India’s building of the Baglihar Dam has now shown its consequences. The building of the dam, in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty, has led India to prevent the flowing of the waters of the Chenab River from Kashmir into the Punjab plain. Because India is not releasing the 55,000 acre-feet of water into Head Marala it is supposed to. Because the flow is only 5806 cusec there, two canals, the Chenab and Marala Link Canals, have had to be closed, with the result that vast tracts of Punjab have been deprived of irrigation water. This is particularly painful at a time when farmers are sowing, or have just sown, wheat, the country’s main staple. Since these two canals irrigate lands in Narowal, Sialkot and Gujranwala districts, India’s violation of its treaty obligations means that one of the most fertile areas of the country is threatened with drought at the height of the wheat sowing. This will not just affect regional, but national, and even global, wheat production figures in the coming season.
India is apparently doing exactly what the IWT was meant to stop: practising water terrorism, something it did when it stopped water flowing to Punjab’s rivers, just after Partition. India is not playing the role of a good upper riparian, something in which it is encouraged by the government of Pakistan, which is not effective in using the Treaty to its advantage, pursuing Pakistan’s case properly at the International Court of Arbitration. Instead of pursuing a firm and innovative diplomacy to persuade India to accede to a dialogue on the Kashmir issue, which it is trying to avoid, it has busied itself in giving India what it wanted, such as Most-Favoured Nation status, even at the cost of its commerce and industry.
Apart from other things, the government needs to keep two things in mind. First, India cannot feed Pakistan, not even with the water it is stealing. Second, the government should realize that it faces an election soon, and thus cannot afford a crop failure, which if it occurs, would occur around the time of the poll. It should remember that the affected districts are where it has been merely competitive, but any failure here will have national consequences. It must not go into the next election with no action taken to protect the country’s crops.