The possible solution


One reason for dissatisfaction with the IWT is that, as presently constructed, it offers very thin support to the integrated or joint development of the Indus River Basin. After all the treaty’s success, in the face of huge distrust and animosity between the two signatory, had largely to do with its abandonment of customary international norms governing internationally shared rivers. In particular, it discarded the norms protecting the downstream country’s traditional uses of rivers wtare, in place of which it offered geo-physical partition of the river system itself. This formula was conceivable only in the unique geographic and political circumstances of the Indus Basin[1] As has been brought out in the previous chapter the complete abrogation of the IWT is not possible therefore there is a need to generate various options that can be exercised to resolve the conflict of interest between Pakistan and Kashmir over water resources. Pakistan’s answer to the problem lies in complete control over the state of Jammu & Kashmir which would place the watershed areas in its control and solve its problem of being a lower riparian state. This is not a practical solution. India’s solution to the problems envisages gradual erosion of the provision of the treaty by constructions of dams in Jammu and Kashmir which would enable it to exploit the resources of the three Northern rivers while remain on the fringes of the treaty. These different approaches by both the countries may not provide us with a solution which would be acceptable to the masses of India, Pakistan and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Let us examine some of the solutions that have been offered by various personalities as also see the feasibility of implementing them.

Chenab Formula [2]

Pakistan has directly or indirectly emphasised the Chenab Formula as the most preferred option. This division would be based on the flow of the Chenab, but it would to some extent coincide with religious demography.Why is then Pakistan interested in the Chenab formula that includes parts of Jammu? With a small twist to this proposal, consider the hypothetical situation, as suggested by many experts, of only Kashmir being a part of Pakistan, and entire Jammu province and Ladakh under India. One evident outcome of such an arrangement would be the dissolving of the Indus Waters Treaty, as the political status of Kashmir would change. The distribution of water resources would be altered. Pakistan would then have complete control over only the Indus, Jhelum, and some of their tributaries. The Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers would fall under India’s jurisdiction.

This arrangement would be detrimental to Pakistan, as it would lose a major water source the Chenab. The incumbent major water resources for Pakistan Indus and Jhelum have already been exploited to the maximum in Pakistani Punjab itself where over half their water flows is diverted for irrigation. The Chenab also is a major source of water to Punjab. Moreover, the Chenab-Jhelum combine is the only tributary of the Indus that enhances the latter’s flow downstream Punjab. Losing Chenab to India would mean drastic reduction in water supplies to Sindh, which is already on the brink of a water crisis. It is imperative to note here that the location where the eastern tributaries merge to join the Indus River is at a point just prior to entering Sindh. Moreover, Sindh receives water only from the Indus River. Losing Chenab would also warrant a major rearrangement of the irrigation network in Punjab. This clearly explains Pakistan’s insistence on making Chenab the basis of the international border and including parts of Jammu and not merely the Kashmir valley, under its jurisdiction. Moreover, it provides strategic depth for the Mangla Dam.

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Thus, the Chenab Formula would be the preferred solution for Pakistan but will have grave consequences for India. Apart from losing out on the state of Jammu and Kashmir which will lead many other complications, this formula will also see India losing out on its water resources emanating from Jammu and Kashmir. Whatever flexibility that India has due its limited rights over three Northern Rivers will be forsaken for no apparent advantage. Therefore, if hostility reach a degree where Pakistan formally proposes the Chenab Formula, and not merely as a suggestion in track-two diplomacy, India’s response should be in the negative and belligerent.

Valley Formula[3]

Since Chenab Formula and the resultant division of Jammu portends war, consider an alternate solution, put forward by some experts, of handing over the Valley of Kashmir to Pakistan. Pakistan’s ISI acts on the belief that it can conquer the Valley of Kashmir by low intensity insurgency. If we were to consider a future scenario in which Pakistan with the aid of terrorist groups have managed to capture to the Valley of Kashmir which has always been its intention than the consequences of such an action for Pakistan would indeed be grave. Apart from other military and economic action which India would be bound to carry out the natural lay of the Indus water system will place Pakistan in great discomfort.

India’s response would be to block the flow of the Chenab River into Pakistan thereby depriving Pakistan of major tributary for the Indus. Technically it is possible to divert the water of the Chenab River and join it with the Ravi, thus retaining Chenab for India’s sole use. Under such circumstances, Pakistan would head for disaster, foremost because the water flows in the Indus River would drastically reduce, as the Jhelum would be the only main tributary. The Indus River could dry up even before reaching the Arabian Sea. This would have serious repercussions on Pakistan’s economy. The extreme consequence of the scenario of losing Chenab to India, and the Valley of Kashmir becoming the base for redrawing the map, would be the entire reworking of the canal and irrigation system in Pakistan.

It is therefore very clear that even capturing the Kashmir valley will not solve Pakistan’s problem. In fact such an action will only increase Pakistan vulnerability due to water scarcity. The preceding paragraphs have also brought out the immense importance of the corridor through which Chenab flows into Pakistan and same can also be examined in light of repeated Pakistani’s attempts to capture this area in the past.

