The long-standing water dispute between Pakistan and India can be resolved amicably through the Indus Basin Waters Treaty (IBWT), provided the upper riparian state, India, accepts its responsibilities, said a Pakistani expert here on Wednesday.
“[Ties between the countries] may improve further with trade, but if you just give us space in agriculture, it will eliminate terrorism and extremism from Pakistan,” said Engineer Suleman Najib Khan a seminar – titled Pakistan-India Water and Trade arranged by the India-Pakistan Soldiers Initiative (IPSI) for Peace at the Gymkhana.
Khan said that India had built dams on the Chenab, Indus and Jhelum in violation of the IBWT. “We have no plan to build a dam on the Chenab but you are already operating dams and thus have full control over Pakistan’s water. This matter needs the serious attention of the Indian government,” he said.
He said since India was the upper riparian state, it had the advantage over Pakistan. He said India must share the water equitably and honestly. He said that Pakistan had perpetual rights to the three rivers under the IBWT.
Khan said Pakistan could not build more reservoirs as it was spending billions of rupees to fight the Tabliban and other militant groups. He noted that Pakistan’s population had increased threefold since 1974, but its water storage capacity had decreased. He said Pakistan had lost hydropower worth a potential $60 billion (Rs5.759 trillion) due to the absence of reservoirs.
He quoted writer John Briscoe as saying that the Indian government treated the water and Kashmir issues as strategic subjects and never educated its people about them. “India must make a monumental change in its approach towards Kashmir and its waters and follow the IBWT provisions in letter and spirit,” he said.
Lt Gen (retired) Moti Dhar, the former Indian vice chief of army staff and head of an eight-member delegation of ex-Indian soldiers, said India did not hold back water during the cultivation season in Pakistan. “I assure you, we will do what is possible for better and strong relations between the two neighbouring countries,” he added.
He said India wanted a stable Pakistan and a stable Afghanistan. He said India was helping Afghanistan develop its education, health, power and infrastructure sectors.
Brig Kaul, another Indian delegate, said that he agreed that the Indian government tended to stay quiet about the water issues. “I am a regular reader of newspapers and books, but I never see stories on this problem. India does not talk openly about this and does not educate [its citizens] about this, which is very harmful,” he said.
Earlier, in a presentation on Pakistan-India trade, former finance minister Dr Salman Shah said the two countries needed to ease the visa regime, improve quarantine and business rules, and create trade infrastructure. Shah said both countries would have to sort out non-tariff barriers to benefit from each others’ trade potential.
He proposed major initiatives in trade, tourism and investment in order to improve ties.
Trade could become the foundation for further improving the relationship, while tourism would mean greater people-to-people contact.
Dr Shah added that Pakistan also wanted stability and development in Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2012.