Water rhetoric

Rhetoric revolving the key issue of water between Pakistan and India has gained momentum

Editorial March 12, 2019

Unable to contain the ongoing freedom struggle in occupied Kashmir and accusing Pakistan of having a role in it, the enigmatic Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had way back in 2016 declared that “blood and water can’t flow together”. This was an obvious reference to the future Indian plans to use water as a weapon against Pakistan amid its failure to establish its writ among the restive but determined people of the disputed Kashmir Valley.

In February this year, in the wake of the Pulwama incident, Indian transport minister Nitin Gadkari tweeted that the Indian government had decided to stop its share of water which used to flow to Pakistan. The following day, officials in Islamabad dismissed the tweeted message as political rhetoric and a ploy meant to placate the Indian people. Responding to that, Secretary of Ministry of Water Resources Khwaja Shumail said, “We have neither concern nor objection if India diverts water of eastern rivers,” and “we will definitely express our concern and raise strong objections if they [Indians] use or divert waters of western rivers.”

Negotiated with the help of the World Bank and signed in 1960, the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) concedes India’s right over three eastern rivers — Beas, Sutlej and Ravi — and allows Pakistan to have control and ownership of three western rivers which are Indus, Chenab and Jehlum. Pakistan has recently lodged its complaints at international forums regarding Indian plans of developing water and hydroelectric projects and dams over the western rivers assigned to Pakistan under the IWT.

Now in another attempt to build up war hysteria, India’s Union Minister for Water Resources Arjun Mehghwal announced last Sunday that India had already stopped 0.53 million acre-feet water from the three eastern rivers flowing into Pakistan. Rhetoric revolving the key issue of water between Pakistan and India has gained momentum recently amid domestic compulsions of Prime Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. Pakistan must expect more such aggressive statements in weeks and months to come ahead of the India elections, given Modi’s beleaguered position on political and economic front at home.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2019.

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