Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Baglihar Dam and Kashmiri interest

Baglihar Dam and Kashmiri interest
Dr Shabir Choudhry 27 January 2005

According to news Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Jehangir Karamat will meet World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn at the bank's headquarters in Washington on Wednesday 26th January in connection with the Baglihar dam.

After failure of bilateral talks Pakistan approached the World Bank for help under Article 9(2) (a) of the Indus Waters Treaty. A leading expert of the World Bank in Washington has predicted a 'prolonged' and 'complicated' legal battle over Baglihar project. The World Bank has made it clear that it is just a “signatory and not a guarantor” to the Indus Water Treaty.
Pakistan has asked for the appointment of “neutral experts”, who will examine if, the treaty provisions had been violated by India while building the project on the Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir. It must be noted that for the appointment of “neutral experts” the World Bank needs the approval of both countries, as both have major say in this matter; and this process alone could be time consuming and it will give India sufficient time to complete the project.
Under the provisions of Article VIII (1) of the Treaty, both countries have appointed a Commissioner for Indus Waters. Both Commissioners are representatives of their Governments and together form the Permanent Indus Commission; and are responsible:
1. to establish and maintain cooperative arrangements for the implementation of the Treaty;
2. to promote cooperation between the Parties in the development of the waters of the 'Rivers';
3. to make every effort to settle promptly any question arising between the Parties; and
4. to undertake tours of inspection of the Rivers to ascertain facts.

The water dispute between Pakistan and India is nearly as old as the Kashmir dispute itself. Even before the lapse of British Paramountcy on 15th August 1947, fight for control of strategically important state of Jammu and Kashmir was on. Both India and Pakistan wanted to have control of this state, not for welfare of the Kashmiri people, but to satisfy their ego and national interest.

In order to out manoeuvre each other strategies were worked out, and when Pakistani authorities realised that the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir is dragging his feet, and might not honour his commitment because of Indian pressure, despite Standstill Agreement with the Maharaja, they blockaded the supply of goods and encouraged the Tribal Invasion.

India on its part wasted no time and made arrangements to fly- in troops to take control of Srinagar airport; beleaguered and panic stricken Maharaja was pressurised to sign Instrument of Accession that India could officially send troops to help him.

In his letter to Governor General of India, on 26th October 1947, the Maharaja wrote: ‘Though we have got a Standstill Agreement with the Pakistan Government, that Government has permitted steady and increasing strangulation of supplies like food, salt and petrol to my State. Afridis, soldiers in plain clothes, and desperadoes, with modern weapons, have been allowed to infilter in to the State.... and it has become difficult to stop the wanton destruction of life and property and looting.’

The Governor General of India in his reply to the Maharaja said: ‘In response to your Highness’s appeal for a military aid, action has been taken today to send troops of the Indian army to Kashmir to help your own forces to defend your territory and to protect the lives, property and honour of your people.’

According to this the Maharaja acceded to India in order to protect his State and his people; and Government of India sent in troops to save life, property and honour of the Kashmiri people. We all know that the accession has been in dispute since that date and people of Kashmir demand unfettered right to determine their future; and there is no respect to life, property and honour of the people of the State.

This controversial accession resulted in a war between India and Pakistan, and as soon as Arbitral Tribunal was wound up, India on 1st April 1948 stopped irrigation waters in every irrigation canal which crossed the India-Pakistan boundary. This action had great affect on Pakistan and authorities felt urgent need to formulate an agreement regarding the future use and distribution for the use of waters.
Even though the war was still going on, after a temporary agreement, India restored some water supply in May 1948. This partial restoration was not sufficient for Pakistan’s water requirements, and negotiations between the two failed to resolve the dispute. World Bank was asked to intervene and negotiations commenced in May 1952, in which some progress was made, but they failed to agree on a comprehensive plan for the utilization of the waters of the Indus River System. After eight years of intense negotiations both governments signed an agreement which is known as the Indus Water Treaty, and was signed at Karachi on September 19, 1960.
Under the Article 3, Paragraph 2 of the Treaty, ‘India shall be under an obligation to let flow all the waters of the Western Rivers, and shall not permit any interference with these waters, except for the following uses, restricted in the case of each of the rivers, The Indus, The Jhelum and The Chenab, to the drainage basin thereof: (a) Domestic Use; (b) Non-Consumptive Use; (c) Agricultural Use, as set out in Annexure C; and (d) Generation of hydro-electric power, as set out in Annexure D.
Although this provision allows India to use water of Chenab for ‘Domestic Use’, Non – Consumptive Use, ‘Agricultural Use’ and for ‘Generation of hydro- electric power’; however it is for the neutral experts to define terms of the Treaty and see if India has violated the Treaty or not.

From a Kashmiri point of view presence of both governments in Jammu and Kashmir is legally questionable, but both governments have certain obligations to protect interest of the Kashmiri people; and both have signed this Treaty with their national interest in mind. Water of Chenab and other rivers is a natural resource of Jammu and Kashmir, and it must be used for betterment of the people of the State.

The people of Jammu and Kashmir have first priority over the use of this water, and one wonders what legal right both India and Pakistan have over the usage of this resource; and worse still to give it to each other at the cost of the Kashmiri people. Despite abundant water resources people of Jammu and Kashmir do not fully benefit from it, and in different parts of the State people don’t have clean drinking water and electricity.

It is painful to note that dams built and electricity generated by uprooting thousands of Kashmiri people and from a Kashmiri resource, is ‘exported’ to either India or Pakistan, and people of Jammu and Kashmir have to suffer as a result of this policy. Without a reliable supply of electricity no economic development could take place, and those who occupy Jammu and Kashmir know this very well, and they deliberately deprive the people of the State to ensure that they remain economically backward and rely on them.

Once I asked a nationalist leader from Gilgit and Baltistan about the economic development in that area. He angrily replied that either I was naïve or making fun of their backwardness. We are lucky to get a few hours of electric supply in a day for domestic use; and how could there be economic development if there is no electricity. I understand situation on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir is also bad and people have to put up with long hours of load shedding.

Some Indian officials urge their government to abandon or re negotiate terms of the Indus Water Treaty because there has been population growth since the time when the Treaty was signed; and water and energy demands have arisen dramatically and under the present arrangements India could not meet these demands.

It is important to remember that both countries had wars and serious threat of a nuclear war since the Treaty was signed, and yet the Treaty survived all the tension and shocks of the wars; and even survived Kargil misadventure of 1999, and attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001.

Some Kashmiris are also demanding abrogation of this Treaty because this was signed without their consent and without taking welfare and interest of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in to consideration. Abrogation or ‘scrapping’ is not a serious option, as it will create many problems with international dimension, and both countries are not in a position to open new areas of confrontation or enlarge the existing ones.

It is under the terms of this Treaty Mangla Dam was built in Mirpur which uprooted tens of thousands of people; and more than hundred thousand could be uprooted as a result of the upraising of this Dam. Construction of this dam has brought misery and suffering to the people and we don’t even get a royalty for it; and I suppose situation is same where dams are built in other parts of the State.

In view of this it might be a good idea to re negotiate terms of the Treaty where representatives of the Kashmiri people could also have their say in order to protect their interest. Indus Water Treaty has only benefited India and Pakistan, and we the people of Jammu and Kashmir who have title to the Kashmiri resources are denied fruits of their own resources.
I hope that Kashmiri leaders and political parties will take a pro Kashmiri stand on this and will not support policies of India and Pakistan, especially when they are exploiting the people of Jammu and Kashmir
Writer is a Chairman of Diplomatic Committee of JKLF and author of many books and booklets. Also he is a Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:

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