"Dealing with Pakistan's fears on water" - An Indian Perspective

Dealing with Pakistan's fears on water
Ramaswamy R. Iyer , The Hindu, Jan 28, 2011

The best reassurance that Pakistan can have is full Indian compliance with the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty.
This article is not about the complex political or strategic reasons that the water establishment in the government and/or the army in Pakistan may have for projecting water as a new core issue between that country and India, nor is it about the jihadists' adoption of water as a cause, their threats of bloodshed over the alleged denial of water by India, and the influence that these may have on the general public. It is about the concerns expressed by saner voices in Pakistan. Some of these may be based on misperceptions or misinformation, but they need to be taken note of. The major water-related concerns of thoughtful people in Pakistan are briefly elucidated below.

Lower riparian anxiety

The general lower-riparian anxiety vis-à-vis the upper riparian is accentuated in this case by the antagonistic political relationship between Pakistan and India. In the context of such a relationship, it is easy for the people to be persuaded that the upper riparian has malign intentions and might either stop the flows or store and release the waters in a flood to the detriment of the lower riparian. There is no need to discuss these fears further, as they were fully taken note of and covered by special provisions in the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 (IWT) to safeguard Pakistan against these dangers. If a ‘visceral lower riparian anxiety' tends to persist despite the IWT, there can be no institutional answer to it. The only circumstance which will ensure a total absence of anxiety on Pakistan's part would be a total absence of Indian structures on the western rivers, but that is not what the IWT says. It permits Indian projects on the western rivers, but stipulates restrictions and conditions that safeguard Pakistan's interests. The best reassurance that Pakistan can have is full Indian compliance with those Treaty provisions, and this is zealously watched by the Indus Commissioner for Pakistan in the Permanent Indus Commission.

Water scarcity and reduced flows

There is, in Pakistan as in India, a growing perception of water scarcity and of a crisis looming on the horizon. Given the mutual hostility between the two countries, it is not surprising that there is a tendency in Pakistan to believe that the scarcity it is experiencing or fearing is partly attributable to upper riparian actions. While popular perceptions in this regard may not be based on proper information and understanding, they seem to receive unwitting corroboration in reported findings by Pakistani scholars of a trend of reduction in the flows in the western rivers. A ready inference would be that there must be diversions in the upstream country. Denials by the upper riparian are apt to be received with scepticism. The only answer to this is to institute a joint study by experts of both countries to determine whether in fact there is a trend of reduced flows in the western rivers and, if so, to identify the factors responsible.

For complete article, click here

Water shortages threaten renewed conflict between Pakistan, India - Alertnet
Indo-Pak water issues: room for cooperation? By Tridivesh Singh Maini  - Daily Times
Ebb and Flow: Indian-Pakistani Water Relations Dry Up - Jane Review

Indo-Pak water tension by M Y Qaisrani (Dec 2010)

Additional Readings - with Thanks to Jakob Steiner
Searching for conflict in water - Dawn
Water War Mongering or Untapped Potentials? - Rug Pundits


jakob said…
I wrote a review at DAWN on the issue here and posted some background material for water and conflict with it here.

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