“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Arjimand forgets the “third strand” which is the ready access of some Kashmiri separatists into the Pakistani military-political establishment. Let these Kashmiri “leaders” prove their worth

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 34, was born in Srinagar. He is a columnist/writer and a development professional who matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Bangalore University and has a diploma in journalism as well. He is an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany and has worked with UNESCO, Oxfam and ActionAid International in some seven countries in Asia and Africa. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit.)

The Ways J&K Can Maneuver Indus Waters Treaty

Last week it was argued here that the Indus Waters Treaty per se does not impede power generation in J&K. Yes it does one thing in theory – prohibit construction of large dams and water storages. But the fact is that we already have water storages of certain capacity on the Chenab, the Jhelum and now on the Kishenganga.

There is another critical point that we must be conscious about: large dams in J&K would not serve its economic, social and environmental interests. They have not done so anywhere else in the world. So it is better we think beyond large dams.

When it comes to irrigation and drinking water, our analysis must distinguish between facts and rhetoric. J&K’s drinking water needs are increasing. That is just because our population is rising. If at all there is shortfall of drinking water in the state, it has nothing to do with IWT. The treaty does not place limits on drinking water use. The shortfall is because of low public investment and governance issues in the water sector. If there is good investment for tapping J&K’s drinking water sources and the government systems managing these are adequately reformed, J&K has abundant drinking water.

On irrigation, again we need to be clear about certain facts. In J&K’s – particularly Kashmir’s – plain areas, demand for irrigation water is decreasing. That is simply because people are shifting from water-intensive paddy to high-returns cash crops. The shift is mainly as a consequence of economic affluence in our rural areas and market demand. No measure of social or governmental actions is going to stop that.

We do surely need irrigation in our highlands – like the Karewas. Most of our highlands, like the Karewas, are fed by the tributaries of the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab. IWT offers great scope for development of irrigation facilities on these tributaries. All it needs is investment in check-dams, small reservoirs and rain water harvesting that will help irrigate our highlands. IWT has nothing to do with that.

Looking at the future, J&K’s agenda needs to have two strands. One strand has to focus on political negotiations with New Delhi on how to optimize the use of our water resources for the state’s well being. Srinagar has to pursue it with urgency and sincerity because if it does the contrary it is likely to face economic doom. New Delhi needs to act honest because if it does otherwise it will be facing far greater trouble in the state, which will go beyond its confidence level in managing the political strife here.

The other strand has to deal with the Pakistan factor. Since we are now practically asking for treating J&K as a key stakeholder, Pakistan’s involvement in a sustainable and cooperative water-sharing system is inevitable.

For doing that India and Pakistan will have to embrace integrated river basin development approach now. That would mean two things.

One, that would require involving Pakistan to invest in the Indus Basin conservation falling in J&K to compensate the state. The World Bank’s Integrated Watershed Development Project (IWDP) in Kashmir could be a possible model.

Two, the two countries would require to take joint measures for the conservation and development of the Indus Basin, including its demilitarization.

If J&K gets ownership of its power projects and right to develop others it could even consider creating an Indus Basin Power Grid, which could sell power to both India and Pakistan. That will be a win-win-win to all.

Kashmiris’ fundamental argument in this debate has to be this: Pakistan benefits from the western rivers downstream. India benefits from the eastern rivers exclusively. J&K state must harness the residual economic benefits from the western rivers of the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab. If those benefits go to India too, it will be great injustice. That is the crux of the whole argument.

Water in India is a state subject. And in simple constitutional terms J&K state has good scope to deal with it politically with New Delhi. What water minister Taj Mohi-ud-din has done lately serves as a perfect example.