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October 1, 2016

River water dispute between China, India & Pakistan

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

India and Pakistan have been busy in the war of words since last month's attack at Uri in Indian-ruled Kashmir which killed 18 Indian troops. India blamed Pakistan for the attack and Indian media reported that the Indian army has conducted a cross-border operation into the Pakistan-ruled Kashmir. However, the Indian Army formally denied any cross-border operation.

As the war of words continued between the two nuclear neighbors many Indian defense experts advised hawkish Prime Minister Naendra Modi to use the water as a weapon against Pakistan by scrapping the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

On September 26, Prime Minister Modi headed a top level meeting in New Delhi to reconsider the 1960 IWT agreement. Although no clear decision could be taken, while addressing the tiptop officials the Indian premier said: “Blood and water can’t flow at the same time.”

As India mulled scrapping of Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan China blocked tributary of Brahmaputra in Tibet to build dam.

According to Xinhua, China’s action on Friday (Sept 30) falls within the parameters of the larger Lalho project that began in 2014. The project on the Xiabuqu in Xigaze, also called Shigatse, involves an investment of $740 million, the head of the project’s administrative bureau was quoted as saying.

The Xiabuqu river is a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo, the Tibetan name for Brahmaputra  which is one of India’s major rivers, originates in Tibet and flows into Arunachal Pradesh and Assam before going into Bangladesh.

The multipurpose enterprise, which includes construction of two power stations with a combined generation capacity of 42 MW, was scheduled for completion in 2019. Its reservoir is designed to store up to 295 million cubic meters of water and help irrigate 30,000 hectares of farmland, Xinhua reported.

According to the outline of China’s 12th Five Year Plan, three are more hydropower projects on the mainstream of the Brahmaputra river in Tibet Autonomous Region have been approved for implementation. Last year, China completed the $1.5 billion Zam Hydropower Station, the largest in Tibet, built on the Brahmaputra river, which has raised concerns in India.

The Times of India said, blocking of the tributary would be a cause of concern for India as its flow goes into Arunachal Pradesh, one of India’s states, and provides water to Bangladesh as well.

Daily Pakistan Global said by scrapping the Indus Water Treaty, India wants to hurt Pakistan, however, if the agreement is withdrawn, it may end up irking China, indirectly. "China, without any doubt, is the best friend of Pakistan. It has announced to invest some $46 billion in Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). And there is another reason as well: Chinese government and firms are actually building almost all of the dams being constructed by Pakistan in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan."

In 1960, when the Indus Water Treaty 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 fulfill their needs. The World Bank has also been playing a role to appoint neutral judges to hear all IWT-related issues between Pakistan and India.

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

Currently, India is trying to reach IWT-like treaties with China, Nepal and Bangladesh citing the successful implementation of the Indus Water Treaty.

If India abrogates the very treaty, apparently none of these countries would take treaties with India any step forward, knowing the fact that India, at any time in future, would use water as a weapon against them.

Although China and India have had no water treaty, the two countries founded Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) on trans-border rivers while also signing in October 2013 MoU on bolstering cooperation which makes Beijing provide India with data on the water flows.

Hindustan Times said India will keep a close watch on the flow in the Brahmaputra river in coming weeks after China announced it was blocking one of its tributaries in Tibet.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com