Pakistani lawmakers have urged the government to take any unilateral violation of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) 1960 as an act of war and the country’s armed forces must be ready to launch surgical strikes on Indian water installations in case of any violation.
This was recommended during a meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Water and Power convened to discuss “Indus Water Treaty 1960 in the backdrop of statements of Indian leadership regarding unilateral revocation of the Treaty, its repercussions, Pakistan”s stance and preparedness to combat a war-like situation”.
Senate of Pakistan on September 27, 2016 had referred the matter to the Standing Committee for consideration and to report by October 3, 2016.
Sheraz Memon, Additional Commissioner, Indus Water Commission gave a detailed presentation to the lawmakers on the Treaty, its historical perspective, rights and obligations, water issues and India”s future projects.
He clarified to the lawmakers that it is not correct to maintain that the World Bank is a guarantor of the IWT signed between Pakistan and India in Karachi.
The World Bank had brokered the Treaty and facilitated negotiations between Pakistan and India and its key role today relates only to the Treaty”s two articles: (i) appointment of neutral experts and (ii) Chairman Court of Arbitration.
He said the entire flow of the Indus basin falls into the Indus River ultimately and then into the sea near Thatha. The area is spread over 350,000 miles.
Memon informed the committee that 80 per cent water share (approximately 137 MAF) of Indus basin as per the IWT is allocated to Pakistan and the remaining 20 per cent water share is India”s.
Giving the historical perspective of the water dispute after partition, Additional Commissioner for Indus Waters Commission informed the lawmakers that India had stopped water to Pakistan from two barrages located in Indian Punjab in 1947.
But later released water after payment of Rs 50,000; two years later ie 1949, India again stopped water flow to Pakistan and when the Government of Punjab (Pakistan) approached the Government of Indian Punjab for release of the water the Indians argued that they sold water to Pakistan in 1947 but had no plans to do so in 1949.
After this incident, differences between the countries emerged and the World Bank came forward and brokered the deal.
He further stated that the Treaty is about distribution of rivers not distribution of waters. It was decided that the waters of three western rivers will be given to Pakistan whereas the waters of three eastern rivers Satluj, Byas and Ravi were earmarked for India.
Pakistan can only irrigate 45,000 acres of land with the waters of river Ravi. Both countries can however independently use their allocated rivers.
“Eastern Rivers (Sutlej, Beas, Ravi) were allocated to India (33 MAF), except domestic and agricultural uses (45,500 acres), Western Rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab) were allocated to Pakistan (137 MAF), except domestic, agricultural, non-consumptive and hydroelectric uses,” he added.
According to Memon, setting up run of the river hydroelectric projects by India with pondage creates issues. India is allowed to have storage of 2.85 MAF on rivers allocated to Pakistan in addition to water required for irrigation and drinking in Held Kashmir.
Of 2.85 MAF India has availed storage capacity of 0.8 MAF so far. He said, pondage cannot stop flows, but flows fluctuate for a few hours which later on bridge the flow gap.
The committee, however, raised concerns that if India takes 2 MAF water for agriculture purpose in addition to already agreed 2.85 MAF water, it will be around 5 MAF.
India can irrigate 1.339 million acres of land with water of rivers allocated to Pakistan. India has developed 0.8 million acres of land so far. Indus River”s 12-13 per cent catchment area exists in India whereas 87-88 per cent is in Pakistan.
“India can play with only 9000 acres feet of water out of 90 MAF,” he continued. However, Pakistan is worried that if India continues to construct pondage for run of the river projects, then a time will come when it will create problems for Pakistan as in such a scenario, India can stop water to Pakistan or divert it away from Pakistan.
According to the Treaty, Pakistan would receive unrestricted use of all those waters of the western rivers which India is under obligation to let flow under the provisions of paragraph 2 of the Treaty.
India shall be under an obligation to let flow all the waters of the western rivers and shall not permit any interference with these waters, except for the following uses: domestic use; non-consumptive use; agricultural use; generation of hydro-electric power. India shall not store any water of, or construct any storage works on the western rivers.
Current issues with India are as follows (i) Rattle hydroelectric plant (850 mw) (ROR); (ii) Kishenganga hydroelectric plant (330 mw) (ROR) (design aspects only); (iii) Miyar hydroelectric plant (120 mw) (ROR); (iv) Lower Kalnai hydroelectric plant (48 mw) (ROR); (v) Pakal Dul hydroelectric plant (initially 1000 mw, ultimate 1500 mw) (storage) and (vi) Wullar barrage/ Tulbul Navigation project (suspended since 1985 on interruption of Pakistan).
He said, India does not easily accept Pakistan”s objections and gains time by engaging Pakistan in discussions and at the same time continues work on projects which ultimately results in a fait accompli for Pakistan.
He argued that Pakistan needs quick and amicable resolutions of the issues of Rattle and Kishenganga HEPs as these are at present under construction at a fast pace.
A Pakistani team led by Attorney General for Pakistan and comprising Secretary Water and Power is in the United States to set up an International Court of Justice on Kishanganga and Rattle, he said, adding that preparation for third party resolution has been initiated.
Senator Taj Haider said that the dictator Ayub Khan sold Pakistan”s rights to India by signing the Treaty and urged the government to review it.
Senator Karim Khawaja also supported Taj Haider and said that the Treaty should be reviewed as it was in favour of India.
Senator Numan Wazir Khattak argued that if India violates the Treaty, the government should get defence forces to launch surgical strikes on Indian water installations, adding that Pakistan”s 400 aircraft of air force can target Indian installations within minutes.
He maintained that India should be given a clear message that violation of the Treaty will not be considered as an act of war. The committee stated that Pakistan should be ready for any eventuality.
The representative of Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that India has not shared anything with Pakistan officials so far on this issue, adding that India cannot amend or scrap the IWT.
“It”s not easy for India to scrap the Treaty unilaterally but Pakistan should be fully prepared,” he continued. Minister of State Water and Power, Abid Sher Ali stated that World Bank has offered to broker a deal with Afghanistan on Kabul River whose 6-8 MAF flows are generated from Afghanistan whereas 16 MAF are from Pakistan.
He further stated that Pakistan needs to develop storage capacity to stop water going into the sea from downstream Kotri.
The officials of Water and Power Ministry argued that India cannot stop Pakistan”s waters because it has no infrastructure to do so.
The committee, however, argued that India may develop this capacity within a couple of years and Pakistan must initiate steps to counter any such move.
Senator Nisar Muhammad also urged that a full house committee be constituted to formulate a long-term policy on water issues. -Business Recorder