1. Indus Waters Treaty: 10 things experts say about the agreement and why PM Narendra Modi should not withdraw it

Indus Waters Treaty: 10 things experts say about the agreement and why PM Narendra Modi should not withdraw it

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is reportedly considering to review its position on the Indus Waters Treaty as the country attempts to find out ways to "punish" Pakistan without actually waging a war.

By: | New Delhi | Updated: September 26, 2016 12:14 PM
Indus Waters Treaty, Narendra Modi, Indus River, Indus Waters Treaty Narendra Modi, Narendra Modi Indus Waters Treaty, Indus River, Indus Waters Treaty narendra Modi Indus River If Prime Minister Narendra Modi decides to withdraw Indus Waters Treaty, the Kashmir issue will get a whole new dimension. Not only this, it would trigger the formal beginning of water wars, which experts like Brahma Chellaney have been predicting for long. (Source IE)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reportedly considering to review its position on the Indus Waters Treaty as the country attempts to find out ways to “punish” Pakistan without actually waging a war. The 56-year-old Indus Waters Treaty between both the countries has become a rallying point for many. It has been suggested by some politicians that India should either revisit or abrogate the treaty as it would be the easiest way to punish the neighbouring country that refuses to control terrorism emanating from its land. Many in India claim that the treaty is too one-sided, hence it requires introspection. However, the suggestion is fraught with dangers, according to experts.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to take stock of the treaty in New Delhi, where top officials from various ministries including External Affairs and Water Resources are expected to brief him on the pact. Signed in 1960 by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then Pakistan President Ayub Khan, the treaty allocates 80% of water from the six-river Indus water system to Pakistan. Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum from the Indus water system that flows from India to Pakistan. This is a unique treaty involving a third party. It was brokered by the World Bank.

So far the treaty has survived wars and phases of frosty ties between India and Pakistan. India’s any move affecting the treaty would be closely watched by the international community. Here we provide you what experts are saying about the treaty and how any move on it by India will affect both countries.

1. Environmental damage

India may face environmental damage if it decides to scrap the treaty, while Pakistan may face draught-like conditions. India is not in a position to stop or divert the water of Indus river. It would take years of work to build huge dams or reservoirs or canals to change the flow of water. The move, however, may lead to floods in the valley.

2. Long term strategy needed

India cannot abrogate the treaty on a short notice. It takes years to divert the flow of a river. The government od India will have to prepare a long-term strategy if it intends to threaten Pakistan by diverting or stopping the water. Strategic issues expert Brahma Chellaney, recently wrote: “India should hold out a credible threat of dissolving the Indus Water Treaty, drawing a clear linkage between Pakistan’s right to unlimited water inflows and its responsibility not to cause harm to its upper riparian.”

3. May provoke terrorism further

The decision of not giving water to Pakistan may further enrage the terror elements in the country, making them intensifying their attacks on India. Even the construction works for diverting the flow of water would be on the target of terrorists all the time. To check them, India will have to deploy huge security forces. This would further drain the Indian economy.

4. Severely affect Pakistan

About 65% area of Pakistan, including the entire Punjab province, is a part of the Indus basin. Interestingly, Pakistan boasts of the world’s largest canal irrigation system because of its development of the basin, which covers over 90% of irrigated area. The water from Indus is important for the country for irrigation, drinking and other purposes. India’s decision to abrogate the treaty would affect Pakistan severely.

5. Detrimental to India

India’s decision to abrogate the treaty may be detrimental to the country’s interests in the long run. Experts say that people in Pakistan already do not like the fact that India controls its rivers, even as it has complied with the provision of the treaty sincerely. The Indian Express reports Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, head of the Earth Sciences Department, Kashmir University as saying: “In fact, the eagerness in a section of Pakistani society to wrest Kashmir originates in the desire to take control of its rivers. Any tinkering with the treaty is likely to see an intensification of Pak-backed activities in J&K.”

According to Romshoo, Indus water cannot be stopped from flowing to Pakistan, unless India is ready to inundate its own cities.

