Not now. Pakistan-India water issue started in 1947 and at the time when the Treaty was signed Pakistan had no option but to accept it.

TNS: How do you see the cross-border visits of water authorities?

SJAS: These are mandatory visits, as per the Treaty.

TNS: Can the water issue be raised to an effective level in the forthcoming Indo-Pak foreign secretary level talks?

SJAS: Well, we are ready for it. And, we are hoping the water issue [between Pakistan and India] will be one of the important highlights of the talks.

 

Barrage of issues

How the dispute has affected the relationship between the two countries through history

By Sher Ali

Today, over a hundred and forty of the world's countries depend on shared water systems for some portion of their freshwater needs. Logically enough, due to the limitations of fresh water resources in the world, the potential of international conflict is also always there. The present level of awareness about the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 shows that in spite of the fear of conflict, for Pakistan and India this Treaty remains one of the few agreements that brings the two countries together on one table.

Pakistan depends on the Indus River for 90 percent of its agricultural water needs. India, likewise, faces issues of irrigation, drought and flooding, and pollution. Furthermore, the population of the region is expected to touch 1.5 billion by the year 2020, with half of these people being below the poverty line. By this time, India will be four times its original population and Pakistan six times. Knowing this, one must go back in history to understand the effect of water on the relationship between the two neighbouring countries.

Close to Partition, India controlled the headwaters. Pakistan inherited lower riparian of the Indus water system. The Partition did not discuss nor provide any framework for the usage of that system. This was to be the beginning of a long-winded debate on the flow of water and the usage of the Indus water system.

Several interim agreements were reached but, mostly, there was a deadlock. When the World Bank got involved, in 1952, it was the first time that Pakistan and India were able to progress to a consensus regarding the Indus river. This would culminate in the 1960 agreement, now known as the Indus Waters Treaty. To be more specific, the World Bank's vision was that of an agreement where the vital interests of both countries would be tied to the system.

Instead, political instability and lack of trust on either part of the subcontinent resulted in the agreement developing into two independent river systems, wherein Pakistan would control the flow of Jhelum and Chenab, and India would control Ravi, Beas and Sultej rivers. Hence, even though the agreement was seen as a major breakthrough, in reality it was a 'Band-Aid' as it did not eliminate several key issues. Starting out, it did not encourage unified development and also did not fix the issue of water distribution for the future. So, moving forward to modern times, critics wondered whether the Treaty would last because both countries were looking for more water to cater for their growing needs.

This led to a great deal of rhetoric. In 2001-2002, India started to vocally consider pulling out of the Treaty. Fred Pierce, an international environment journalist, wrote at that time, "Leading Indian politicians are threatening to pull out of the Treaty unless Pakistan stops terrorists from crossing the border into disputed Kashmir. The Pakistani government has reacted angrily, and Kashmiri politicians are demanding the water for themselves."

Such independent voices determined that Kashmir was a vital part of fulfilling the moral obligation of the Treaty. Consequently, with the construction of the Bagilhar Dam project in 1998, worries from the Pakistan side exasperated, leading General (r) Musharraf to take matters to the World Bank. Awarding the World Bank chief James D. Wolfensohn the Hilal-e-Imtiaz further proved that Pakistan would receive an independent WB expert to discuss the Treaty. India would then respond to these inquiries saying that the dialogue process should be allowed to take shape. Hence, the parting shots were talked about, though the Treaty has remained intact despite the political situation.

Assuming that India was to renegotiate the Treaty, Pakistan stands to lose much in the process. Local analyses also explain that the Treaty does not account for the building of dams. Furthermore, the technical aspects of the agreement are a little shaky. Therefore, as is voiced by some, the agreement needs to be slightly altered rather than cancelled altogether. Also, confronting the popular attitude that India is stealing water has also been found to be incorrect because the waters have not been diverted. As it is, the issue that irks the government is the dams, which must be set up according to a certain design so that the waters continue to flow.

The Indus Waters Treaty is also seen as a way for both countries to come together and reach a relative consensus. The negotiation process is indicative of this fact. Despite political factors many technical and basic needs have taken precedence. This leaves the two countries with relatively usable agreement.

Unfortunately, this is not enough. WB's assessment of the issue gives an overall picture. To quote its former President Eugene Black, "There is a need to treat water development as a common project that is functional, and not political, in nature... undertaken separately from the political issues with which India and Pakistan are confronted."

As another round of talks between the two neighbours takes place, one thing has become clear: it will be minus the ministries of water and power. Leaving this to some other forum does not augur too well.

