A top Pakistani diplomat has called on the world community to ensure that international agreements on waterways, such as the 1960 World Bank-brokered Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan, were not undermined through “unilateral or coercive measures”.
“Access to water is a fundamental right that must be protected at all times,” Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, told the Security Council, while warning against any use of water as an instrument of coercion and war.
Speaking in a debate on “Water, Peace and Security”, Ambassador Lodhi noted that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had, in his opening address, also cited the 56-year-old treaty, which regulates the flow of six rivers between India and Pakistan, as an example of positive cooperation.
“We will respect and protect our existing understandings and build where they are yet to be reached,” she said.
Her remarks were obviously aimed at India which threatened to block water supplies to Pakistan after militants attacked in Uri sector of the Indian occupied Kashmir in September.
While the Indo-Pak treaty was a “model of what can be achieved through bilateral agreements”, the Pakistani envoy said it was equally a good case study of what could go wrong if such pacts were not honoured or threatened by one of the state parties to be abrogated altogether.
“The international community must remain vigilant to any sign of unwillingness to maintain cooperation and be willing act to avert any conflict.”
As regards member states’ ability to cooperate in water sharing, Ambassador Lodhi said there were several international institutions capable of address the technical or financial needs for developing and sustaining cooperation.
However, she said the only international body that can enhance member states’ political ability to cooperate was the Security Council.
“It is the Security Council’s responsibility to resolve international conflicts and disputes, especially longstanding, prolonged conflicts, in particular in Asia and Africa,” the Pakistani envoy said.
“Unburdened by conflicts of the past, new challenges can then be addressed cooperatively and comprehensively.”
Reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to maintaining cooperation in the face of water scarcity, Ambassador Lodhi said Pakistan will not allow this challenge to put international peace and security at risk.
According to a concept note issued by Senegal, which hold the 15-member Council’s presidency for November, that in the same way that disputes over oil and land have led to conflicts now and in the past, disputes over water could lead to confrontations in the future, if nothing is done.
The debate is an opportunity to showcase successful experiences and mechanisms for cooperation and mediation with a view to strengthening one of the UN’s weaknesses, conflict prevention.
At the outset of her speech, Ambassador Lodhi said Asian and African States, in particular sub Saharan States, were all witnessing a growth in population, vulnerability to climate change and an ever-increasing hunger for development. The countries of those regions were likely to be the first to face the challenge of sharing transboundary waters.
Therefore, the ability of such countries to cooperate and peacefully share water resources would be critical to their peace and security.
Ambassador Lodhi also underscored that regions most likely to be affected by acute water scarcity were those facing political turmoil and conflict. Member States, she said, must be willing to share water resources peacefully.
The international community should promote bilateral and regional agreements on waterways and ensure that, once those agreements were developed, they not be undermined through unilateral or coercive measures.