Muddy waters

The KHEP project is the subject of an ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan


Editorial May 20, 2018

There is an unhappy inevitability about the growing water crisis in the subcontinent. Global warming was not anywhere on the horizon when the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was negotiated in 1960 between the World Bank and India and Pakistan. It was clear even then that there were potential points of friction relative to water and its distribution but the IWT has proved until recent years to be durable and fit for purpose. Its days may be numbered. Treaties and their success or otherwise are predicated on compliance by all parties, and India is playing anything other than a straight game.

The inauguration of the Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project (KHEP) will have taken place on Saturday May 19th. The project is the subject of an ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan and inaugurating such a project without a resolution argues Pakistan is tantamount to a violation of the IWT. There have been many rounds of negotiation regarding the project with the WB attempting to play referee but to no avail. Despite advice to the contrary India went ahead with the project and the newest confrontation was a virtual certainty. Add to this the toxic nationalist agenda that the Modi government brings to the table and the IWT looks distinctly leaky.

There are two discomforting realities to this. The first and most obvious is that the Indians are not going to dismantle KHEP. It is operational and seen as essential to the irrigation of a large area and the production of 220MW of badly-needed power — a textbook fait accompli. Secondly, a precedent is set and Pakistan has no redress in the matter of a clear violation of the IWT. The WB has been sidelined, the Indians have acted unilaterally and it must be assumed that as the water shortages increase down the years there are going to be other instances where Pakistan and India experience heightened tension related to water. Analysts of subcontinental politics have long predicted that water may be the cause of the next conflict between India and Pakistan, and the water crisis presents a very real existential threat to Pakistan — India less so. Memo to the next government — more haste!

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2018.

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COMMENTS (1)

Giri | 3 years ago | Reply India will do whatever Indians want on Indian rivers. The world bank cannot force India.
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