Water politics or hydro politics is an emerging theatre of conflicts in Asia, especially in Southern Asia. As the ex-vice president of the World Bank forecasted that many wars of the 20th century were fought for oil, but wars in the 21st century will be over water. With time, the scarcity of water is rampant due to various reasons like increase in population, melting of glaciers, wastage of water resources, lack of water storage capacity, etc. The agrarian countries are at high risk due to their dependency on agriculture exports. The depletion of water resources will bring formidable effects on agrarian societies. It has been predicted that in the future, the scarcity of water can be the cornerstone of another world war.
Pakistan is among those countries that are highly dependent on agricultural exports. Around 40% of the population is linked with the agriculture sector, which directly contributes about 17% to 21% in the GDP of Pakistan. The majority of land in Pakistan irrigated by the rivers that are originated from the Himalayas and Karakoram Ranges, which passes through the Kashmir territory to enter into Pakistan.
In the past, India tried to halt the water flow of the Pakistani rivers that originated from Kashmir, which had increased extreme tensions between both countries. If the World Bank had not intervened at that time, the possibility of war between India and Pakistan was very high. The World Bank assisted in settling the water dispute between the rival countries. The Indus Water Treaty was a landmark agreement that was signed in Karachi on 19 September 1960, by Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan. According to the treaty, Pakistan was given the control of the Western rivers Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum, while India got control over the Eastern rivers Beas, Ravi, and Sutlej. Further, Pakistan was given financial assistance to build a canal system to fulfill the water needs of the eastern side of the country.
According to the treaty, India was allowed to use only 16% of the Indus river water for its domestic use. India was not allowed to build any dam, barrage, or hydropower project that can affect the supply of water on western rivers. But we have seen many times that India explicitly violated the treaty by building dams and hydro projects on the rivers whose control was given to Pakistan. This is a clear violation of the treaty that has increased the confrontation level between both countries.
India built Uri-II on the Jehlum river and Baglihar dam on the Chenab river that manifest the awful intentions to drain the water of Pakistani rivers. These issues ware highlighted by Pakistan on international forums but no fruitful results emerged, and India continued building hydro projects to deplete Pakistan water resources. It was included in the election manifestation of the BJP to build maximum dams on Pakistani rivers to create mayhem for the latter’s economy. This manifests the pathetic thinking of the Indian government to create conflicts deliberately to gain political points in elections.
The Kishanganga hydroelectric plant scheme on the Kishan Ganga river, which is a tributary of the Jehlum river, will affect the flow of water towards Pakistan. It is examined by the experts that this project will highly affect the level of water in the Jehlum river. Pakistan took the matter to the International court to stop India from the development of this project. International Court allowed India to build the project but also made it obligatory to maintain the minimum flow of the river water. Pakistan collected the evidence that shows that India is violating the order of the court. Pakistan then requested the World Bank for arbitration, but India Emphasised for a neutral expert opinion, which Pakistan refused since it will not be an obligatory decision for India. The matter is still underway, and both countries are in a major conflict, which can bring a disastrous outcome.
India’s nefarious intentions are not limited to the northern rivers, but India is trying its best to harm Pakistan by all means, and that is why India is working with Afghanistan to build a dam on the Kabul River so that the water coming into Pakistan from the river could be stopped. Kabul river has vast importance for Pakistan because it irrigates a huge amount of land in KPK and Balochistan provinces. The dam on the Kabul river in Afghanistan will directly influence the economy of Pakistan. This issue is the basis for another confrontation course between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
India is creating hydro conflicts not only with Pakistan but also for Iran by providing Afghanistan with funds to develop Salma Dam on the Hari river that flows towards Iran. This dam will decrease the flow of the river exponentially, which will bring economic problems for Iran.
India and China are both highly populated countries and their water consumption is increasing rapidly. Both countries want to fulfill their needs by building a maximum number of dams to store the water for future use. Most of the rivers that flow into India originate from Himalaya and Karakoram mountains, and China. Due to the high level of demand for water in China, the government has launched various projects to build dams on the rivers that are flowing towards India. If China continues on the current path, India will be deprived-off from one-third of its water in the future. This can repeat the same episode of 1962.
South Asia is considered a boiling point due to various regional issues. Three nuclear countries in this region have a conflict with each other. Indo-Pak and Indo-China rivalry have brought devastating impacts to the South Asian population. The scarcity of freshwater will be the next big cause of confrontations among South Asian countries, and it seems like a war is inevitable.