J&K wants Centre to annul Indus Treaty
14 April 2002
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Pushed back to the wall by what it sees as Centre’s laid-back attitude on an issue of vital importance, the Farooq Abdullah government will soon make one last attempt, within the parameters of Centre-state relationship, to seek unilateral abrogation of the Indus Water Treaty before fighting it out in public. Prior to taking up the demand with the Centre formally, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly is likely to pass a resolution asking at least for review of the treaty given the consensus that has emerged among the members irrespective of party affiliations during the just-concluded Budget Session. In the past, such requests made out to the Centre went unheeded. J&K state works minister Ali Muhammad Sagar said, “Our patience is running out.” Cancellation of the treaty was one of the few hard moves in India’s consideration to hit back at Pakistan in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Parliament House last year. It was believed in New Delhi that the move would actually catch Islamabad bending. But for the international implications of such a harsh move and the possibility of Pakistan moving to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, the idea was shelved and instead other measures including closing of India’s airspace to the neighbouring country were taken. But Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah and his party felt hurt at the Centre’s insensitive attitude towards problems created by the treaty for Jammu and Kashmir. He has all along been against what he believed was an “illogical and discriminatory” pact between the two neighbouring countries. Some time back, the state government had planned the Tulbul navigational lock project in the Wular lake in the north-western part of the Valley to stabilise the two major hydroelectric powerhouses on river Jhelum. It was also exploring the possibilities of a few more projects on the Kashmir’s main river which originates from the Verinag spring, about 85 km south-east of Srinagar, and goes down to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir through the Valley. But the project did not see the light of the day in the face of stiff resistance by Islamabad saying it went against the Indus Water Treaty signed between the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and Pakistan President Field Marshal Ayub Khan, on September 19, 1960 at Karachi. The treaty awarded the three eastern rivers — Ravi, Sutlej and Beas — exclusively to India and the three western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — exclusively to Pakistan except for limited uses by India in the upstream areas of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. As per the treaty, the construction of storage dams in upstream Jhelum within the Kashmir Valley is not allowed. That is why the hydroelectric projects on the Jhelum have to be in the run-of-the- river schemes. A series of meetings between visiting Pakistan delegations and their Indian hosts held during the past six years failed to make any breakthrough on this issue. The state government has, time and again, pleaded with the Centre either to seek abrogation of the treaty or, at least, compensate the state for the losses that it suffers due to the pact. Experts feel the abrogation of the treaty will definitely hit Pakistan’s agricultural production as the three rivers on which it has got exclusive right on both sides of the border irrigate vast areas of its Punjab and Sindh provinces besides the PoK. Also, some of the hydroelectric projects of the neighbouring country, including the one set up at Mangla with the help of the American engineers in the 1960s, will be hit hard. If the treaty is abrogated, India can store water of these rivers for generating more hydroelectricity. At present, almost all such projects are run-off-the-river ones and several new proposals with the Jammu and Kashmir government are gathering dust. Nevertheless, the move has far-reaching implications of international importance. The outside world may not see the abrogation of the treaty in good light. Pakistan can well move the International Court of Justice to seek injunction against India. “It will also certainly approach other world organisations to plead its case and there are chances of our move not being seen in its true perspective by the outside world,” a top official of the state irrigation department said. The implications over the treaty’s fallout on Jammu and Kashmir economy was echoed by the legislators on Wednesday when most of them wanted the Centre to realise the aspirations of the people and keep the promises made out to them from time to time. “The treaty has badly hit our economy,” complained CPI(M) member Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami. He said had Sheikh Abdullah not been dismissed and detained in August 1953, the treaty could have been prevented. Endorsing his views, Mr Sagar urged the Centre to safeguard the economic interests of the state as it had to bear a recurring loss of Rs 6,500 crores annually due to the Indus Water Treaty. He confirmed that the state government has, time and again, apprised the Centre of its concerns regarding the colossal losses on account of the treaty; thus badly affecting the socio-economic development of all the three regions of the state. In this connection, Mr. Sagar referred to the agreement reached between Sheikh Abdullah and the then Punjab chief minister, Mr Prakash Singh Badal, in 1979 on raising the Shahpur Kandi barrage under which Jammu and Kashmir had to get about 11, 000 cusecs of water discharge from Ravi to irrigate its own over one lakh hectares of land particularly in Jammu region. However, despite the construction of 90-km long Ravi-Tawi canal by the Sheikh government, the Shahpur Kandi Barrage project is gathering the dust even after 23 years. According to Mr. Sagar, Jammu and Kashmir has been deprived of all opportunities to harness its 15, 000 MW power generation potential as a consequence of the Indus Water Treaty. “Concerted efforts have been made to persuade the Centre to compensate these losses but no solid cooperation is forthcoming from it,” he complained. He also confirmed reports that the legal opinion on how to proceed in this matter has been sought. But he sounded highly agitated over certain elements at the Centre being inimical to the interests of the state and its people. “In fact, the successive governments in New Delhi right from 1953 have tried to infringe and erode the socio-economic and political rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and for this puppet state governments were used,” he charged. He admitted that Indus Water Treaty is an international commitment made by India, but it should compensate losses incurred to Jammu and Kashmir on this account.