 

Water diplomacy

Like trade, technical mechanisms of water sharing along the lines of Indus Waters Treaty may turn out to be the best CBM between the two mistrustful neighbours

By Farah Zia

When the Indus Waters Commission began its annual meeting in New Delhi in May 2009 to discuss the water-sharing disputes - including Kishenganga dam project and sharing of Chenab river water - it was no less than a surprise. The three-day meeting was, reportedly, attended by the Pakistani delegation, led by Indus Waters Commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah who held talks with his Indian counterpart G Ranganathan. This was about six months after the Mumbai attacks. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were strained and the composite dialogue process stalled for all practical purposes.

Apparently, the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was working for the two countries once again. Within months came the decision of the neutral expert on Baglihar dam which allowed India to go ahead with the dam as per the plan, albeit with a few design changes including reducing the dam's height by 1.5m. The two countries accepted the decision which was in line with the dispute resolution mechanism provided under the IWT.

The IWT, as pointed out time and again, had now survived about three wars and two major terrorism-related incidents of violence in one country at the behest of militant groups of another country.

Contrast this with the recent rhetorical political statements coming generally from a conservative section of society and particularly from the chief of army staff, the president and the prime minister about water as a major conflict between India and Pakistan. The decibel level of this rhetoric had risen in the wake of Indian offer of formal engagement between the foreign secretaries for the first time after Mumbai attacks. Water, it seems, is on top of the agenda on the Pakistani side of the border, relegating even Kashmir to a second position.

As Jamaat Ali Shah continues to insist that there has not been any violation of the IWT on India's part and the politicians harp on the theme that India has robbed Pakistan of all its water share, it is perhaps time for an impartial appraisal of the Treaty as well as take into account the new realities that have emerged ever since it was signed in 1960. Ahmer Bilal Soofi in one of his recent articles in the Dawn hinted at the issue of water scarcity as a consequence of climate change which has affected both countries and which certainly was not under consideration when the distribution formula was being worked out under the IWT.

There are of course various other issues like population explosion in both countries and the ever-increasing agricultural and energy demand.

On a subtle diplomatic level, here is Pakistan's chance to project India as the aggressor to counter the psychological pressure it has faced in the last more than a year -- for being a perpetrator of violence and abettor of terrorist activities and harboring terrorists on its soil.

Beyond these realistic and imagined concerns, there are worrying statistics that project Pakistan "on the brink of a water disaster" where availability of water is persistently declining: 60 years ago it was 5000 cubic metres per capita which has come down to 1200 cubic metres per capita in 2009 and is estimated to fall to about 800 cubic metres per capita in 2020.

The current state of crisis apart, Pakistan and India have experienced roadblocks with reference to the IWT. The first one was about the Wullar Barrage (India calls it Tulbul navigation project) that emerged in 1985. India wanted to construct a barrage on Jhelum river near the town of Sopore but Pakistan had severe objections and the matter stayed unresolved in the Indus Waters Commission. The second was about the Baglihar dam that India wanted to build on Chenab river in 1991 which as stated above was recently settled by a neutral expert. The third is of course the ongoing Kishanganga hydroproject on Neelam river while Pakistan is building its own hydroproject on the Pakistani side of Kashmir.

There is a three-pronged dispute resolution mechanism under the IWT. The first forum is of course the Indus Waters Commission where the two Waters Commissioners settle disputes. In case they fail, the matter is referred to the World Bank that appoints a neutral expert. If the matter still stays unresolved, it is sent to a court of arbitration where both sides pay the costs of arbitration. But the third recourse has not been sought in any of the disputes so far. Hence the optimism attached with the IWT.

The so-called water disputes are a baggage of partition - the "product of hasty, unimaginative and surgical partition of British India." Pakistan was geographically a lower riparian state and the source rivers of the Indus basin were in India. India was not obliged to follow the pre-partition mechanism of water distribution as desired by Pakistan. Considering this historical disadvantage, Indus Waters Treaty when it came solved a lot of Pakistan's problems.

Yet, as Khaled Ahmed suggests, Pakistan is treating the issue as one of "conflict creation" rather than "conflict management". This is not unusual for two states that don't have normal ties; they can't treat water issue in isolation and are likely to treat it as a dispute rather than working together for its resolution.

But that is not the correct approach. We have seen how the IWT has worked for us in the past. What we need is fresh talks on the new realities along the same lines and in the same spirit. Thinkers have projected trade enhancement as the best recipe for peace between India and Pakistan. A similar case could be made for technical mechanisms of water sharing and conservation etc. Keeping politics aside, these may turn out to the best CBM between the two mistrustful neighbours.


view from india

Spirit of the letter

The time has come to rethink the IWT and rework it in a way that it addresses the issues we will face in the next 50 years instead of harping on issues we faced in the last 50 years

By Sushant Sareen

It would perhaps surprise Pakistanis to know that the rising crescendo in Pakistan over India's alleged 'water terrorism' is so far a complete non-issue as far as Indian public opinion is concerned. Other than the strategic community and journalists covering foreign policy, the Indian public opinion is unaware of the concerns in Pakistan over river waters flowing from India into Pakistan. Even the strategic community in India is somewhat bemused by the furore in Pakistan. The debate in Pakistan, which is generating more heat than light, is hardly helping matters. If anything, it appears ill-informed and more rhetorical than real because while a lot of noise is being heard about 'water theft' by India, there is as yet no evidence that would lend credence to this allegation -- a classic case of smoke without fire.

