Indian Decade

Water Issue Heats Up

A clash between reality and public sentiment in Pakistan on the water issue?

Pakistan scored a diplomatic point over India during the Foreign Secretary-level talks in New Delhi on February 25 by successfully bringing the water issue to the long list of outstanding bilateral disputes between the two neighbors. However, there might be a disconnect between the ground reality and what the public sentiments in Pakistan are being made out to be.

The Pakistani provinces of Sind, Baluchistan and southern Punjab are facing serious water shortages, mainly because of the failure of rains during the winter Rabi season and northern Punjab possibly using additional water from the quota of other provinces. Some have speculated that Pakistani authorities, army and Jehadi groups are orchestrating some propaganda by diverting the responsibility of shortages away from Punjab and towards India. But interestingly, Pakistan’s Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar went on record to say on February 13 that India might have built dams, including Baglihar dam in Jammu and Kashmir, in accordance with certain agreements.

Meanwhile, Indians also appear livid about Pakistan upping its ante on the water issue. The Indian mood was reflected on March 12 during a seminar called ‘Afghanistan Beyond the London Conference: India’s Options,’ hosted by newly-launched think tank Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF). Several speakers even eloquently expressed how India could use water as a strategic weapon to deal with Pakistan. I’ll be elaborating further on this tomorrow.