Mistrust, mudslinging and divergent regional objectives are the issues that have impeded both India and Pakistan from improving the chronically-strained relationship. Despite huge potential of bilateral trade as well as of security cooperation, both countries continue to remain at loggerheads and are reluctant to improve their ties and harness their resources through greater regional economic connectivity.
Since coming into power in 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has exuded genuine willingness to resolve the contentious issue of Kashmir and to eliminate regional terrorism. But, India’s supremacist Modi administration sarcastically declined Pakistan’s peace overtures and continued to use brute force on the Kashmiris to subdue their indigenous struggle for self-determination.
Immediately after the ‘well-orchestrated’ attacks at Pathankot and Uri, the Modi government pointed the finger at Pakistan without any preliminary—leave alone an impartial—investigation. Indian Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, rhetorically termed Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’ that should be ‘identified and isolated’. Such an obstructive behaviour of the top Indian leadership is the underlying cause for ever-strained relations between the two nuclear powers of South Asia.
Rather than actively collaborating with Islamabad against terrorism, New Delhi has been out to use all available regional and international forums to project Pakistan as a state that sponsors terrorism and militancy in the region. However, all nefarious designs of Modi have failed as the international community is well aware of Pakistan’s successful counterterrorism operations against the vices of militancy and terrorism.
There is no denying the fact that Indian policy of blame game and Pakistan-bashing has prevented both countries from working jointly to identify and stamp out terrorist and militant groups in the region. These non-state actors have craftily exploited the lack of cooperation and growing distrust between the two countries to carry on their disruptive activities.
Both India and Pakistan are also engaged in a proxy war in the war-torn Afghanistan. Under the ‘Doval doctrine’, India has been sponsoring Pakistani terrorists and insurgents who have safe havens in Afghanistan. Under huge influence of India, Afghanistan’s National Unity Government often accuses Islamabad of backing the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. India-Afghanistan collusion can be assessed from the threats that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani hurled at Pakistan whereby he would ‘block Pakistan’s trade access to the Central Asian States (CAS), if Islamabad did not permit Kabul to import Indian goods via the Wagah Border.
This unholy nexus also tried to use the sixth Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference, held in Amritsar in December 2016, to bash Pakistan and project it as a state responsible for terrorism in this part of the world. Moreover, the pygmy president Ashraf Ghani rudely declined Pakistan’s $500 million aid which it offered for Afghanistan’s reconstruction. In the wake of the increasing Indian clout, Pakistan has, by far, dragged its feet on abandoning its policy of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan. Both Pakistan and India must know that it’s not confrontation but sincere regional cooperation that will help bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.
The lingering Kashmir dispute has been the major bone of contention between Pakistan and India. The year 2016 turned out to be one of the worst years for the Kashmiris as after extrajudicial killing of Kashmiri youth leader Burhan Muzaffar Wani, on July 8, scores of disgruntled people in the valley took to the streets against Indian brutalities and illegitimate occupation of their land. The BJP government responded by providing carte blanche to the Indian forces to quell the peaceful protesters. The Indian forces have thus far killed hundreds of innocent Kashmiris and wounded more than 7000. The blatant use of pellet gunshots has blinded, completely or partially, over a thousand people, including children.
When Pakistan tried to expose India’s true face and gross human rights violations it has been committing in the valley, the Modi government started blaming Islamabad for supporting militants in IOK. But, India should now realise that it cannot suppress the indigenous Kashmiri struggle for independence.
South Asian region is reeling under the claws of an unbridled nuclear arms race that undermines the delicate strategic stability in the region. Rather than limiting its nuclear programme, India reportedly tested nuclear-capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) in April 2016 from its nuclear-powered INS Arihant. The Indian test was aimed at attaining second-strike capability in nuclear deterrence. This has resulted in the nuclearization of the Indian Ocean.
Due to the expansion of India’s nuclear programme, Pakistan’s Naval Strategic Force Command (NSFC) had expedited its efforts to develop its own version of naval nuclear capability. On 9th January this year, the Pakistan Navy successfully carried out the first-ever test of its nuclear-capable Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) from a submerged platform. This uncontrolled nuclear arms race is detrimental to the prospects of peace in the region.
