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World Bank Snubs Pak Bid on Indus Treaty

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Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's address at the UN General Assembly

World Bank decision to pause arbitration in Indus Waters Treaty is a big blow to Pakistan. Of the 57 trans-national river basins in the world, only four are covered by a water-sharing treaty; Indus Water Treaty is one of them. It allows India only 20% of the total water carried by the Indus river system of six rivers….writes Malladi Rama Rao

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's address at the UN General Assembly
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s address at the UN General Assembly

 Till about a year ago, Pakistan leaders used to threaten to withdraw from the Indus Water Treaty, (IWT), as a part of their tirade against India.They did not have the gall to follow up their threat. Now they are accusing India of going back on the very treaty. In recent months, Islamabad succeeded to dupe the World Bank into ordering a contradictory dual track action on its complaint against India on Indus water sharing. It proved to be apyrrhic victory. Obviously, Pakistan has forgotten that all its attempts to use the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 to build a case against India have failed.

On Pakistan’s request the World Bank agreed to appoint the chairman of the board of arbitration even as India wanted the differences to be first examined by a neutral expert. The World Bank has since concurred with India that the two processes could not go simultaneously. And it announced pause in arbitration to ‘protect Indus Waters Treaty’, Pak daily Dawn reported on Dec 14, 2016.

Unable to take this humiliation, Pakistan has raised its anti-India pitch by spreading the canard that India is going to unilaterally abrogate the treaty. Pakistan has also been distorting a statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India would not allow its share of water to go into Pakistan. Which country will like to see its water flow out? But Pakistan has interpreted the Modi-Speak to mean that he was going to convert Pakistan into ‘desert’. A mischievous twist to a matter of fact statement!

Of the 57 trans-national river basins in the world, only four are covered by a water-sharing treaty; Indus Water Treaty is one of them. It allows India only 20% of the total water carried by the Indus river system of six rivers.

According to Wikipedia, thetreaty was a result of Pakistani fear that, since the source rivers of the Indus basin were in India, it could potentially create droughts and famines in Pakistan, especially at times of war. It gave control over— the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej (known as eastern rivers)— to India, while control over the Indus,the Chenab and the Jhelum (the western rivers), which are the largest amongst the six – to Pakistan.

Modi visits the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Nawaz Sharif's home in Raiwind, where his grand-daughter's wedding is being held, in Pakistan
Modi visits the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s home in Raiwind, where his grand-daughter’s wedding is being held, in Pakistan

This in effect is partitioning the rivers and not sharing the watersSince Pakistan’s rivers flow through India first, the treaty allowed India to use them for irrigation, transport and power generation.

The short point is that all these years Pakistan had accepted the Indus Water Treaty in full and knowing full well that its provisions were in its favour.

After post- Indian surgical strikes across the Line of Control in Kashmir, Pakistan has raised questions about the treaty itselfas part of its bellicosity towards India, based on its nuclear arsenal and Chinese umbrella. Terror chieftains like Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar have been let loose to talk of ‘rivers of blood’ if India continues to ‘steal’ Pakistan’s share in the Indus waters.

Perhaps, at the time the treaty was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960, India had undermined Pakistan’s inherent hostile intentions. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s call for ‘a thousand year war’ with India was still many years away. It can also be assumed that India of those days was in no position to defy the World Bank working under virtual US control.

Today it is different. In opposing Pakistan’s request to the World Bank, India has told the global lender of last resort, known to offer regular bail out packages to Islamabad, that it cannot be party to actions which went against the IWT and were, therefore, legally untenable. The World Bank saw India’s point, causing much heart burn in Pakistan.

By allotting waters of the three largest rivers of the Indus system to Pakistan, the IWT actually gave the land of the pure more than four-fifths of the Indus Water, more than a fair share. That was not all: India got merely 33 million acre feet (MAF) of water from eastern rivers whereas Pakistan got nearly 125 MAF from western rivers.

The water allocation to India is meagre to meet irrigation water requirements in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. What is more the storage capacity permitted for hydel power generation is less than the total annual silt that accumulates in the reservoirs if the total hydro potential of the state was to be exploited fully.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has got enough water to irrigate 80% of the cultivated lands in its Indus river basin.  It has since built a massive canal where the Indus enters the Great Rann of Kutch to save its Indus delta.  This World Bank aided    Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) has increased flooding in the Gujarat state of India which is the lower most riparian part of Indus basin. Indian consent was not taken for the canal as provided under the Indus Water Treaty.

IWT provides for building hydropower plants in India with no dam reservoir. India has indeed built some power projects in Jammu and Kashmir but they are not built on dams that take away Pakistan’s share of water. The total generating capacity of projects being built in Jammu and Kashmir is not even a fraction of the capacity of PoK projects like the 4500 MW Diamer-Bhasha project.

Indians who think that Pakistan will become a friendly neighbour once the Kashmir ‘dispute’ is settled (by handing the territory over to Pakistan?)—would do well to remember that Indus river water ‘dispute’ is next on Pakistan’s list of issues with which to harass India. Like Kashmir, Pakistan would want the water ‘dispute’ to be settled on its terms. Be sure to hear from Pakistan that the Indus water sharing is a ‘core’ issue like Kashmir.