6. India can Punish Pakistan even by not stopping flow of Indus water

The Indian Express quotes Uttam Sinha of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses as saying that Pakistan can be pressured even without stopping the waters or violating any other provisions of the Indus Treaty. “We have never used our rights on the western rivers. Under the Treaty, we can make use of the waters of the western rivers for irrigation, storage, and even for producing electricity, in the manner specified. If we just do what we are entitled to under the Treaty, it would be enough to send jitters through Pakistan. It would be a strong signal without doing anything drastic,” Sinha said.

7. India should engage with Afghanistan on Kabul river development

According to Sinha, India needs to engage with Afghanistan on the development of the Kabul river that flows into Pakistan through the Indus basin. “This again can make Pakistan extremely nervous. It is in our strategic interest in any case to enhance our engagement on developmental issues with Afghanistan,” he said.

8. Irk other neighbours

India at present enjoys a moral high ground because it respects all its treaties with the neighbouring countries. The decision to abrogate the treaty would make other smaller neighbours uneasy. Not only the neighbours would be distrustful of India, even the country would not be in a position to say anything if China also takes a similar move against it. The country may also earn the ire of China. Indus originates in China and if the country decides to divert the Indus, India would lose over 35% of its river water. China is already building big dams on the Brahmaputra and it can hurt India’s interests anytime.

9. Global condemnation

Not respecting the treaty, may invite global condemnation to India as the treaty is an international agreement. At present India is on a moral high ground vis-a-vis Pakistan after the Uri attack. This would be lost if India doesn’t follow the deal. Such decision by India would automatically bring World bank in the picture and in support of Pakistan.

10. New Dimension to Kashmir issue and formal start of Water Wars

The Kashmir issue will get a whole new dimension if India withdraws from the treaty. Not only this, it would trigger the formal beginning of water wars, which experts like Chellaney have been predicting for long. Moreover, it is unlike that Pakistan would mend its ways under Indian pressure of Indus water. The will also be spillover impacts India’s withdrawal of the treaty in other countries.

