Kishanganga Project: A Source of Conflict

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Once again India is using the strategic location of Kashmir valley against Pakistan. Pakistan’s economy is largely based on agriculture which depends upon rivers that flow from Kashmir towards Pakistan. Indian illegal occupation on Kashmir valley is also an occupation on the waters of Pakistan. Any time India can flood or damage Pakistan by utilizing the potential of rivers of Kashmir.

The first time India did this tyranny by blocking the water supply in 1948. After this with the help of World Bank, India and Pakistan signed a remarkable Indus Water Treaty (IWT) in 1960. According to this treaty, India got full right on three rivers Ravi, Sutlej, and Bias and remaining three rivers Chenab, Jhelum, and Indus came into Pakistan’s part. Although India has full right to utilize all potential of its rivers, it has been disturbing the water flow of Pakistani rivers.

Many times India has threatened Pakistan to make it barren. Frequently in their aggressive speeches, Indian leaders threaten by saying that water and blood can never flow together. Pakistani politicians have also replied that any activity of this kind will be considered as an act of war because water is the matter of death or life for Pakistan.

On May 19, 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Kishanganga hydroelectric project in Kashmir. Generation capacity of this project is 1713 electric units. This dam is a clear violation of Indus water treaty as it will divert the water of River Jhelum into an underground powerhouse. River Jhelum flows from Kashmir to Pakistan naturally. This Dam will transfer the flow of water from Gurez valley back into Indian occupied Kashmir instead of allowing it to enter in Pakistan.

India had started work on this Project in 2007. Pakistan took this case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague in 2010. Petition in court resulted in the staying of work on Kishenganga Dam for three years. PCA gave the verdict in 2013 on this issue. According to the court verdict, this is the run off the river plant and India can construct and operate the dam under the obligation of maintaining the minimum flow of water in the river. The court fixed the minimum flow of water to 9 cumecs a unit of flow equal to one cubic meter of water per second.

India declared that it was lowering the height of the dam from the planned 98m to 37m and resumed construction at full swing. Pakistan, however, collected evidence to prove that India was violating the court’s verdict.

Pakistan again went to World Bank in August 2016 and asked for the appointment of a court of arbitration to review the designs of Kishanganga Dam on Jhelum River and Ratle Project on River Chenab. India refused the suggestion by saying that Pakistan’s objections are technical in nature and should be resolved by a neutral expert. World Bank held several rounds of talks on this issue until September 2017 but failed to resolve the dispute.

In April 2018 Pakistan again wrote to the World Bank demanding that India should abide by the treaty. Now after the inauguration of the Project by PM Modi Pakistan is sending a high-level delegation for talks with World Bank under the leadership of Attorney General Ashter Aousaf. Reservations of Pakistan are right on this issue. 274 villages of Pakistan will become barren due to a shortage of water. India can also flood Pakistan whenever he wants by opening the gates of the dam. In this way population of Pakistan, especially of Azad Kashmir, will be at the mercy of a merciless neighbor.

The stance of Pakistan is totally according to international laws on this issue. India is violating International Law by constructing these dams. Geographically Pakistan is a lower riparian state and India is an upper riparian state. International laws define rights of upper and lower riparian states. The Madrid Declaration of 1911 says that the regime of rivers and lakes, contiguous or successive, could not be altered by one state to the detriment of a co-riparian without the consent of the other. The Article 2 of Declaration of Montevideo 1933 points that no state may, without the consent of the other riparian state, introduce into water courses of an international character, for industrial or agricultural exploitation of their waters, any alterations which may prove injurious to other interested states. The Article 4, Chapter 2 of Helsinki Rules 1966 on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers’, adopted by the International Law Association also insists on this issue. United Nations General Assembly had also adopted a Convention on the Laws of the Non-navigational Uses International Watercourses on May 21, 1997.

India is also a lower riparian state with respect to China. It had raised the issue of the rights of lower riparian states on the international forum when China blocked the water of Brahmaputra River in 2016. So, it should also respect the rights of the lower riparian state in case of Pakistan.

The international community should also support Pakistan in upholding international laws because in the twenty-first century there is no place for the lawless state of savagery. The world community should also come forward for the resolution of ever longing dispute of Kashmir which is the main bone of contention between two nations because any further increase in hostilities between India and Pakistan can lead to a disastrous situation for the world as both have atomic weapons in their arsenals.

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