India’s Aqua War

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The word ‘rival’ comes from the Latin ‘rivalis’ meaning ‘some one sharing a river’. A water war between two Sumerian city states Lagashand Umma 4500 years ago is recorded on a stone carving showing vultures flying off with the heads of the impoverished and defeated Umma people.

Only history itself can convince one of such a truth. This extremely worrying precedent is being re-run by India today by unleashing water damage; first inundating Pakistan with too much water and then starving it by withholding it at a critical time.

President Zardari told the Wall Street Journal in a recent interview that India “has never been a threat to Pakistan.” For the President of a country that has constantly faced aggression and fought three wars (Kargil excluded) with India, suffering the ultimate agony of dismemberment; these are shocking and mind boggling words. Even more provocative was when he termed the Kashmiri freedom fighters as ‘terrorists’.

Water has always been a social weapon of control and exploitation. Jawaharlal Nehru called dams the “temples of modern India.” Today’s India sees these ‘temples’ as tools of war. Sun Tzu says in the Art of War: “The greatest victories are those won without fighting”. Why bomb military installations, bridges, ports, fuel depots incurring humongous monetary costs and retaliation, when ends can be achieved by merely turning off the tap?

The looming water crisis, if unattended, will prove fatal for Pakistan already reeling from hyper inflation, critical shortages of basic food and the ever worsening energy crisis. India blocked 9000 cusec of Chenab water to fill the Baglihar Dam which was inaugurated by the Indian Premier on Oct 10.

India also released, without warning, 10,739 cusec at the Marala Head Works. This was in spite of the solemn assurity President Zardari was more than happy to receive in his ‘friendly bonhomie’ with the Indian Premier regarding Chenab on his ‘unofficial’ visit to America.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, relishing a compliant Pakistan, has announced four other dams on the pattern of Baglihar on the Chenab River. Intelligence reports put the actual number at twelve. These dams will play havoc with the cultivable land that is the life line of Pakistan.

India has taken up to, like an errant child, opening and closing the faucet on Chenab. This has resulted in dozens of villages alongside Head Sulemanki and many more in Kasur, Bahawalnagar, Vehari and other areas being inundated with Indian floodwater when excess water is released sans a warning and extremely adverse effects of reduced waterflow when most needed for the crops.

Indian Power Minister Jairam Ramesh referred to the row over the Kishanganga dam earlier this month by saying: “This is an issue with geo-strategic and foreign policy implications”. Increasingly and ever more brazenly we see the manipulation of our waters and the Indus Water Treaty, already in tatters because of its unrelentless subversion by India. It is using, against all international norms and mandates, water as a strategic weapon against Pakistan. By doing so it sees itself in a much more dominating role against an equallyun-assertive and pliant Pakistan.

The ‘discarded’ Kalabagh and the vaunted Bhasha/Munda dams and other such proposed projects are water management schemes of local resources. We even conceded the right of building Wullar Barrage to India. By doing so we have the sword of Democles hanging over our heads which can turn 110 sq miles of our cultivable land to an arid plain if India so wants. Reportedly, India is currently spending around $200 billion on the construction of water tunnels to the Indus River. With the now operational Baglihar Dam, it can block large quantity of water per day. Apart from this dam India has already built 14 hydroelectric plants on the Chenab’s northern part. It is not long before we will see the sluicegates totally shutting off the entire water of Chenab. The resulting scenario would be more devastating than a conventional war.

Using water as a weapon is a totally repugnant notion, which no civilized country can and should endorse. The Geneva Convention and the Indus Water Treaty make such an action illegal. We, however, cannot find comfort in this fact seeing India’s recent antics and the precedent when it, in April 1948, stopped the supply of water to Pakistan for a month.

We have also seen conventions and resolutions treated as trash in times of war or otherwise by powerful countries. Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya, Lebanon, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are living proofs of the same.
With the contentious building of two dams, Baglihar and Kishan Ganga,India has set up a company called the Chenab Valley Power Projects to construct power plants on the Chenab River in Occupied Kashmir. Three of these are Kiru (600 MW), Pakal Dul (1,000 MW) and Karwa (520 MW).These will be constructed in the Doda district.

The world may soon see inadequate water for drinking and agriculture leading to starvation and dislocation on an unprecedented scale. This threat already looms large in Pakistan where ground water is falling as much as twenty feet per year and India sits smugly at ourhead-waters in Occupied Kashmir. The resolution of Kashmir is a must to ease our fears about India’spotential ability to turn a huge chunk of our land into a waste-land. Our dithering stance on Kashmir, if not for our long-standing moral viewpoint, should be seen in terms of this strategic issue.

Our vacillation on the same negates our very own survival. Playing to the Indian gallery and terming those who gave their lives for freedom as ‘terrorists’ and advising the cause to be left for future generations is, if anything, a most unfortunate and tragic act of speech. We are bearing the brutal and bloody brunt of individual autocratic and hasty decisions. The fallout of our Western borders sees the Capital in the cross-hairs. With an elected Parliament it would be sagacious to take collective decisions. Policy statements of such crucial import by an individual now, may reduce the country to a tyranny of the majority.

Water is something all life on Earth requires to survive. In the world of today where the war on (of) ‘terror’ reigns supreme, to deliberately withhold and manipulate water as a weapon to break a people and hold them in perpetual servitude is, if nothing else, a vile act.

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