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  1. B
    Be a
    Sep 26, 2016 at 8:42 am
    None of the points mentioned above are serious in nature and India is already spending huge amount of money and manpower for fight against terrorism, there may be some small change to it or a big change to it. We should not be afraid of its consequences and the world fully understands our neighbour's terror mentality. Hence India should withdraw from Indus Waters Treaty and this action I am sure will bring checks and balance on part of our filthy neighbour.
    1. A
      Sep 26, 2016 at 9:13 am
      So we should do nothing and sit on our hands while our soldiers and civilians get killed by the stani terrorists?
      1. A
        Sep 26, 2016 at 12:51 pm
        Do this looser have any iota of self confidence or hope?
        1. R
          Sep 26, 2016 at 9:41 pm
          India should implement Saraswati river plan which used to glow through Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujrat before entering into Arab Sagar. There was a great civilisation and famous cities along the bank river like Cra before it changed the course and became Satluj river and merged in Bea's and then into India river. India now has technology and capability to change the flow of water river Himalaya and revive the path of river Saraswati. Initially it will bring floodings and cause relocation of potion but ultimately it will bring prosperity and greenery in deserts of Rajasthan and Haryana.
          1. S
            Sep 26, 2016 at 11:51 am
            Nehrivian loser thinking...
            1. L
              Last Word
              Sep 26, 2016 at 11:27 am
              Shame on FT for not publishing my comment which was logical and non-offensive. Is FT on the rolls of stan and China and hired its experts to write this article ?
              1. L
                Last Word
                Sep 26, 2016 at 9:41 am
                Well, with such a mindset stated in the article India has remained a soft state and stan took full advantage for the past three decades. This rogue country has been carrying out bomb blasts in Mumbai and other places killing hundreds innocent people, keep sending armed jihadis killing our soldiers at will but we remained silent being a responsible state. We are only worried about world opinion, humanitarian grounds and consequences not to retaliate and lost all self-respect as an independent nation. Even a declaration to abrogate this treaty would be enough to create mive unrest in stan. People of stan are fully aware that its military who dictates the foreign policy sends terrorists across the borders is responsible for India taking this unusual step. This may turn stanis against its own military and general consensus in the country to stop this murderous game. This is the most potent tool available with India to bring stan to knees without any bloodshed. We can tell the world that this measure to eliminate terrorism is not only for India but the entire region including Afghanistan. We can take US into confidence who has already put embargo on stan on aid and F-16 deal.
                1. H
                  hell freezes
                  Sep 26, 2016 at 9:26 am
                  Let us declare ourselves as a country of cowards. For any step to be taken a brutal enemy like stan, there are always concialatory voices at every nook and corner of the country. Can anyone imagine if this would not have been India stan rather between stan and china, with each war fought between them china would have taken a chunk of stan and today would have been no stan in existance. But the eunuch country that we are we always ourselves rather than the enemy even when we win the war. Each war with stan is a testimony to that. Be it 1947, 1965, 1971, or 1999 kargil war. We could have crippled stan and taught them a lesson they would never forget. But every time we have proved to the world that we are spineless country or cowards. Now when for the first time there is a talk of cutting the water to stan, again apologists are cropping up from all over. And who is this self styled expert who says we will flood our cities. Once we abrogate the treaty we will decide what to do when. Nobody is cutting the supply right now. Long back ISI chief hamid gul said they had sympathisers in Indian NGOs and media. This I think is coming out clearly now.
                  1. M
                    Sep 26, 2016 at 9:18 am
                    If we cannot wage a war, cannot go back on a treaty, what are we supposed to do. Every action will have some negative consequences and we need to weight out what is acceptable to us. There has already been enough inaction to put India in a compromising situation. India should look at Israel, how a tiny nation survives despite being encircled by adversaries.
                    1. N
                      n s
                      Sep 27, 2016 at 6:05 am
                      India should make maximum advantage of agreed water of western rivers and also renegotiate the water treaty. The 20 points are easy thi gd to tackle. With growing economic China is not in a position to hit India keeping in mind his economic interest. India can also bleed stan many ways difficult for her to sustain in long way.
                      1. H
                        Sep 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm
                        Experts have any idea to stop state sponsored terrorism from stan, if no then you are not any expert, but Pak apologists working in india
                        1. Pinaki Lahiri
                          Sep 26, 2016 at 9:43 am
                          Sheer Nonsense and fear of the unknown. How ridiculous....
                          1. Anand Ch
                            Sep 26, 2016 at 9:26 am
                            Experts of 60 years plus can not be taken seriously.
                            1. Anand Ch
                              Sep 26, 2016 at 9:23 am
                              Most of the points out of ten, are out phobia. When it is hinted as a strategic step, it will be well thought plan that will be put into place. Rains are not always same and they tend to vary. So opting out of this treaty will help India in managing the flows to its advantage. River water will be left if available or else no. There need not be any treaty for this. Experts are all above 60 and hence lot of fears.
                              1. S
                                S K
                                Sep 26, 2016 at 7:58 am
                                India should first utilise the water allocated as per the treaty. This will take a few years then must have plans ready to draw more water depending upon how stan behaves. We should not hesitate and worry about what others will think. US has no compunctions about funding stan inspite of its terrible record of terrorism, so they have no right to complain.
                                1. X
                                  Sep 26, 2016 at 10:00 am
                                  Do worry. Modi is all talk and nothing else. A dud. He can only kill 18 year old unarmed girls and boys.
                                  1. N Venkat
                                    Sep 27, 2016 at 8:07 am
                                    The author has lost all hope and seems to be ranting without points. We can certainly build dams. The water level in the Indus surges during summer when Delhi parches in thirst. We can divert the water via Delhi, Haryana and the Thar desert.
                                    1. V
                                      Sep 26, 2016 at 9:16 am
                                      Not a single point is worthwhile in the above article. Just speculation.
                                      1. V
                                        Sep 26, 2016 at 11:55 am
                                        - Don't attack, there are other options-Don't strike, there are other options.- Don't cancel the river treaty, there are other options.What nonsense ? All talk and no strategy ?Look at China for that matter, they think about all these things years ahead and plan and conquer.We are just keeping on thinking and throwing speculations around. Thought process should be, how should we send a strong message to stan rather then, we if do this, there will be consequences.If we cannot really stand strong on terrorist attacks, imagine if China or stan really invades us, what are we going to do ? Meditation ???
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