Author: Saadut
•5:09 PM

Ejaz Haider in his opinion piece ‘Some realist advice for Hafiz Sayeed’ raised many a points about conflict, water, Kashmir and India – Pakistan. I am no fan of Hafiz Syeed, nor in any case do I condone his acts but some realism was missed in Mr. Ejaz’s article. 

Mr Ejaz says “The Indus Waters Treaty has worked very well so far”: Worked well form whom? It may be working well for India and Pakistan but can the same be said about Kashmir; people who had the first right of use on these waters, a right which stands deprived for decades now?  

The Indus Water treaty of 1960 gave almost exclusive rights on waters of Punjab rivers Ravi Sutlej & Beas to India and Kashmir waters Chenab, Jhelum & Indus to Pakistan. Even though Jammu and Kashmir was already an internationally recognized dispute between India & Pakistan its waters were traded off by India. Keeping in view the disputed nature of Kashmir, India should have allowed Pakistan its share of the waters of Ravi, Sutluj and Beas instead of handing them over rights over waters from a disputed Kashmir, on which both countries were already staking a claim. Also under International law, Pakistan by virtue of being a lower riparian state had rights to water usage for all the six rivers flowing into its territory (3 of Punjab and 3 of Kashmir), even if we kept the dispute in temporary abeyance. Mother of ironies was that the no Kashmiri leader or representative was involved or taken on board during the IWT (Punjab leaders were however involved), while its waters were being traded off.  Even Shiekh Abdullah (in spite of all his pro India leanings) was in jail when the IWT was being put in place and strongly opposed it then. 

“India wants to deprive Pakistan of its waters”: Such fears are not totally unfounded if we take into account how in 1948 India had stopped water flow to Pakistan resulting in colossal damage to crops there, after which Pakistan was compelled it get into inter-dominion agreement followed by the IWT in 1960.
Since Pakistan was a party to Kashmir dispute, how could it agree to rights over waters of Kashmir in lieu for forfeiting rights over other rivers flowing into it from India?  By signing the IWT did Pakistan legally accept that India had a decision making ownership right over the resources of disputed Kashmir? Since Pakistan signed IWT with India and not Kashmir, does it means Pakistan had accepted India’s claim of ‘Kashmir atoot ang’.

Not only did the IWT dent Pakistan’s claim on this dispute but it infringed upon the rights of Kashmiri’s over their waters. Because of the IWT not only has the agrarian economy in Kashmir suffered (IWT prohibits Kashmir from storing water for irrigation or generation) but it has also denied locals proper utilization rights over waters including for navigation (what became Tulbul Navigation Project for India was the Wullar Barrage for Pakistan) and power generation. With an estimated hydro-power potential of 20,000 MW’s of which 16480 MWs have been identified, Kashmir continues to reel under perpetual darkness; its development in a limbo for the past 6 decades. And even of the 2318 MW (14% of potential exploited) the state owns only 758.7 MW’s. The majority of this generation being controlled by Indian firm NHPC, known as ‘The East India Company’ in Kashmir, accused of resources exploitation here.

In a classic case of how Kashmir suffers from both sides, in some cases Pakistan objects to projects in Kashmir resulting in delays and cost overruns (for example Baglihar) in others India comes in way by refusing counter guarantees for projects where J&K government had secured funding from various IFI’s (international financial institutions) (for example Kishenganga). Ironically the Kishenganga project was again later handed over to NHPC, ‘The East India Company’. And this case of electricity deprived darkness stands true for the Pakistan side of Kashmir too, where power generation capacities are huge. There is no denying the fact that Pakistan (by virtue of IWT) is depended on waters flowing from Kashmir for most of its needs. But India & Pakistan water sharing agreements should not be at the cost of Kashmir’s own future.
Pakistan and India may be happy at IWT but that is purely at the cost of robbing Kashmir.
“Disenchantment” Of course nobody advocates that ‘barrel and bomb’ are going to give Kashmiri’s their due, but in a scenario where both India and Pakistan seem in no serious mood to resolve Kashmir, Kashmiri’s can only get pushed to the extreme wall. Having been subject to political and economic deprivation for long, the Kashmir dispute is alive and disenchantment only simmering. 

Lately India and Pakistan have been talking of ‘greater economic cooperation’ to bridge the trust deficit, but how can a core territorial issue be resolved by enhancing trade contacts remains unexplained. Ironically in the name of this ‘greater economic cooperation’, Kashmir has seen how a primitive barter system as ‘cross LOC trade’ was sold to them as a confidence building measure; a CBM that has been part hijacked by non local traders and part by absence of any commerce trading channels (state apathy on both sides). Blindfolded trade looks good on paper; in practice it forces a retreat. 

Talk of ‘People to people channels’ for resolving Kashmir and a limping LOC bus service was offered which faced more firewalls than collaborative efforts to make trans Kashmir travel easy. Thousands of divided Kashmiri families have been in wait for years now to have their papers approved while thousands more applications are still ‘in process’. 
Whichever government comes into power in India and Pakistan and whatever place they may accord to this dispute on their priorities, Kashmir will continue to remain the pivotal barometer for gauging India Pakistan relationship. Whatever the circumstances, Kashmiri’s will continue to strive for their genuine political and demographic rights. When both India and Pakistan try to slide Kashmir down their list of priorities (current Pakistan political dispensation having hurt the cause of Kashmir most), it is only people like Hafiz Syeed who will grab centre stage. 

Blame it on the indifference of political powers on both sides about Kashmir, not on the interest of Hafiz Syeed in Kashmir.

8th August, 2012 

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