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Our Correspondent

The Express Tribune

Published Date: Mar 3, 2020

Current Indian government a threat to Indus Water Treaty: experts

The recent extreme measures such as scrapping of articles 370 and 35A of Indian constitution in Kashmir and introduction of Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB), the Modi-led ultra-nationalist Indian regime can also threaten the decades-old Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan, which could have dire consequences for regional peace.
Experts expressed these views during the launch of a book titled “Readings in Indus Basin disputes between India and Pakistan: An Academic Selection of Articles, Commentaries, Newspaper Reports, Legal Texts and Arbitral Awards 1948-2018,” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) at Islamabad.
Barrister Naseem Ahmed Bajwa, editor of the book, said that at the time of signing the Indus Water Treaty, Pakistan’s bargaining power was weak, particularly on legal grounds, as the treaty was mainly based on Indian proposed draft, whereas India, which in the context of Kashmir dispute controlled most of Kashmir, was in a strong bargaining position being an upper riparian state.
He said, unfortunately, at that time Pakistan was ruled by a military dictator (1958-1970) who was accountable to no one. The signing of the treaty in 1960, was an arbitrary decision made by the military dictator, which was not discussed, debated or scrutinised by any independent forum of engineers or statesmen or journalists in Pakistan, he lamented.
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Bajwa said that Pakistan loses its cases at international forums mainly due to poor planning and sending those people or experts who know little and are ill-prepared to fight the country’s case.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said water for Pakistan is one of the future geostrategic issues and the launch of book on Indus Basin dispute is very timely.
He said that the book provided an excellent synthesis of water issues, current standings and legal and other related implications. The facts in the book provided the balanced picture of water disputes between India and Pakistan, he added.
Noted Water Expert and SDPI Board of Governors Chairperson former ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel said that with over 700 hundred official documents, research articles and legal texts the book is a tremendous effort and would benefit the researchers working on the subject.
He said that Pakistan depends on only the Indus River Basin for all its water needs, whereas India has access to eight river basins and Afghanistan has access to five. This shows the level of significance and importance of the Indus Basin for Pakistan. He said Indus basin aquifer is the world’s 2nd largest endangered aquifer after Arabian Aquifer System, mainly due to exhaustive groundwater extraction for irrigation, industrial and domestic needs.
There are 1.7 million tube-wells in Pakistan and around 11 million in India, which are seriously putting pressure on Indus aquifer. In order to tackle the water crisis, Pakistan needs to recharge its Indus aquifer and regulate the groundwater extraction, rather just focusing on building large reservoirs.
While commenting on Indus Water Treaty, Ambassador Kakakhel said that the treaty served the both India and Pakistan well as it survived three wars and recurring tension between both countries. But, unfortunately, the treaty has come under tremendous pressure mainly due to on-going violation of the treaty by Modi-led BJP regime.
“We are living in Trump era, who simply walked-out from two international agreements, i.e. Iran Nuclear Deal and UN-Paris Agreement on climate change”, said Kakakhel adding that Modi in India is also doing what he wanted to do, such as scrapping of 370 article in Kashmir and introduction of citizen amendment bill (CAB), which is alarming for regional peace.
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He urged both countries to cooperate on shared water resources, implement the treaty in letter and spirit and future water negotiations should also include the emerging challenges such as climate change, water quality and sustainability of groundwater resources.
National Defence University Department of International Relations Professor Dr Shaheen Akhtar said that besides massive documentation the book provides the legal insights on Indus Water Treaty which remained limited in narratives and debates.
While commenting on Indus Water Treaty, she said that the treaty was underutilised, such as Article 7 of the treaty talks about future cooperation which never materialised.
She said that the emerging issues such as flood management, silting and reduced water flow mainly due to climatic changes are missing in the treaty, which also needs to be looked at by both countries.
China Study Centre SDPI Associate Research Fellow, Lead Energy and Head Dr Hina Aslam moderated the session.