CHANDIGARH: Indus Water Treaty was finally drawn in 1960 at Karachi, which gave Pakistan over 80 percent of the waters of the six rivers of Indus basin, with India getting just less than 20 percent of these waters. India is the upper riparian to all these six river, with only two rivers ( Indus and Satluj) flowing from Tibet. Therefore, India had the first right over the waters of these river vis-à-vis Pakistan.

As per this Treaty, though India had the exclusive rights over waters of three Eastern rivers, yet for the first ten years ( upto 1970 ) India had to give waters from these rivers to Pakistan and in addition certain amount of money to that country to built dams and canals so as to be able to use waters from Western rivers, previously available from the Eastern rivers.

Equally, while drawing this treaty no thought was given to the fact that vast tracks of land in Ladakh and other parts of J and K were parched and could be converted into fertile agricultural land through minor irrigation projects on the three Western rivers as these flowed these territories.

Further certain restrictions and limitations in the Treaty made full exploitation of hydro-electric potential of three Western rivers, as they traverse through J and K, by India impossible. Therefore, it is obvious that the treaty is heavily weighed in favour of Pakistan while India was short changed and denied its fair share of waters. Our delegation during the negotiations of this treaty was generous to the determent of own national interest!

How and why this one sided Treaty was agreed to is now history and it is only by using some provisions in it, that limited tinkering is possible. If this Treaty has survived two wars with Pakistan, there is nothing to be proud of but it does reflect India’s propensity to overlook its own interests and lack of foresight. However, as of present, the grounds for repudiating it are valid and legitimate.

Pakistan has been relentlessly mounting terrorist attacks on India, in line with its policy of a thousand cuts. India in the absence of adequate military means has not been in a position to work out a viable policy to desist that country from following this ruinous course. Unfortunately there are Indians who seems to take pride in this pusillanimity of not realigning this Treaty and term it as the country’s generosity. This generous class of Indians contend that annulling this Treaty will hurt the people of Pakistan and will offend them, while feelings of Indians when subjected to repeated terrorist attacks does not really matter! Some national spirit!

This generosity has resulted in acute shortage of water for irrigation in Punjab and Haryana, so much so that to meet this shortage there has been relentless extraction of ground water, lowering water table to dangerous levels in these parts. At many places in Punjab, water extracted from that depth contains uranium. In case water continues to be extracted from the ground at the present scale, to meet ever increasing demand of agriculture, experts content that in the next 50 years, better parts of Punjab and Haryana will turn into desert. These areas are otherwise the food basket of India.

What is possible without inundating large parts of own land, is to have a series of mini hydro-electric and irrigation projects in Leh, Thoise, Zanskar and some other valleys in J and K, on Indus and Chenab rivers. Elsewhere, where inundation problem is not there, have full scale hydroelectric projects on Chenab and Jhelum rivers. The Salal dam ( near Riasi ) needs to be reconverted into storage dam and waters of Chandra Bhaga ( major tributary of Chenab) diverted to Beas river around Manali. This diversion of waters of Chandra Bhaga has enormous hydro electric generation potential.

All that India needs to do is put both Pakistan and World bank on notice and make it known that treaties and terrorism cannot go hand in hand. Therefore, another terrorist attack will result in abrogation of Indus Water Treaty.

(Lt General Harwant Singh (Retired) is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff)