Prime minister Narendra Modi has called a meeting of concerned ministries and departments to review the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan. The meeting will ponder over the treaty post Uri attack circumstances to see if India can continue with it or the 56 years old treaty now needs changes.
Which way the government is thinking can be gauged from the reaction of Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of India’s External Affairs Ministry. He said that such treaties require ‘mutual trust and cooperation and can never be one-sided’.
But can the Modi government take some tough decision?
It is well known that the Indus Water Treat is one-sided, heavily skewed in favour of Pakistan. Rivers of the Indus Basin originate in India but according to the treaty, 80% of the Indus water is reserved for Pakistan and 90% of Pakistan’s irrigated area is dependent on it. When we talk of the catchment area of the Indus river, if Pakistan has its 47% area, India is not far behind with 39% of the land falling under its territory.
In India, especially in Jammu & Kashmir, the state that is directly affected from the arrangements made under any such treaty, demands have been consistently raised on abrogating the treaty. And now after the Uri attack, that demand is back again, this time now to correct this historical anomaly to use it as a potent tool to encircle and give a befitting reply to Pakistan. Now, if India, indeed, raises this demand tomorrow, Pakistan will be in deep trouble. If India stops the Indus flow to Pakistan or starts controlling and regulating it on a fair share basis, it will left a big area of Pakistan barren.
But India will have to face tough international pressure in doing so. The Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan was brokered by the World Bank and India and Pakistan have been approaching international arbitration tribunals in case of disputes. But even if we assume that India will get everyone onboard, what about China, especially when China is fully capable of doing something similar with us.
Brahmaputra river water has been a source of consistent discord between India and China. China can pose a big threat if it decides to divert the Brahmaputra water away from India to its arid north and north-western parts where 37% of its population has just 7% of water resources available. Brahmaputra originates in China and flows for quite long before entering India and then to Bangladesh. If China does so, it will create a grave existential threat for the north-eastern states of India as Brahmaputra river is like a lifeline here and for a big part of Bangladesh.
Going by the past precedents and China’s traditional anti-India stand, which can go to any extent to see India in trouble, especially when it concerns its so-called all-weather friend and ally Pakistan, China can certainly do something like this.