“Blood and Water cannot flow together,” clearly said PM Narendra Modi. Let the trade factor to remain secondary
NEW DELHI: Weighing its options to hit back at Pakistan for sponsoring terror, India has decided to revisit the 56-year-old Indus Waters Treaty as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday bluntly said that “blood and water cannot flow together”.
Using water as a weapon, the government has decided there would no meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission set up to overlook implementation of the treaty till “terror is in the air”, and that India would also take a final call on the unilateral part of suspension of the Tulbul water navigation project in Jammu and Kashmir depending on what Pakistan did next.
The two major steps as well as maximising the flow into India of river waters — used by Pakistan — were decided upon at a meeting of senior officials chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.
The meeting decided that an inter-ministerial commission would be set up to look into various provisions of the bilateral water treaty that was signed in Karachi on September 19,1960, out of Pakistan’s fear that since the source of rivers of the Indus basin is in India, it could potentially create droughts and famines in Pakistan during times of war.
“Blood and water cannot flow together,” official sources here quoted Modi as having said during the meeting.
The meeting was attended, among others, by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Nripendra Mishra.
The meeting decided to look at the full utilisation of the waters of the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum, the three western rivers of the Indus water system that flow through Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan.
Around 95 percent of the waters of the three eastern rivers of Sutlej, Beas and Ravi is ustilised by India.
Signed after 10 years of discussions, the Indus Waters Treaty was designed to generate goodwill between the two South Asian neighbours and has survived three wars.
The meeting, according to sources, decided that with things being “rather difficult” with Pakistan in the past few weeks, India should revisit the treaty.
It was also decided that there would be no meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission, till Pakistan stopped sponsoring terrorism against India. The commission has held 112 meetings till now at an average of two a year.
Work on the project was suspended in 1987 after Pakistan objected to it, saying it violated the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty.
The inter-ministerial commission that will be set up will be tasked with reaping maximum benefits from the Indus water system for farmers.
At present 9.12 lakh hectares of land has been harvested with these waters in India, the sources said and added that there was potential to harvest eight lakh acres more.
Though India as of now has no storage facilities for these waters, the government is now looking at the full utilisation of the 3.6 million acre feet of water it is entitled to.
The meeting also decided to look at the possibility of generating the full potential of 18,000 MW of power from these rivers.
As of now, India is generating only 3,034 MW. Projects are under construction for generating 2,526 MW, while projects for generating 5,046 MW are at an advanced stage of approval.
The Salal hydroelectric project was constructed on the Chenab river.
The Pakal Dul hydroelectric project on the Marusadar river, a tributary of the Chenab, is under construction in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir, while the Bursar project on the Chenab in Kishtwar district is to be implemented by the National Hydro Power Coproration.
India–Pakistan trade relations are abysmally low accounting for less than half a per cent of India’s total global trade involving both exports and imports, apex industry body ASSOCHAM has said.
Out of India’s total merchandise trade of USD 641 billion in 2015-16, Pakistan accounted for a meagre USD 2.67 billion, of this India’s exports to the neighbouring country amounted to USD 2.17 billion, or 0.83 per cent of the total Indian outward shipments while imports were less than USD 500 million, or 0.13 per cent of total inward shipments.
“In all, trade with Pakistan was equivalent to 0.41 per cent of India’s global merchandise commerce,” said Mr D.S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM.
“Thus, the MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status or no MFN has not made much of a difference on the bilateral trade, while India has granted Pakistan the MFN status, Islamabad had not responded but even with the MFN status, Pakistan’s exports to India remained less than half a billion dollar,” said Mr Rawat.
He said that for political reasons, the businesses have not been cultivating interest in each other’s country.
“Going forward, as things stand today, it is almost no movement seen in the immediate future. Even the symbolic presence of Pakistan exhibitors at the annual India International Trade Fair (IITF) in November in New Delhi is not expected whether or not formal ties are snapped or not, given the present state of affairs,” said Mr Rawat.
On its part, India Inc is fully and solidly behind Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi for steering India’s interest in the best possible directions. “The strategic decisions are fully the domain of the government which enjoys the full backing of the nation,” the ASSOCHAM said.
Even as India was grappling with the global slowdown, its merchandise exports were USD 261 billion in 2015-16, while imports were USD 380 billion. India’s main exports markets are the European Union, the US, Africa and the South East Asia. “There has been fair amount of activity in Latin America as well.”