Monday, October 20, 2008
KASHMIR, BAGLIHAR DAM & WATER WARS
First there was the Indus water treaty and subsequently there has been talk that J&K be bifurcated along ethnic lines – Muslim majority areas acceding to Pakistan and Hindu majority areas to India. Essentially this means Kashmir valley and its water resources move on to Pakistan – essentially Pakistan wants control of the waters. Importance of Baglihar dam comes in.
This shall never happen and if any Indian government dare contemplate this, it will be writing its political obituary for eternity.
Why is Pakistan hyperventilating on the Baglihar Dam?
Lt Gen (r) Hameed Gul (ISI-Pakistan) has said that India has so far built 62 dams and hydro-electric units on Pakistani rivers to deprive Pakistan of water and render into a desert. He said Pakistan was being deprived of water under an international conspiracy to conquer it. At this stage, some insane people were opposing construction of Kalabagh Dam in Pakistan, he added. He said that Shaukat Aziz’s influx in Pakistan was also part of the conspiracy as he formulated such policies, which put the country into crisis. He said that Shaukat Aziz created food shortage. He said the mujahideeen damaged Baglihar Dam and it could not be reconstructed. *
Hameed Gul, however, warned that the mujahideen would damage all dams. Sindh Water Council Chairman Hafiz Zahoor-ul-Hassan Dahr said that when the dispute on water would not be resolved, there would be conflict between the two countries. He said, “India is not building dams under the Indus Water Treaty but on the Pakistani rivers.” He said that the food shortage would be forty per cent next year that would increase starvation in the country. He warned, “Pakistan can become Somalia and Ethopia,” he added.
*Hamid Gul got it wrong. The Baglihar Dam was constructed and PM Manmohan Singh gifted India with the 450 MW Baglihar Hydro Project on 10th October 2008.
HOW IT HAPPENED? India claimed a "moral victory" in 2007 in its dispute with Pakistan over the Baglihar dam, on the Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir, after the World Bank-appointed neutral expert held that India had not violated the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960. He also said the dam could be completed with slight modifications in design and without any impact on the 450 MW power component. There will, however, be "marginal" additional financial burden on India for the estimated Rs. 4,000 crore project, scheduled to be completed by early 2008.
Impact on Pakistan : A report in New Scientist discussed the following issues for Pakistan:
1. Hydrologists in Pakistan believe that a breakdown of the treaty could lead to widespread famine, and further inflame the ongoing conflict over Kashmir,
2. Pakistan relies on the Indus river and its tributaries for almost half its irrigation supplies,
3. Pakistan relies on the Indus river and its tributaries to generate up to half of its electricity,
4. Pakistan fears that India would use the Baglihar dam as a coercive tool by causing floods in Pakistan through release of dam waters.
Accordingly, in researching and producing a case study analysis of this dispute, there are 4 main issues to be investigated. First is the explicit poverty and ecological effects construction of the dam would have in Pakistan.
Second is the effects on agriculture the dam would have- according the CIA World Factbook 21.6% of Pakistan’s Gross Dometic Product is agricultural and 42% of its labor force is engaged in agriculture.
Third is the production and consumption of energy. This issue is as much a factor for India as it is for Pakistan. Pakistan may not allow India to access the Iranian gas through its territory, if it ever came to such a pass. One of the many possibilities Paksitan may use against India.
Fourth and finally is the threat that the dam could also be used as a weapon by India. Pakistani seem to have been confirmed in July of 2005 when India released 564,000 cubic feet per second of water into the Chenab from the Baglihar dam thus flooding portions of Pakistan.
The interplay of various environmental factors are illustrated in the image above (Image : New Scientist). Red arrows indicate a negative relationship (ie increasing stress or decreasing the affected variable); green arrows indicate a positive (increasing) relationship with an affected variable. The hexagons represent variables of strategic interest.
So, is it any surprise that the Pakistani air force as recently as few months back war gamed an air attack on the dam sites in Kashmir?
Ahmed Quraishi, a right winger with close contacts with ISI, wrote on his site : Three years ago, a Pakistani military school war-gamed over the question of India’s Baglihar Dam. Civilian and military officials were divided into mock governments that wrestled with the future prospect of India stopping the water flow in Chenab. An assertive mock government went as far as using Pakistani air force to strike down the Indian construction on the river after the collapse of the water treaty with India.
India’s response : September 2008 – India has deployed six Sukhoi-30MKI jets in Kashmir. The fighter planes are currently housed at the Avantipura air force base near Srinagar, where they will help reinforce a number of aging MiG-21 jets. The Sukhois are reportedly slated to execute “pervasive missions” over Kashmir and the mountainous Ladakh sector.
Wow! In a long time, I am seeing a pro-active India and not a reactive India.
On October 12th 2008, Pakistani President Zardari warned India that any breach of water treaty would harm ties with Pakistan. Pakistan would be paying a very high price for India’s move to block Pakistan’s water supply from the Chenab River, said the President in a statement to the press.
Going by my “wow statement” a little earlier – it seems India is at last playing the game right with Pakistan. With railways being flagged for the first time in Kashmir, we must ensure that infrastructure spending is increased manifold and integrate the Kashmir valley logistically with Jammu. After economic integration, we can move for the final solution on the Kashmir issue.
Till that time, hold on the Baglihar and its gains tightly.