An example of this was a TV programme in which, while Pakistan's Indus Waters Commissioner insisted that there was as yet no violation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) by India, a PML-Q politician on the panel insisted that India was depriving Pakistan of its waters (although he admitted he was no expert on the issue!) and the legal expert continued to talk of the spirit of the Treaty, prejudging all the time that the spirit of the treaty must have been violated by India. Even the manner in which the issue has been raised in Pakistan's parliament suggests that it is more about grandstanding rather than any grievance based on any wrongdoing on India's part.

Despite all the emotions that water can excite, the IWT is really a technical issue more than a political issue between India and Pakistan. This is not to deny an element of politics that invariably creeps in over the issue of river waters. Over the last couple of years, the IWT is becoming an issue in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir with talk of how India and Pakistan have deprived J&K of waters over which it has the first right. Even in the Pakistan administered Kashmir, this issue has been recently raised by the AJK prime minister.

There is also a body of opinion in India that has for long been exhorting the Indian government to use water as a weapon against Pakistan. For people adhering to this view, the water weapon is a fair payback for the use of jihad as a weapon by Pakistan. But successive governments in India have desisted from going down this path. At the same time, growing water requirements as well as shortages, and rising energy needs, is forcing the government to exploit all available water resources to their maximum potential.

According to technocrats, while the eastern rivers -- Ravi, Beas and Sutlej -- have been exclusively granted to India, a lot of water still spills over into Pakistan from these rivers, which is a bonus for Pakistan if one goes by the letter of the IWT. They say that the government has neglected developing the infrastructure needed to stop this water flowing into Pakistan, water that is required for growing needs of Indian agriculture and drinking water needs of Indian cities. What is more, some estimates suggest that if this water can be utilised properly, it will go a long way in addressing river water disputes between Indian states like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

As far as the western rivers -- Indus, Chenab and Jhelum -- are concerned, the IWT grants certain rights to India on these waters. For instance, India is permitted to build run-of-the-river hydroelectric plants. There are also provisions for using these waters for drinking water as well as agricultural use in J&K. Given the massive energy needs of the Indian economy, the government is now trying to use these waters, but without violating the IWT. And this is the critical point that seems to be missing in the debate that is currently underway in Pakistan over the Indian plans to build a series of dams on the main western rivers and its tributaries.

The issue of IWT is at one level a simple technical issue: if India is indeed violating the IWT, then Pakistan is well within its rights to invoke the dispute clauses and approach the international guarantors and seek the opinion of a neutral expert which will be binding on both countries. The case of Baglihar Dam is instructive. Pakistan had objections to the design of the Baglihar Dam, objections that India rejected. Pakistan sought the intervention of the neutral expert, whose ruling was accepted by both countries. The fact of the matter is that India is well aware of the diplomatic and political repercussions of violating the IWT and is, therefore, not interested in violating the Treaty. And yet, India wants to use modern engineering techniques that enhance the life of a dam project, techniques that were not available when the IWT was signed. In this, the Baglihar ruling has come as a shot in the arm for Indian dam designs because the neutral expert ruled in favour of such modern techniques.

Pakistan's fears are misplaced also because regardless of the dams that India plans to construct on the western rivers, India cannot stop the water flowing into Pakistan unless it builds the canal infrastructure that can divert this water away from Pakistan. And, as yet, there is absolutely no such infrastructure that is on the design board. In the case of the Kishenganga river (Neelam), the dam that India is building will keep the total quantum of water in Jhelum the same; only the water will be diverted from Kishenganga into Jhelum. The point of contention in the case of the Kishenganga project is that Pakistan too is building a dam on the same river downstream and the Indian dam will render the Pakistani dam useless. In the case of these two projects, the country that finishes its dam first wins because the other country will have to give up on its project.

While this is something that is part of the Treaty, the Neelam-Kishenganga project has become a metaphor that the two countries need to use to think out of the box on the issue of river waters. In other words, rather than follow a competing model, the two countries need to consider following a cooperative model in which a common resource can be exploited jointly to maximise welfare on both sides. The fact is that rising population and increasingly agricultural and energy needs are raising the water requirements on both sides. At the same time, hydrological factors and environmental factors are reducing the water flows in rivers. This makes it imperative for both countries to use a scarce resource like water optimally.

