Make IWT Conflict Neutral

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The World Bank has paused the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements. This comes after the cropping up of the new differences between the neighbours over sharing of water under the Treaty. In a recent speech, Modi had said the waters of Sutlej, Beas and Ravi rivers that rightfully belong to India will be stopped from going waste in Pakistan and he will ensure that farmers here utilise it. 

 

“Now every drop of this water will be stopped and I will give that to farmers of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and Indian farmers. I am committed to this,” he said addressing a rally at Bathinda. Earlier also. Modi had said that “the blood and water cannot flow together,” and even threatened to stop the entire water from J&K’s three rivers from flowing into Pakistan and ensure all the water that India was entitled to use from the rivers under the treaty was used.  . 

 

This may appear impossible but this is one of the retaliatory actions being contemplated in India after the alleged Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Kashmir which killed nineteen soldiers.  The attack brought the World Bank brokered 1960  Treaty between the two nations under serious stress. India’s ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup  said that in the absence of the mutual trust and cooperation, the Treaty “can’t  be a one-sided affair”.

 

According to the Treaty, India got control over three eastern rivers – the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej – while as the waters of the three western rivers – Indus, Jhelum, Chenab – which also originate from India were to be allowed to flow to Pakistan with India entitled to use some of the water for irrigation and run-of-the-mill hydro-electric power stations.

 

But with India threatening to review it, the issue assumed far larger dimensions with experts warning about its geo-political implications in a region in the throes of a new Great Game between global powers. Should India set this precedent, many experts argue even China, Pakistan’s ally, which has upper riparian rights over river Brahamaputra can withhold its flow into in North-East India by diverting it for its own use.  

 

Now the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wants the two countries “to begin to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty rather than pursuing concurrent processes that could make the treaty unworkable over time”. The WB has also sent letters to the finance ministers of Pakistan and India to apprise them of the decision taken to “safeguard the Treaty”.  

 

The WB has, therefore, offered an opportunity to the two countries to work towards mending their differences over the treaty.  The IWT is one of the most successful international treaties which has held despite the recurrent tensions between the two countries. And this is also because any threat to the treaty can jeopardize the peace in the region and unleash hostilities between the neighbours. It is now expected that India and Pakistan will work towards lowering the temperature over the IWT and ensure the treaty is made conflict-neutral. 

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