Home EYE FOR AN EYE: DECIMATING PAKISTAN THROUGH OOTW MEANS

EYE FOR AN EYE: DECIMATING PAKISTAN THROUGH OOTW MEANS

The last two weeks have seen Pakistan resorting to unprovoked firing at Line of Control (LoC) and the International Boundary (IB). As Indian Army’s relentless action against terrorists continues in J&K, Pakistani Army has again stooped to a new low of targeting civilian areas along the borders resulting in death of seven civilians besides five soldiers losing their lives. Over 40,000 civilians have been evacuated to safer areas. Though a determined assault by Indian Army and BSF has caused heavy damage to Pakistan Army and Ranger posts, Pakistani troops continue to engage innocent villagers in their mindless quest.

The last five decades have shown that Pakistan does not understand the dialogue mechanism and the only survival mantra for Pakistan Army continues to be an effective anti-India tirade. Perhaps, it is now time to wargame and debate measures openly to thwart Pakistan’s actions and convey to the policy makers across the borders that the Indian establishment will not hesitate to employ means at its disposal other than war to vanquish Pakistan. Given the last few decades experience, it seem that the time has come for India to practice the adage by Sun Tzu; “The Supreme Art of War is to Subjugate the Enemy without Fighting”.

India today is a rising economic power with Indian economy slated to be the third largest economy by 2028 and by 2050, is expected to be the second largest economy in the world. Given its economic clout and resources available, it is prudent that a long term effort be set in motion to give a befitting reply to continuous Pakistani pin-pricks. Though there are many avenues available to Indian decision makers, an effective strategy can be the meticulous implementation of the Indus Water Treaty by effective usage of waters from three western rivers of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.

Under the treaty provisions in Article III, India can use the western rivers for Non-Consumptive needs such as agriculture use, domestic use and generation of hydro-electric power. The treaty signed in September 1960 after nine years of protracted negotiations, provides 80 percent of water allocation to Pakistan. Under the treaty, Pakistan was allocated 125 Million Acre Feet (MAF) where as India got only 33 MAF. India can use upto 20 percent of Indus river water and can have 1.25 MAF water storage capacity for agriculture and domestic use, use river waters for run of river hydro-electric power plants with 1.6 MAF storage capacity and nominal flood storage capacity of 0.75 MAF. As per Article VII, Future Co-operation, India was duty bound to inform Pakistan of any construction on western rivers. Pakistan has used this provision to deny or delay construction of hydro-electric dams on Jhelum and other tributaries to deny India its rightful share. The Tulbul project was stopped in 1987 on Pakistan’s insistence.

The harnessing of western rivers is long overdue, India has not even fully harnessed the potential of the three eastern rivers; Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. Construction of multi dam project on Ujh river, which is a tributary of Ravi river was opposed by Pakistan even though Ravi is part of eastern rivers allocated to India. Pakistan had also opposed the Kishanganga and Ratle hydro projects though the treaty permitted the construction. The World bank agreed in India’s favour when Pakistan opposed the construction. It is only lately that Indian polity has realised the importance of water as a strategic weapon and hastened construction of eight hydro-projects of Sawalkote (on river Chenab, 1856 MW), Kirthai I and II (on river Chenab, 390 and 930 MW), Kiru (on river Chenab, 624 MW), Pakal Dul (on river Marusudar; a tributary of Chenab, 1000MW), Kwar (on river Chenab, 540 MW), Bursar (on river Marusudar; a tributary of Chenab, 1020 MW) and Ujh (on Ujh river, 212 MW). Capable of generating 6352 MW and constructed with an investment of over $ 9 billion, these hydro-electric projects will enable India to harness the western rivers within the treaty provisions.

India must plan hydro projects and storage capacities on eastern rivers of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej so that minimum water from these rivers reaches Pakistan. The most fertile plains in Eastern Pakistan lie within the areas of Jhelum, Ravi, Chenab and Sutlej rivers.  The headworks at Sulemanki and Islam barrage of river Sutlej, barrages at Jassar, Shahdara and Balloki on river Ravi provide an effective water storage and irrigation system in Pakistan. Most of the water in these rivers has been fed into Pakistan from India. The network of canals formed between the rivers in Pakistan contributes to over 70 percent usage for agriculture. If India was to efficiently harness the water from the eastern rivers, production in Pakistan’s food bowl will be severely reduced. 

Pakistan has been abusing India’s generosity by stoking insurgency in J&k and intermittent firing on LoC and the IB. India must have a time bound five point agenda to effectively neutralise Pakistan’s belligerence once and for all. Firstly, complete all ongoing hydro-projects on eastern rivers by 2030. The government must ensure that all clearances are fast tracked as a national priority and do not fall prey to litigations and unnecessary court cases. Also, all storage capacity permitted under treaty provisions must be created by 2030-40 timeframe. Secondly, set in motion water harnessing plan of western rivers, which are for Indian use. Minimum water must be allowed to be fed towards Pakistan. Thirdly, the sharing of project details with Pakistan as per Para 10 and 11 of Annexure D of the Indus Water treaty can be at India’s discretion as these are acts of good faith and Pakistan’s actions do not warrant such bonhomie. Fourthly, convey to the Pakistani authorities Indian intent of using water as a weapon if Pakistan does not heed to cross border firing. Most importantly, act on the coercive diplomacy to bring Pakistan to heed Indian advice. Harsh measures are the need of the hour. It is time India displayed its steel fist without the velvet glove.

Ashwani Gupta is former senior fellow CLAWS. Views expressed are personal

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Ashwani Gupta
Former Senior Fellow
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