Islamabad believes in peaceful resolution Despite the pressure from local administrations inside Pakistan’s Punjab and Indian Punjab, in the past, to assert claims to national territory right up to the boundary and to forcibly take control of canal head works located on the border, the higher authorities instead opted to flexible working arrangements and mutual accommodation.
This has been stated by the author of ‘Indus Divided: India, Pakistan and the River Basin Dispute’ historian Daniel Haines in one of his latest write-ups.
Haines goes further to appreciate the restraint exercised by both the Pakistani and Indian armies as he says, “Both armies were wise enough not to risk escalation over patches of land that had little strategic value.”
“Already, small-scale armed conflicts between civilians and border police, especially over seasonal river islands, had dragged both sides into shooting matches.”
Moving forward from Haines’ appreciation of both armies on the Indo-Pak water disputes, it can be further asserted on the basis of Pakistan’s overall conduct and good diplomacy that Pakistani authorities in particular have always shown extraordinary care in resolving disputes of any nature, especially the issues arising out of construction of dams on western rivers whose water, according to Indus Water Treaty, is to be used exclusively by Pakistan.
And, in this area, Pakistan’s establishment and political governments have remained on the same page aiming at getting our due water rights through negotiations and mediation instead of escalation although India’s plans for hydropower projects in Kashmir at Baglihar and Kishanganga and elsewhere have remained a constant source of tensions. Pakistan has been protesting against these plans that simply meant breaking the Indus Water Treaty.
The present negotiations between the two sides, however, augur well and now it is being inferred from the other day’s Indo-Pak experts’ parleys that India would not ignore Pakistan’s concerns anymore.
Haines also appreciates good environmental diplomacy on the water issues. According to him, “Since 1960, the Indus Waters Treaty has governed relations over the rivers. The Treaty is widely known in the world of environmental diplomacy as a good example of peaceful water-sharing. It was negotiated without bloodshed, and has survived three wars between India and Pakistan.”
“Yet readers in South Asia hardly need to be reminded of the scale of recent conflict over the rivers. Following a militant attack on an Indian Army camp at Uri in September last year, which many Indians blamed on Pakistan, Indian hawks called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cut off Pakistan’s water supply.”
It may be recalled that Indian PM Narendra Modi did follow the hawks’ advice rather acted himself as the biggest anti-Pakistan hawk by publicly issuing such a warning in an unbearably aggressive tone that Pakistan’s water supply would be cut off.
Haines also gives benefit of doubt – rather a clean chit – to Pakistan by saying, “Journalists and scholars have long assumed that the water dispute was really about Kashmir, or that the Kashmir dispute was actually about water. But there is little hard evidence for such theories. For example, some historians have speculated that Pakistan’s formal entry into the Kashmir conflict in 1948 was partly intended to capture the headwaters of River Chenab. While researching, I found that the historical evidence had not been systematically examined. What I found was not a simple cause-and-effect relationship between the two disputes, but a complex, overlapping, and shifting set of insecurities. Kashmir and river water represented two of the key problems in how the leaderships of both nations imagined their own sovereignty”.