Enter Indus Waters Treaty
After facing an embarrassing diplomatic failure in its claims of isolating Pakistan internationally, the Modi government now wants to use water as a weapon against Pakistan. In this context, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened a special meeting of top Indian water experts on 26th September 2016 to ponder over the possibility of scrapping the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), which was concluded in 1960. This shortsighted move of the war-mongering BJP is primarily calculated to dry up the already faltering water reservoirs of Pakistan so that it collapses economically.
Any such decision by India will be a direct violation of provisions 3 and 4 of Article 12 of the IWT which make it crystal clear that the treaty cannot be altered or revoked unilaterally. Such Indian threats are also against international law which does not permit the unilateral suspension of a treaty.
The lingering water issue between Pakistan and India dates back to the ill-conceived demarcation of the border by the British Raj in 1947. Under the influence of some Congress leaders, Lord Mountbatten and Sir Cyril Radcliffe drew the political boundary right across the Indus Basin, thus making Pakistan the lower riparian. Therefore, India gained the main headwaters and the physical capacity to cut off Pakistan’s irrigation water.
After Independence, cash-strapped Pakistan was required to purchase water from India under the short-lived Inter-Dominion Accord signed on May 4, 1948. But, due to some political issues and the Kashmir conflict, the agreement soon hit a snag, creating water issues for Pakistan.
To avoid any hostilities on water dispute, both Pakistan and India signed the IWT in September 1960 under the auspices of the World Bank. By virtue of this treaty, Pakistan gained rights over the three eastern rivers—the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab—while the eastern rivers, namely the Ravi, the Beas and the Sutlej went to India. This agreement has, somehow, survived the wars of 1965 and 1971, and the 1999 Kargil episode besides a host of severe border skirmishes between the two countries.
As per the IWT provisions, India cannot interfere with Pakistan’s share of water, except for domestic and non-consumptive use. However, in addition to domestic and non-consumptive use, the treaty allows each country to use the waters of the rivers allocated to the other party for agricultural use (as set out in Annex C) and generation of hydropower (as set out in Annex D). This provided India with opportunity to build mega water storages along the western rivers, to the detriment of Pakistani farmers.
Despite repeated protests from the Pakistan side, India has been covertly constructing some mega dams along the western rivers and depriving Pakistan of its due share of water. The major among these water projects include the 690MW Salal Hydroelectric project, Wullar/Tulbul Barrage project and the 330MW Kishanganga Hydroelectricity project. These three dams openly violate the basic provisions of the IWT, though India claims that they are in accordance with the treaty.
After completing these mega projects, India will presumably cut the flow of water into Pakistan as it would be storing it in such reservoirs. Thus India will be better able to use the water card to threaten Pakistan’s security and economy.
Nonetheless, India should be cognizant that the IWT is in the greater interest of both India and Pakistan and any adventurism on the part of Modi would lead to a full-scale war between both the countries. In addition, any such move will backfire and many pressing geopolitical and geo-economic issues will be created for India. First, since there are no mega water reservoirs in IOK, this will cause massive floods in the valley thus further stoking the ongoing unrest.
Second, China will definitely come forward if the IWT is unilaterally revoked. China also has the technology required to divert the direction of the Brahmaputra River toward Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and other northern states. All this will bring not only severe droughts, but also flash flooding in these developing states.
If India resorts to blocking, or even reducing, water flow into Pakistan due to economic and political objectives, it can be hazardous for Pakistan as the country is already grappling with ever-increasing water shortages owing to the fast shrinking Himalayan glaciers and less rainfalls. Some international organisations have repeatedly warned Pakistan’s slumbering government of imminent flash floods and drought in the next 10 to 40 years.
All this should serve as a clarion call to our leaders who are mostly found busy in power politics and political squabbling. If the incumbent leadership lets the grass grow under its feet in terms of building an adequate number of small and large dams, the country will face recurrent droughts and threatening floods in the future.