India threatens to stop flow of water to Pakistan; Islamabad ‘not concerned’

February 24, 2019 - 9:47

TEHRAN - The heightened tensions between two warring neighbors India and Pakistan in the wake of recent terrorist attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir have drifted towards waters now.

India has threatened to stop the flow of water to Pakistan and divert it to northern states of Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab.

Minister for water resources Nitin Gadkari created a stir on Thursday by saying that New Delhi was planning to build projects on three rivers flowing into Pakistan, to divert water towards Yamuna.

“Our government has decided to stop our share of water which used to flow to Pakistan. We will divert water from eastern rivers and supply it to our people in Jammu and Kashmir, and Punjab,” he tweeted.

The statement provoked debate as many observers in New Delhi said the move was not feasible.

Under the Indus Waters Treaty, signed in 1960 and brokered by the World Bank, India shares water of Beas and Sutlej rivers with Pakistan. It gave India “unrestricted use” of the eastern rivers – Sutlej, Ravi and Beas while giving Pakistan unrestricted use of the western rivers – Chenab, Jhelum and Indus.

The treaty came after India in 1948 had cut off water supply from Sutlej, which flowed across the border into Pakistan, threatening agriculture in that country.

Earlier at an event in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Gadkari had said that the water from three rivers entering Pakistan would be diverted towards Yamuna River. He said the government was working on a project to connect three rivers to further explore possibilities of transportation in them.

“Three of our rivers have been flowing into Pakistan. So water which we rightfully owned was going into Pakistan. Now we are planning to create a project and divert the waters of these three rivers to the Yamuna. So you can understand that there will be enough water in the Yamuna,” Gadkari said.

A day after his statement, India’s water resources ministry issued details of various projects being worked upon to enforce it.

However, a senior official in the ministry, said it was not a “new decision” and that the minister was “simply reiterating” what he (Gadkari) had always said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan said it was not concerned over the plan to stop the flow of its share of water to Pakistan from Ravi, Sutlej and Beas rivers under the Indus Water Treaty.

A senior official from Pakistan’s ministry of water resources was quoted saying by Dawn that they have “neither concern nor objection” if India diverts water of eastern rivers and supplies it to its people or uses it for other purposes, “as the IWT allows it to do so”.

“Actually India wants to construct Shahpurkandi dam at the Ravi basin. This project is abandoned since 1995. Now they (India) want to construct this in a bid to use its own share of water that goes unutilised and finally flows to Pakistan. So if they want to use this whether through storing it, through construction of this dam or any other way for their people, they can do as we have nothing to do with it,” the official said.

“But we will definitely express our concerns and raise objections strongly if they use or divert waters of western rivers (Chenab, Indus, Jhelum) on which our right to use prevails,” the official added.

According to Pakistan’s commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Mehr Ali Shah, whether India diverts or uses its unutilised share of eastern rivers’ waters, Pakistan has no problem.

“They want to do it now, we have no problem. And if they don't want to use this, we have no issue,” Shah was quoted as saying.

This is not the first time India has threatened to cut off water supply to Pakistan as ‘punitive action’ against terrorist attacks allegedly backed by Pakistan.

In 2016, when an army camp was attacked in north Kashmir’s Uri by suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad militants, Prime Minister Modi had declared that “blood and water cannot flow together” and the government had threatened to walk out of the treaty.

Last week, a deadly attack rocked Indian-controlled Kashmir, leaving 27 security personnel dead. The responsibility for it was also claimed by Jaish e Mohammad.

Since the attack, tensions have been running high as India has vowed a ‘befitting reply’ to Pakistan, even threatening to ‘diplomatically isolate’ Pakistan in the international community.

In an article in Scroll, Ipsita chakravarty said the decision to cut water flow to Pakistan wasn’t the right way to retaliate.

“While India tries to hold the Pakistan government accountable for its alleged involvement in cross-border attacks, it should not punish the millions of Pakistani citizens trying to make do with less and less water every year, just like their counterparts this side of the border,” she wrote.