On February 20, 2002, the then Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, asked for the Indus Waters Treaty signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan to be reviewed. The treaty is against the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and unduly favours Pakistan, he thundered. When asked what if Pakistan goes to the International Court Of Justice (ICJ), Abdullah said: "Let Pakistan go there it will be exposed." Abdullah was upset the treaty prevented J&K from harnessing its immense hydel power potential.
This statement was made two months after Pakistani terrorists - a hybrid terror group of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) - had attacked the temple of Indian democracy, the Parliament, on December 13, 2001.
Once again, after JeM terrorists attacked the Army base at Uri on September 18, there are voices in the government talking about abrogating the Indus Waters Treaty. There are many voices within the country that say India should use water as a weapon to bring Pakistan to heel. New Delhi must impose costs on Islamabad - a state sponsor of terror - and reviewing the Indus Water Treaty should be on the table.
|The citizens of Pakistan need to realise that Indian kindness is not infinite, and that it is time they chose between terror and water. Photo credit: Reuters|
It is ironic that Pakistan that claims to fight for the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is actually cheating the very same people on the issue of sharing the Indus. Water from the Indus river system is worth its weight in gold and more - not just for irrigation, but also for hydel power. J&K can mint money from it, yet an extremely selfish Pakistan has been creating one problem after the other to block hydel power projects.
The Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 is unfairly tilted against India, whilst the responsibility for compliance rests largely with India. The treaty prevents J&K from utilising the water's full potential for hydel power. According to the pact, water from the three eastern rivers - Satluj, Ravi and Beas can be harnessed by India, and the three western rivers - Indus, Chenab and Jhelum - will be used to irrigate Pakistan, except in cases of domestic use and certain established and future consumptive and non-consumptive utilities in J&K.
Several experts have said Pakistan's economy, which depends extensively on the Indus Waters Treaty, will collapse. From textile to sugar, to agriculture and industry, Pakistan's dependence on water from the Indus treaty is complete. The impact of India's withdrawal from the pact will be felt at multiple levels by Pakistan. The citizens of Pakistan need to realise that Indian kindness is not infinite, and that it is time they chose between terror and water.
Vikas Swarup, additional secretary and spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs, told journalists that for any treaty to work, there must be mutual trust and cooperation between India and Pakistan. Currently, because of Pakistan-sponsored terror there is tremendous trust deficit.
From terrorists like Hafiz Saeed to radicals in uniform, such as Pervez Musharraf, Pakistanis have threatened India with dire consequences should India unilaterally tamper with the Indus Waters Treaty. There is no question of abrogating the pact, but nothing stops India from harnessing the Indus to its full potential. The strategic community is of the opinion that India should do so as such a move is well within our rights.
This offers two benefits - the people of J&K will have more electricity and financial security, and Pakistan will be forced to decide what it wants more - water from the Indus or terror. For Pakistan, water cannot be more important that blood of Indians, so New Delhi must send a clear message to the neighbour if Islamabad and Rawalpindi do not crack down on India-specific terror to its satisfaction - that India is well within her rights to review the Indus Waters Treaty.
However, this should not remain a political weapon to be unsheathed only when there is a Pakistan-sponsored terror attack. As in the past, India cannot talk about reviewing the pact months after the attack on Parliament and then revert to aman ki asha when public anger has ebbed. It must take the warning to its logical conclusion. A threat if not carried out - has diminishing returns.