Indian Decade

Politics of Water

Insider updates from a recent conference shed more light on water politics.

Yesterday I mentioned a seminar I attended called ‘Afghanistan Beyond the London Conference: India’s Options,’ hosted by VIF on March 12.

Well it was at this time that one of the panelists, Naresh Chandra, rubbished the idea of playing around with the Indus Waters Treaty—the only bilateral India-Pakistan agreement that has remained intact for the last 50 years. Chandra, a former Cabinet Secretary, who has also had a stint as Water Resources Secretary, reminded the audience that the World Bank is a third party and a co-guarantor of this treaty.

Chandra argued that any move by India to tinker with the treaty would give ammunition to the common populace of Pakistan to blast India for its insensitivity and scant respect for international laws.

He further argued that Pakistan had lately been pitching on the water issue to divert domestic attention from the ongoing clash among its provinces wherein Sind is the worst sufferer. By violating the treaty, India would be helping Islamabad and scoring a self-goal, because then New Delhi would be shifting the focus from domestic unrest within Pakistan by making itself hugely unpopular among the people of Pakistan.

Chandra then came up with another unimpeachable argument: presuming that India exercises its rights as an upper riparian state, how would India feel if other upper riparian neighbouring countries like Nepal and China were to do the same with New Delhi? And Chandra’s co-panelist Brajesh Mishra, the former National Security Adviser, entirely concurred with him.