Pakistan and India do not care about Kashmiris
Ejaz Haider, in his recent opinion piece in The Express Tribune entitled ‘Some realist advice for Hafiz Saeed’ raised many a points about conflict, water, Kashmir and India–Pakistan. I am no fan of Hafiz Saeed, nor in any way do I condone his acts, but some realism was missed in Mr Ejaz’s article.
“The Indus Waters Treaty has worked very well so far,” he states.
Worked well for whom, dare I ask? It may be working well for India and Pakistan but can the same be said about Kashmiris, the people who had the first right of use on these waters, a right which stands deprived for decades now?
The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960 gave almost exclusive rights on waters of the Punjab rivers Ravi, Sutlej and Beas to India, and Kashmir waters Chenab, Jhelum and Indus to Pakistan. Even though Jammu and Kashmir was already an internationally recognised dispute between India and Pakistan, its waters were traded off by India. Keeping in view the disputed nature of Kashmir, India should have allowed Pakistan to use and share the waters of Ravi, Sutlej and Beas instead of handing over to them rights over waters from a disputed Kashmir, on which both countries were already staking claim.
Under international law, Pakistan by virtue of being a lower riparian state had rights to water usage for all six rivers flowing into its territory (three of Punjab and three of Kashmir), even if we kept the dispute in temporary abeyance.
The mother of all ironies was that no Kashmiri leader or representative was involved or taken on board during the IWT (Punjab leaders were involved), while its waters were being traded off! Even Sheikh Abdullah (in spite of all his pro India leanings) was in jail when the IWT was being put in place.
“India wants to deprive Pakistan of its water”
Such fears are not totally unfounded if we take into account how India in 1948 had stopped water flow to Pakistan resulting in colossal damage to crops. After this Pakistan was compelled it get into inter-dominion agreement followed by the IWT in 1960.
Could Pakistan, being part of the dispute, agree to rights over waters of Kashmir in lieu for forfeiting rights over other rivers flowing into it?
Did Pakistan by signing the IWT, legally accept that India had a decision making ownership right over the resources of disputed Kashmir?
Since Pakistan signed the IWT with India and not Kashmir, does that mean that Pakistan accepted India’s claim of ‘Kashmir’s atoot ang’ (crown)?
If Kashmir was disputed, Pakistan should have treated it such with India in the IWT also.
Not only did the IWT dent Pakistan’s claim on this dispute but it infringed upon the rights of Kashmiris over their waters. With an estimated hydro-power potential of 20,000 MWs of which 16480 MWs have been identified, Kashmir continues to reel under perpetual darkness; its development is in limbo for the past six decades. And even of the 2318 MW (14% of potential exploited) the state owns only 758.7 MWs. The majority of this generation being controlled by Indian firm NHPC, known as ‘The East India Company’ in Kashmir, who has been accused of resource exploitation here.
Pakistan and India may be happy with the IWT but that is purely at the cost of robbing Kashmir.
Of course, nobody advocates that ‘a bullet and a bomb’ are going to give Kashmiris their due, but in a scenario where both India and Pakistan seem in no serious mood to resolve the Kashmir dispute, the Kashmiris can only get pushed to the extreme wall.
Talks of greater economic cooperation and Kashmir resolutions, have seen how a primitive barter system in the name of ‘cross LOC trade’ was sold to them as a Confidence Building Measure (CBM); a CBM that has been part hijacked by non local traders and part by the absence of any commerce trading channels. Blindfolded trade looks good on paper; in practice it forces a retreat.
Talk of people-to-people channels for resolving the Kashmir dispute and a limping LOC bus service were offered which faced more firewalls than collaborative efforts to make Trans-Kashmir travel easy. Families have been in wait for years now to have their papers processed while thousands of applications are still pending in process.
Whichever government comes into power in India or Pakistan and whatever place they may accord to this dispute on their priorities, Kashmir will continue to remain the pivotal barometer for gauging the Indo-Pak relationship. Unfortunately, whatever the circumstances, the Kashmiris will continue to strive for their rights.
When both sides try to slide Kashmir down their list of priorities (current Pakistan political dispensation having hurt the cause of Kashmir like nobody else did), it is only people like Hafiz Saeed who will grab centre stage.
Blame it on the indifference of political powers on both sides about Kashmir, not on the interest of Hafiz Saeed in Kashmir.
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The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.