Water scarcity


And water wars


True, the Indus Waters Treaty has survived the worst moments of the relationship – including wars – but if it hasn’t been able to advance the dispute any closer to resolution in almost six decades, there’s only so much to write home about. And, just like the meeting in Islamabad the other day, if it didn’t break the ice, it cannot really be counted as success. So, once again, after yet another round of Indus Waters, everybody is back to square one. The Pakistanis boasted having convinced the Indians to come to Washington later in the year – for the World Bank talks on the matter – but Delhi rubbished the news quickly enough.

One reason the water talks never get anywhere is the larger dispute hanging in the background. Both countries’ concerns about getting their own most urgent issues discussed first – Kashmir for Pakistan and terrorism for India – bring the ‘unsolvable’ aspect of the dispute to the water problem as well. That is why experts on both sides urge keeping both the K- and T-word out of Indus Waters talks.

For now, it remains to be seen how long Pakistan insists on World Bank arbitration on three controversial upstream projects India is building on Jehlum and Chenab while Delhi wants the matter settled by neutral experts. The neutral method did not turn out so well for Pakistan in the Baghlihar Dam case, so the emphasis on World Bank is understandable. Sooner or later, both countries will realsie that they will simply have to settle the water issue, or face perpetual war. And after having experienced conventional war, threatened war after turning nuclear and now triggering warnings about water wars, hopefully the two countries will finally make the right noises and do the right things.