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The other point that stands out is that India is at an advantage vis -a-vis Pakistan due the geographical location of the Indus water Rivers. How does India take advantage of this? One area of immediate concern for India will be to meet its water requirement for the future. The water potential of the Beas, Satluj and Ravi has already been exploited by India. Therefore this means that the only option left is the exploitation of the Northern Rivers. What are the repercussions of such an action? As long as India uses these Northern Rivers within the provision of the IWT there would be no major objections from Pakistan but a breach of the treaty will surely invite conflagration of hostilities from our neighbours. Moreover if India wants to project itself as a responsible country willing to shoulder greater responsibility in line with its growing economic status than such an action will have detrimental results. An unstable neighbourhood as it is will deny India of any advantage that it accrues fro abrogation of the treaty.

The above arguments elucidates that India does not have many options. As is the case with Pakistan belligerence over water is not going to solve any problem in fact it will create more. The resource available is meant for use of both the countries and has been done throughout history and therefore there is no reasons why both the countries cannot strive for a integrated development approach of the Indus basin and division of water resources is done not based on geographical partition of rivers but based on actual needs and appropriate sharing.

Integrated Development Approach

A sustainable solution is possible only if it is based on a win-win formula. Currently, the root of the problem lies in the lack of harmony between the interests of Pakistan and India and Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan needs Jammu & Kashmir to build dams to divert water flows to Punjab and Sindh wheras India is frustrated at seeing precious resource flowing unabated into Pakistan.. On the other hand, Jammu & Kashmir needs to come out of the Indus Waters Treaty to improve its own irrigation, hydro-electricity and employment prospects. The irony is that deeper the conflict grows between Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan, the greater would be the desperation of Pakistan’s military to annex Kashmir, resulting in increase in terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and all over India. More the tensions mount, greater are pressures on New Delhi to take a hard line against Pakistan.

It is imperative for both India and Pakistan to envisage comprehensive development and planning in the River Basin. A holistic approach to water resources recognizing the interaction and economic linkages between water, land, the users, the environment and infrastructure is necessary to evade the impending water crisis in the subcontinent. The development of such a plan would require vast amount of financial and technical resources. It should be possible to mobilise such resources from around the world, perhaps with the World Bank agencies playing the lead role. The integrated development approach is Utopian. It is only possible with a paradigm shift in mindset and complete end to hostilities, both physical and psychological. The prerequisite of such an approach would be the following[4]:-

  1. Complete end to terrorism.
  2. Change in mindset in Pakistan about using Kashmiri youth as a tool to ensure Punjab’s prosperity and consolidate control over an increasingly alienated Sindh.
  3. Acceptance by both, India and Pakistan, to treat Kashmir for the good of the Kashmiri people, and increase efficiency in domestic water management.
  4. Restoration of mutual trust and confidence between both countries.
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Benefit sharing is widely touted as the solution to water conflicts around the world, although operationalizing the concept is tricky. Benefit sharing is appealing because it shifts away from a volume driven approach to a more ecological approach that specifies and shares the benefit derived from the water source. For countries to participate in a cooperative framework, benefit sharing must offer rewards greater than those of unilateral action[5] . Many would argue that given the level of animosity between the two countries such an approach is impractical. One must wonder if it is, in fact, a viable alternative. Should it not prove to be an acceptable alternative than the future seems bleak for India Pakistan relations? A careful approach to the problem will divulge that this approach is the only practical way of solving future water problems.

For an equitable and sustainable management of shared water resources, flexible, holistic approach of integrated water resource management is required, which can cater to hydrological variations in time and space and changes in socio-economic needs along with the societal values[6] . Given the commonality of water resources, the commonality of their utilization, and the commonality of the emergent issues, there is clearly a strong case for meaningful interaction between the scientific institutions and water management agencies across the region[7].This would include information sharing, collaborative studies, capacity building, and technology exchange. Rather than expending huge amount of money in building up offensive potential integration of interest will go a long way in building peace and harmony in the region. There is a need to establish a suitable regulatory framework that aims at integrated water management rather that just geographical division of water resources. With an appropriate regulatory structure, cross border transactions in
volving water services could be a significant source of employment, economic growth and livelihood security[8].

  1. “Spotlight on Indus River Diplomacy”,Robert G Wirsing and Christopher Jasparro, APCSS
  2. Waslekar, The Final Settlement, pp. 47-53, 73-78.
  3. ibid, pp. 47-53, 73-78.
  4. Ibid , pp 53.
  5. “Climate Change and Water: Examining the Interlinkages”, Jayashree Vivekanandan and Sreeja Nair, Troubled Waters by David Michel and Amit Pandya.
  6. “Water Resources of India”, Rakesh Kumar, RD Singh and KD Singh, Current Science, Vol 89, No 5 , Sep 2005 ,pp804.
  7. “South Asian Perspective on Climate Change and water policy”, Ashok Jaitly, Troubled Waters by David Michel and Amit Pandya.
  8. “The Management of Inter State Rivers as Demand Grows and Supplies Tighten” Ben Crow and Nirvikar Singh, MPRA accessed on line at
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