Kashmir: Waters and Religion
I have invariably argued that the relationship between India and Pakistan undergoes a peculiar cycle. The two countries have fought four wars, threatened each other many a time and quarreled most of the time. In between, they have talked of peace, negotiated some confidence building measures (CBMs) and implemented some of them. But then some crisis or other – in the form of war or a war-like situation – emerges. As a result, all the CBMs become null and void, the notable exceptions being the 1960- Indus water sharing treaty (IWT), the annual exchanges of the lists each other’s nuclear installations and notifying each other in advance in respect of ballistic missile flight tests. And when environment becomes little more manageable, mostly due to pressure from the civil society in both the countries and international demands, their leaders once again renegotiate, mainly to restore some of the CBMs that existed earlier. But again a new crisis in their bilateral relations invariably emerges. So the cycle goes on.
However, following dastardly attack by Pakistan on our military camp at Uri and that country’s diabolical role in fomenting the ongoing turbulence in the Kashmir valley, more and more Indians are now getting increasingly convinced that even the aforesaid three CBMs need a reprisal. In fact, the principal opposition party, the Congress, has demanded a special session of Parliament to pass a resolution declaring Pakistan a “terrorist state” and minimising interactions with that country. On his part, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not only trying hard to isolate Pakistan internationally but also considering to review the IWT.
As my friend Brahma Chellaney, Professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, has been repeatedly arguing over years, the IWT is the most one-sided water-sharing agreement ever in the history of international law. The one-sided IWT reserves for the lower riparian (Pakistan) 80.52 per cent of the total waters of the six-river Indus system, or 167.2 billion cubic metres of the aggregate 207.6 billion cubic metres average yearly flows. The treaty was based on the principle that after a transitional period of 10 years, extendable to 13 at the request of Pakistan, the three eastern rivers, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, would be exclusively allocated to India, while the western rivers, Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, would be allocated exclusively to Pakistan except for certain limited uses by India in the upstream areas.
It was also decided that during the transition period, Pakistan would undertake a system of works, part of which would replace from the western rivers such irrigation uses in Pakistan as had hitherto been met from the eastern rivers. While the system of works was under construction, India would continue to supply water from the eastern rivers according to the agreed programme. Besides, the Indus works programme was estimated to cost around $1,070 million, of which $870 million was to be spent in Pakistan. And here, as Brahma says, “a naïve India even contributed $173.63 million for dam and other water projects in Pakistan”!
There are two other aspects about the IWT that are worth-noting. First, India has never utilised all its share in the western rivers for irrigation purposes and power generation activities. The Modi government is now considering to utilise this share as permissible under the IWT at least, to begin with. Secondly, going by the unpublished diary of late K. V. Padmanabhan, India’s Acting High Commissioner in Karachi during the signing of the Indus Water Treaty in September 1960 between Pakistani President Ayub Khan and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, though not strictly a part of the IWT, the former, given India’s unprecedented generosity as an upper riparian state for Pakistan, “in a generous mood offered to divert the waters of the Indus River to the parched areas of Rajasthan by erecting a barrage in the lower reaches of the river(Sind); also to supply the Sui natural gas from Balochistan to the Bombay area.” But Pakistan never implemented this commitment.
On the other hand, all the Pakistani leaders periodically demand even more water from the Indus system than what has been provided in the IWT. In fact, in March this year, Pakistan’s Senate went to the ridiculous extent of passing a unanimous resolution that declared: “This House recommends that the Government should revisit Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), 1960, in order to make new provisions in the treaty so that Pakistan may get more water for its rivers”!
In fact, Pakistani scholars argue that apart from the religion-ground on the basis of which Kashmir’s separation from India is a legitimate goal, it is the water for which the control over Kashmir is so important to them. It is said that scarcity of waters is the worst fear that the policy makers of Pakistan are facing right now. All the major rivers of Pakistan, which are the life-blood of the agrarian economy of Pakistan, pass through Kashmir. Therefore, the Pakistani theory is that if Kashmir remains with India, India will continue to have full control of Pakistan’s surviving kit in the shape of fresh water rivers. By building dams over these rivers India will be in a position to create artificial floods in Pakistani territories, which will result in the destruction of valuable food crop in addition to other habitat, property and invaluable human life.
In essence, Pakistani scholars argue that Kashmir with India means that New Delhi will retain the ability to deny their country fresh waters and inflict artificial drought, which in, turn, would result in famine, death and consequently, war. In other words, as long as Kashmir is with India, the very existence of Pakistan will depend on the goodwill of
India, so the argument runs. And that being the case, Pakistan can never reconcile with a Kashmir that is an integral part of India.
This does not mean, however, that the “religion” component of Pakistan’s Kashmir-policy is less important than the “water content”. Pakistanis believe India is still haunted by the doctrine of Nationhood on the basis of religion, the doctrine that came into the existence following the passing of the Lahore resolution in 1940 that demanded the creation of Pakistan. This doctrine says that Muslims are a nation in themselves by virtue of being Muslims. So, Muslims cannot be a part of any other nation state, including India. Kashmiri struggle for independence from India is projected in Pakistan to be based on this theory. Of course, the Pakistani intelligentsia is hurt that with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, this theory has lost its vitality. And that is why it is eager that Kashmir comes out of India. Because, if that happens then the notion of two-nation theory would be re-established once and for all. And what is more, India will find itself in a very embarrassing situation pertaining to the fact that it still hosts more Muslims than does Pakistan.
Pakistani intelligentsia dreams that once vitality of the two-nation theory is reestablished with the secession of Kashmir, India would then start expecting movements in the coming years which would try to gather all Indian Muslims under one political forum, demanding a separate homeland, just like Pakistan and Kashmir. In other words, Kashmir could sow the seeds of destruction of a heterogeneous India. In fact, some Pakistani hardliners even argue that even if India does not give up Kashmir, New Delhi must be made aware that holding Kashmir in current circumstances is too much of a load on its present potentials that other trouble-spots in the country, particularly in the Northeast, will be the hotbeds of “freedom movements”. No wonder why the Pakistani ISI is the most trusted friend of the organisations like the ULFA and Naga insurgents.
by Prakash Nanda