Uri attack effect: India not to cancel Indus Water Treaty, but plans greater use of rivers

By: | Published: September 27, 2016 6:26 AM

Ruling out cancellation of the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan, India is planning greater use of three rivers out of the five controlled by the neighbour.

Ruling out cancellation of the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan, India is planning greater use of three rivers out of the five controlled by the neighbour.

“Blood and water cannot flow together,’’ said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who on Monday chaired a meeting to review the water treaty with Pakistan amid heightened tension between the two countries.

National security adviser Ajit Doval, foreign secretary S Jaishankar, water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar and senior PMO officials were present at the meeting.
There have been consistent calls in India that the government scrap the water distribution pact to mount pressure on Pakistan in the aftermath of the terror attack. Pakistan has been complaining of not receiving enough water and had gone for international arbitration in a couple of cases.

According to sources, the government plans to exploit to the maximum the capacity of three of the rivers that are under Pakistan’s control — Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.

The treaty was signed in 1960 between India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan’s president General Ayub Khan after World Bank brokered negotiations that lasted almost a decade.

Control over the three eastern rivers — the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — was given to India and the three western rivers — the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum — went to Pakistan, unrestricted.

So far, under the treaty India can use only 20% of the water of the Indus, which flows through it first, for irrigation, transport and power generation.

“The permanent Indus Water commission has been meeting regularly, however, now it has been decided that such meetings cannot take place in an atmosphere of terror,” said a source.

Besides setting up an inter-ministerial taskforce, plans were chalked out for exploiting the western rivers to the maximum, which have been underutilised for close to 30 years.

“The decision is to store water and maximise irrigation area. With this we would be able to irrigate land in Jammu and Kashmir for nearly six lakh hectare,” said the source.

New Delhi has also decided to review the Tulbul Project which has been the most prolonged conflict between India and Pakistan since 1984. This project is a ‘navigation control structure’, known as Wullar Barrage in Pakistan.

In 1986, India voluntarily suspended the project’s construction and both countries opened bilateral negotiations to break the deadlock. Subsequently, India and Pakistan held more than nine rounds of secretary-level talks and five meetings under the Composite Dialogue Process.

“It has been decided that India will use potential of 18,600 MW of power from the western rivers under Indus water treaty, and to review the construction on Tulbul navigation project, where India had voluntarily suspended work on this in 2007. And an inter-ministerial taskforce for Indian rights is to be formed for western rivers under Indus water treaty,” said a source.

“Out of the 18600 MW, 3034 MW has been used, 2526 MW is under construction and 5846 MW is in the advanced stage of approval.”

It has also been decided to expedite construction on three dams on River Chenab: Pakul Dul (which is already approved project), Sawalkot and Bursar are in the advanced stages of approval, said sources. “In the meeting chaired by the prime minister, it was discussed that India will use fullest legal rights in the treaty”.

J&K has in the past expressed concern over shortage of water as people of the state cannot fully utilise the water of various rivers, particularly Chenab in Jammu, for agricultural and other activities.

India had last week made it clear that “mutual trust and cooperation” was important for such a treaty to work.

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