Pakistan, India struggle to find middle ground
“”The meeting between Indus water commissioners in itself is a success as it negated Indian PM Modi’s threat to abrogate the treaty,” said Pakistan’s former Indus Waters Commissioner, Jamaat Ali Shah while talking to DNA.”
Predicted by many experts are the ‘wars on water’ that Pakistan and India are expected to have in the future and the Indus Waters dispute is currently giving the two neighbours another reason to bicker.
India rejected the World Bank’s arbitration offer to resolve the Indus Waters dispute after a confrontation on the issue between the two countries, believing it to be against ‘the spirit of the pact’ as the treaty itself offers a built-in dispute resolution method.
Pakistan as the lower riparian raised its apprehensions over India’s expansion of hydropower projects creating possible security and economic risks for the country. As a result, India agreed to halt progress and review the design of its 120-megawatt Miyar project but both countries failed to reach consensus on the differences related to India’s Ratle and Kishenganga hydro power projects. Pakistan seeks assistance from the International Court of Arbitration since the matter has remained unresolved through bilateral dialogue. On the other hand, India criticised the World Bank for being biased and demanded a neutral expert to oversee the dispute as Pakistan’s concerns over the projects are technical.
Neither country has considered the fact that the major concern should be to utilise the scarce resource through optimisation rather than maximisation.
“The issue between Pakistan and India goes beyond the treaty,” said lawyer and former federal law minister, Ahmer Bilal Soofi while talking to DNA
“Both parties need to have a discussion outside the treaty with or without World Bank,” said Soofi. “However, it is preferable if World Bank acts as an arbitrator.”
“Both countries need to resume dialogue on the treaty and modify it if necessary considering that it was drafted before there was any acknowledgement of the consequences of climate change.”
In 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi threatened to revoke the treaty and cut down Pakistan’s supply in response to the political tension between the two. The recent meeting between the Indus water commissioners of Pakistan and India has not resulted in a productive outcome.
Nonetheless, Pakistan has termed the dialogue on Indus Waters Treaty as a success even though it is difficult to assess the quantifiable benefits or costs of the commission.
“The meeting between Indus water commissioners in itself is a success as it negated Indian PM Modi’s threat to abrogate the treaty,” said Pakistan’s former Indus Waters Commissioner, Jamaat Ali Shah while talking to DNA.
Under the treaty, both parties are obliged to present the plan on any project 6 months prior the construction.
“In the recent meeting, India presented its projected design and Pakistan in response raised its objection,” said Shah. “It was a routine meeting hence, there was no conclusion regarding India’s decision.”
Pakistan has been criticised for not raising the right concerns during these talks as we are ill-informed on the issue and incapable of effectively countering India’s objections.
Moreover, Pakistan, unlike its counterpart, has been unable to build any water storage facilities despite suffering from the worst water shortages.
India fast-paced developments on dams and reservoirs are alarming however, Pakistan must also speed up the progress on the hydro projects.
“India has the capability to control water flow,” said Soofi. “Pakistan needs to build more dams to have the ability to retain a similar quantity of water as India.”
Despite Pakistan’s incessant demand, India has refused to attend the World Bank’s proposal for a secretary level meeting in Washington next month.
Like every other conflict between the two neighbours, the Indus Water dispute does not seem to reach an end that will serve the interests of both parties.
“Bilateral talks on the issue is a better solution to the conflict instead of involving international facilitators,” said Political Analyst, Hasan Askari while talking to DNA. “A breakdown of the talks indicates only one positive outcome that India has now agreed to provide data for the project’s development,” he added.
Pakistan and India are also two of the most water-starved countries in the world but there has been no planning from both sides on optimising the usage of the water from the rivers. Both countries need to resume dialogue on the treaty and modify it if necessary considering that it was drafted before there was any acknowledgement of the consequences of climate change.
“The Indus Waters talks can be considered a little way forward to resolution but much more need to be done,” said Ahmer Bilal Soofi.
“Pakistan and India should draft a separate treaty framework to help to resolve the matter,” Soofi added.
India’s move to use water as a weapon only indicates of its policy on Pakistan hence, the authorities should focus more on progress rather than fixating on a temporary solution.
Pakistan must not sit back and wait for a mediator to resolve the dispute instead should pick up the pace on its own projects to avoid running dry.
The water war between Pakistan and India is imminent unless both parties work on a strategy to use the resource productively.