The Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, which devised a water-sharing formula between Pakistan and India, was a high mark of diplomacy between the two countries, showing that they could put their enmity aside in a mutually-beneficial manner. Even though the treaty has come under strain in recent years, it still remains the best mechanism for resolving water disputes since the World Bank and the International Court of Arbitration can step in if the two countries are unable to come to a resolution. This is why it is worrying that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to suspend the meeting of the Indus Water Commission in response to the Uri attack. Some in his hawkish government are even suggesting abandoning the treaty altogether and depriving Pakistan of water from the Indus River and its tributaries. Blockading Pakistan and starving it of water would be nothing less than an act of war and it is one India should not even consider for a second. Even keeping more water than the treaty permits has the potential to spark a humanitarian disaster since the rivers are drier than they used to be. That Modiís threat is a purely political gambit was shown when he suggested that it might revive construction of the Tulbul project in Indian-occupied Kashmir, which was suspended by India in 1987 after Pakistani objections that its share of water would be depleted. This is Modiís way of showing that India is looking after the interests of Kashmiris even as it continues to slaughter them. Modi said to Pakistan that ďblood and water cannot flow togetherĒ even as he pretends to want to give more water to Indian-occupied Kashmir without ending the bloodshed there. Another problem with the statement is, of course, that blood and water have nothing to do with each other. The Indus Waters Treaty was agreed on in 1960 and has withstood three armed conflicts between Pakistan and India. The water treaty survived the 1965, 1971 wars and 1999 Kargil standoff. The Modi governmentís use of the treaty shows its willingness to go beyond what previous Indian governments have done.
Pakistanís response has been measured Ė with Sartaj Aziz intending to approach the International Court of Justice if India violates the treaty. In the immediate future, it would be impossible for India to stop the flow of water to Pakistan but it could ramp up construction of dams to store more water. If India does weaponise water in that way, it should be immediately shot down by the World Bank, and would surely invite a response from China. India has been trying to negotiate an agreement with China for a steady supply of water from the Yarlung Zangbo River, which flows into the state of Assam. Should India show it is willing to use a basic human necessity as a tool of warcraft, no one will trust it again. The Indus Waters Treaty has survived the test of time. Bringing it into the current standoff is a new low for relations between the two countries and shows Modi to be the extremist he is. But even he should have the sense to stop this posturing.
Source: Daily The News