In December’s Pragati, I caution against any attempt to substantially alter the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan. The framework provided by the treaty has stood the test of time and has withstood the pressures of three wars. While there is no doubt that Pakistan faces a water crisis, we in India need to tread carefully when it comes to altering aspects of IWT to accommodate Pakistan’s problems. India’s national interest should be the only consideration in determining where we go with IWT in the future. Magnanimity is not always a virtue.
Unfortunately, the undeniable benefits of the treaty to Pakistan have been obscured by misplaced apprehension and aggression. Ayub Khan’s fears of Pakistan’s water insecurity did not prevent him from waging war against India in 1965. Since then, Pakistan has imposed war on India twice and provokedIndia through insurgencies and terror. Yet, India continues to respect the IWT in letter and spirit, not denying Pakistan its share of water even during times of war.
Certainly, transnational water sharing is a complicated subject. In our own region, the sharing of water between states and provinces has been an emotive issue, as evidenced by the disputes over the Kalabagh dam between the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh, and the Kaveri dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. There is no denying that Pakistan’s water challenges are real, notwithstanding the dubious causes suggested. And it behooves India, as a neighbour, to help Pakistan address some of these challenges, where possible.
However, one must recognise that Pakistan’s water problems are its own and that to a great extent, the solutions to these problems lie in Pakistan. India cannot be expected to display magnanimity towards Pakistan when Pakistan itself has not demonstrated a basic desire to tackle structural and governance issues in water management. [Pragati]