Every war ever fought has been for the resources. In the case of India and Pakistan, there has been a cold war for decades now and there seems to be no end coming to it in near future. But an issue like Indus Waters Treaty is going to rage the dead again? Will there be suffering from the acts of policy makers?
The complex relations of India and Pakistan have always been in the news ever since their violent partition in 1947. There may be a number of historical and political events, the Kashmir conflict, and numerous military conflicts, but this time the chaos is due to the Indus waters treaty. India is reviewing a 40-year-old agreement between India and Pakistan. Arguments are being made that India should take revenge and end the treaty! Stop the water from entering Pakistan! Are we acting against humanity? We grew learning that the land is divided by borders, but can water- a necessity for human population be used as a weapon for separation?
What is Indus waters treaty?
After independence in 1947, India and Pakistan were in conflict over the right to the water in rivers. To get the financial support for agriculture from World Bank both countries sought to resolve the dispute and Indus treaty came into existence in 1960. The treaty was signed by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan in Karachi.
The treaty deals with sharing of water of six rivers viz. Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej between the two countries. As per treaty, control over three eastern rivers- Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej were given to India, while control over three western rivers- the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab were given to Pakistan. The treaty allows India to use 20% of the water of Indus River for irrigation, power generation, and transport. Both the countries have created a separate permanent post of commissioner for Indus water. These two commissioners together form the permanent Indus commission. The purpose and functions of the commission are to establish and maintain cooperative arrangement for the implementation of the treaty.
The treaty has survived India-Pakistan wars of 1965, 1971 and the 1999 Kargil standoff besides Kashmir insurgency since 1990. It is considered most successful water sharing treaty in the world.
Indeed, there is an instance related to ‘why Nehru signed this deal’? – “What India did with India’s water resource was India’s affair,” was the curt reply from India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to a taunt from Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah that he would rather have “deserts in Pakistan than fertile fields watered by the courtesy of Hindus”. The question pierces the mind-Who was responsible?
Will it act as a bullet for Pakistan?
Indus is the lifeline of Pakistan. Almost 65% of the land area of Pakistan, including the entire province of Punjab, lies in the Indus river basin. The country has the world’s largest canal irrigation system. As it is the 4th largest producer of cotton and produces 30% of world’s basmati if Indus water stops approx. 65% of Pakistan’s economy would get affected. Its three largest dams and few smaller ones are located in the region; hence the country depends on Indus for irrigation, hydroelectricity and drinking water for millions of the Pakistanis. It may lead to starvation and drought conditions for the population. Is this the revenge we need? No, India is not scrapping out the treaty. Unlike Pakistan’s terrorist attacks, India has always encouraged peace and harmony. But its silence should not be taken into mourning. The repeated attacks have raged India to take some major steps.
What can India do without breaking the treaty?
India is now planning to reduce the Indus water supply. The water resource ministry held several rounds of meeting to review the Indus water treaty. Without canceling IWT and using 100% of western rivers (Ravi, Sutlej, Beas) and 20% use of Indus waters, Kashmir region can be fully irrigated. This would rather generate lots of employment and the youth of Kashmir would not be diverted towards terrorism. This may help in bringing positive change for the mankind. The water can also be diverted to Ganga-Yamuna through canals, which could be used for irrigation purposes as India produces 70% of world’s basmati, it would help in increasing the economy.
Peace and harmony among humankind have always been above anything and everything in this world and as far as India is concerned, peace has been more of a trait than a noun.