Pakistan douses Modi’s ire on water flow

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Friday conveyed to India that it cannot stop its water supply in violation of the international laws, officials said.

The development came after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi threatened to cut off Pakistan’s water supply. “The fields of our farmers must have adequate water. Water that belongs to India cannot be allowed to go to Pakistan. The government will do everything to provide enough water to our farmers,” the Indian prime minister said at the inauguration of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Bathinda.

He argued that India had the right on the waters of Sutlej, Ravi and Beas, which were flowing in the Pakistani territory.

“Indian farmers have the right on the waters of Sutlej, Ravi and Beas. It is flowing in Pakistan but they are not making any use of it,” Modi had said.

“The water does not come to your [Indian farmers] fields but goes to the rivers of Pakistan,” he said. "We have formed a task force on the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) to ensure the farmers of Punjab and other states get each drop of water due to them,” Modi said.

He vowed that he would bring every drop of Indian water from Pakistan back to the country for his farmers and the people.

The officials at the foreign ministry of Pakistan said concerned diplomats had contacted India to remind it of its commitments. “We can ignore it if it is just a political statement but we still have to react,” said a senior official.

The annulment of the Indus Waters Treaty – which was agreed by Pakistan and India with the World Bank as a third party in 1960 – would not be such an easy move for New Delhi. Unilateral withdrawal from the IWT will bring in the third party – the World Bank.

In 1960, when the IWT was signed, the World Bank acted as a third party. It was responsible for the provision of funds to both countries for the construction of several dams and canals to fulfil their needs. The World Bank has also been involved in appointment of neutral judges to hear all IWT-related issues between Pakistan and India.

Under the IWT, Pakistan was given three major rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, while three other rivers Ravi, Sutlej and Beas were given to India.

Summarily, the IWT, which has survived worst periods of hostilities between Pakistan and India during last five decades including wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971, and the Kargil conflict, is hardly threatened in the current tension.

Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria said any violation of the IWT by India would be unacceptable.

The spokesman said appropriate action would be taken in line with the treaty in case of any violation by India.

Defence analyst Major-General Farooq Malik (retd) said India could not scrap the IWT unilaterally.

“Modi can say whatever he wants for domestic consumption but he cannot touch the treaty,” he said. General Malik said India knew Pakistan would always win a case on the water issue and such an action would also irk China.

International Affairs expert Huma Baqai said Modi’s statement was nothing more than a political gimmick.

“This is not an agreement that can be scrapped unilaterally. There are consequences,” she said.

Baqai said India was trying to divert world attention from the bloodshed in Kashmir by issuing such statements.

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