In the case of water, more is not necessarily better than enough. This means that irrigation techniques need to change from flood irrigation to drip irrigation that uses water far more efficiently. While this will necessitate a change in cropping patterns, it will also mean investing in a modern irrigation technique that takes care of agriculture (which consumes close to 90 percent of water) and leaves enough for water requirements of growing cities. The problem is that for politicians and bureaucrats it is so much easier to excite and incite people on the issue of water, but so much more difficult to do the hard work to invest in systems that utilise a scarce resource in a more efficient manner.

Perhaps, the time has also come for India and Pakistan to rethink the IWT and rework it in a way that it addresses the issues we will face in the next 50 years instead of harping on issues we faced in the last 50 years. But if this is not acceptable, then at least the two countries can work together on joint projects that will serve both their peoples and becoming a huge CBM that can effect a paradigm change in their perceptions of each other. The salvation and indeed the survival of the subcontinent depend on the ability of the two countries to cooperate and manage a joint but scarce resource like water efficiently and sensibly.

 

Treaty, no trickery

The real beneficiaries of the IWT

By Aziz Omar

For the citizens of both India and Pakistan, the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 signifies a water sharing agreement of the six rivers. It is commonly perceived that granting the use of the western rivers of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to Pakistan and that of the eastern rivers of Ravi, Sutlej and Beas to India was the only solution to a stalemate. The Treaty, signed in 1960 by the heads of state of both countries as well as the World Bank (then only known as the International bank of Reconstruction and Development) as a signatory, came about after more than a decade of tensions over the water usage of the Indus Basin. The successful signing of the Treaty was touted as a salve for the strained Indo-Pak relations as well as a preemptive against a possible war over the Kashmir region.

Before the materialisation of the Indus Water Treaty, the legal understanding between the two countries was based on an initial "standstill agreement" achieved at the time of partition and then an "Inter-Dominion Accord" signed in 1948. Though the flow of the waters of a number of canals that had initially been stopped on the Indian side was resumed at the behest of payments from the Pakistani government, the latter could not claim the share of the waters as a matter of right.

The ensuing disagreement soon acquired an international flavour as the World Bank got involved in capitalising upon the financial prospects of a resolution to the problem. David Black, the then president of the World Bank, especially drew from the analysis of the situation carried out by his personal friend David Lilienthal, a former chairman of the US government owned corporation that dealt in water and power development projects. Black was successful in having both parties agree to a certain set of principles and further progress should be made on a functional rather than the basis of past politics. He strategically proposed that instead of an integrated development plan, an approach towards separation of resources should be adopted.

As was foreseen by the World Bank, such a resolution would directly result in separate water storage and power generation projects to be constructed on both sides of the border, the funding requirements of which would be catered for by the Bank with participation from the international community.

Even though the Treaty stipulated that direct interference and restriction of the flow of waters by either country was not allowed on the rivers attributed to the other side, it made provisions for projects to be developed on run-of-the-river designs in Annexures D and E. Several dams with limited reservoir capacities have thus been established in the Indian part of the Kashmir region by constructing tunnels to divert the flow from Chenab and Jhelum rivers. Cases in point is the Baglihar dam in Jammu & Kashmir which was estimated to cost USD $1 billion. Similarly, Mangla and Tarbela dams on Pakistani soil were behemoth projects which along with other canal networks and barrages in the Indus Basin have incurred loans amounting to more than $20 billion in present value. Kalabagh and Bhasha dams are in the pipeline, and their costs are going to be more than double the value of the loans extended to Pakistan by the Bank.

Organisations monitoring the usage and exploitation of water resources on a global scale such as the US based International Rivers have pointed out in their independent assessments that the member governments of the World Bank have favoured large-scale and capital intensive projects for addressing water and power shortages in middle-income countries (such as Pakistan and India) as they yield hefty contracts for international consultants, construction and engineering firms. Vice-versa, the populist governments of borrowing countries wholeheartedly oblige for accepting huge loans as they provide ample opportunities for ribbon-cutting ceremonies and gaining political prestige.

Even the studies commissioned by the World Bank itself, such as the 2005 paper Pakistan's Water Economy: Running Dry and the report issued by the World Commission on Dams in 2000, clearly state that new and massive projects such as dams have been preferred over overhauling existing capacities as the pressure mounts on development aid agencies for moving large amounts of capital fast. Albeit some benefits for human development, factors such as taxpayers, indigenous communities and ecosystem, downstream settlements have sidelined in favour of big-budget, self enrichment options for the politicians and land owners. However, the financing model of the World Bank is in direct conflict with these findings and, instead, allegedly promotes the business interests of all stakeholders.

 

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