Water, for Pakistan, is the backbone for survival and growth of the country’s agrarian economy. 93 percent of Pakistan’s water resources are utilized for nourishment of the agricultural sector – a source of livelihood for 39 percent population of the country as per 2017-2018 Labour Force Survey. Approximately 90 percent of Pakistan’s food and a large share of farming sector’s employment depends on the Indus Basin’s resources. A report from the International Monitory Fund (IMF) classified Pakistan as the third most water stressed country of the world in 2022. The reasons for water scarcity in Pakistan range from population inflation to environmental challenges emerging from global warming. However, a major cause of water related crisis in Pakistan is India’s unilateral acts that can only be identified as ‘water terrorism’ in terms of water management from the Indus River and its tributaries.
The Indus River is distributed among Pakistan (47%), India (39%), Tibet and Afghanistan. As per National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Indus Basin is currently world’s most over-stressed aquifer. The geographical setting of the river makes its fair utilization impossible – where it rises in the Tibet region, flows through the disputed Kashmir territory, passes through Pakistan to finally drain into the Arabian Sea. In case of Pakistan, due to reliance on downstream rivers, the effects of irregularities in water flow are felt more severely in comparison to other parties involved.
In 1948, India began exercising harassment techniques on Pakistan through illegally stopping water flows of the downstream rivers. After much lengthy negotiations, field-work and planning by the working group containing members from both India and Pakistan, an agreement was reached and signed on September 19, 1960 between both parties famously known as the Indus Water Treaty. At the time of conflict resolution, the treaty was brokered by World Bank, adding to its legal status. Treaty has allocated Western Rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab) to Pakistan and Eastern Rivers (Ravi, Beas, Sutlej) to India for fair use and maintenance of water resources.
Over the course of years, India has single handedly tried to harass Pakistan through an array of tactics ranging from cyber bullying, provocations at borders, threats of military adventurism, illegal annexation of Kashmir and now – most recently – a radical attempt to modify Indus Water Treaty. The propaganda has been launched by Indian government as Pakistan is pursuing legal action over India in Court of Arbitration, raising concerns over the design features of Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power plants. What Pakistan has highlighted to the international community is in fact acts by India that constitute nothing less than ‘Water Terrorism’.
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India’s ‘90 day’ deadline to Pakistan to come to terms with the country over an issue that will determine life and death situation for Pakistan’s ecosystem in the most literal sense is an act of coercion and clear violation of the legality of Indus Water Treaty. It is a blunt intimidation technique among the series of illegal provocations Modi government has thus far undertaken against Pakistan. As far as India’s ambitions go, India’s Prime Minister and member of the fascist all-dominant Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Modi, had declared all-out hostility against Pakistan, by announcing his ambitions saying ‘blood & water can’t flow together at the same time’ in meeting with Water ministry officials on Indus Waters treaty in the aftermath of 2016 Uri attack. Other than the threat of stopping Pakistan’s water supply, India has on many occasions also threatened to maximize utilization of the waters of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab along with resumption of construction work at Tulbul Navigation Project.
As India continues to push Pakistan to a corner by using all of its propaganda and terror tactics at once, Pakistan has candidly clarified its unyielding position on many occasions stating that there will be no compromise over any harassment ploys by India. Any attempt by India to unilaterally modify the Indus Water Treaty will receive a befitting response from Pakistan. India is warned to be mindful of the fact that Pakistan’s stance on water management is entirely legal and any misadventure by India will not only be a violation of the sovereign rights of Pakistan but mass violation of settled rules of international law.