A New Conflict between India-Pak Water Treaty?

A new conflict between India and Pakistan is likely to emerge over water treaty.  It is Indus Water Treaty (IWT) that gives right to India over the three rivers — Indus, Chenab and Jhelum, aside the better control that the Treaty grants to Pakistan.

The two newly created Union Territories (UTs) of Ladakh and J&K may have been the wisest move by the Government of India, but that has further strengthened diplomatic, strategic and economic cooperation between China and Pakistan. India has never exercised its rights with full throttle over IWT, because of bogy created by some vested interested political groups in Kashmir that Pakistan has the sole right over the waters of these rivers.

On 13th May 2020 an Rs 442 billion contract with a joint venture of China Power and Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) a commercial arm of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, was signed for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam. The Chinese state-run firm holds 70 per cent and the FWO, 30pc share in the consortium

It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan had conceived the project in 2006, but could not make much progress as international lending agencies declined to fund the project because of New Delhi’s objections. But they sealed the deal at first available opportunity, when New Delhi raised its pitch reasserting that the Gilgit Baltistan and PoK was an integral part of India. While on the other hand, face-offs between Indian Army and Chinese People’s Liberation Army along the Line of Actual Control in northern Sikkim and eastern Ladakh renewed the focus on the protracted boundary dispute between India and China. Diplomatically and strategically Pakistan in process of gaining support from China

The dam will come up on the Indus River near Chilas in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa(KPK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) regions of Pakistan. It will be located in the Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan province, about 315 km upstream of the Tarbela Dam and 40 km downstream of the Chilas town. Over 32,000 acres of land, including about 31,977 acres in Gilgit-Baltistan and 162 acres in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa(KPK), have been acquired in January 2019, which comprises approximately 86 per cent of the total land required for the project.

Pakistan, surreptitiously encroached within the borders of the disputed area GB,the legal part of Jammu and Kashmir. At the first instance grabbed the land in the district of Diamer (GB) and then Basha (in KPK). If this area had remained with (GB), then KPK would not even have a claim on Diamer -Basha dam at all. It means Pakistan has exploited natural resources of GB for rest of its other regions.

The eight million acre feet (MAF) reservoir with 272-metre height will be the tallest roller compact concrete (RCC) dam in the world. It will have a spillway, 14 gates and five outlets for flushing out silt. The diversion system involves two tunnels and a diversion canal — all three having one kilometre length each. The bridge — a box girder structure — under the contract will be constructed downstream of the dam structure while the 21MW power plant will be built to meet energy requirements of the project during construction.

The fallout for India is acute, as the area where it is being built, particularly Diamer district, is the territory of J&K that legally belongs to India. Secondly, the dam would have gross storage capacity of 8.1 million acre feet (MAF), including 6.4 MAF usable water storage capacity. This will shrink and slow the flow of the river waters in Ladakh. It can create a real water crisis in the UT and down below.

It is strategically disturbing scenario for India. It would mean more consolidation of Chinese troops’ footprints in Gilgit-Baltistan that run parallel to the highly sensitive and strategically located Ladakh region. However, India has lodged protest against this project as well as on the conduct of elections in Gilgit Baltistan.

On 30 April 2020 The Supreme Court of Pakistan allowed the Federal Government of Pakistan to form a caretaker government and hold General election in Gilgit-Baltistan. Election commission Gilgit-Baltistan has also issued a notification for termination of administrative powers of Gilgit Baltistan Chief Minister and Provincial Ministers

The Gilgit- Baltistan Assembly term will end on 24 June 2020. Of 33 member house, 24 members are elected by FPTP ( First Past the Post.) And six seats for women and 3 for Technocrats through PR (Proportional Representation ) are elected.

At present;-. PML (Nawaz ) - 21, Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) - 2. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F)- 1,. PTI - 1. Balwristan National Front -1,. Pakistan People’s Party - 2. Islami Tehreek Pakistan (ITP)- 3 Independent – 1.

Presently Gilgit Baltistan government is headed by Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman of PML (N). Gilgit-Baltistan is administratively divided into three divisions: Baltistan, Diamer and Gilgit, which, in turn, are divided into fourteen districts. The principal administrative centres are the towns of Gilgit and Skardu.

Political activists from Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) have termed the decision of the Pakistan Supreme Court to hold elections in Gilgit-Baltistan and form an interim government there as illegal and unconstitutional. According Mumtaz Khan, the elections outcome in these two regions will be largely determined by the political situation within Pakistan. Because right now military is in political conundrum due to the governance crisis of Imran khan's failure to deliver.

A seven-member larger bench of The Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed on April 30 allowed the plea of Prime Minister Imran Khan-led federal government to amend the Government of Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018 to conduct the general elections in September as well as setting up a caretaker government during the interregnum period.

Keeping the record straight the United Nations had asked Pakistan to establish local authority in Gilgit in 1947. UN asked Pakistan to refrain from a material change in the occupied territory. The presence of Pakistan's troops in Gilgit Baltistan constitutes material change.

Gilgit Baltistan is illegally occupied by Pakistan and the United Nations has proposed to form a completely independent government in its affairs until the future of Gilgit Baltistan is decided, which Pakistan has never recognized.

All the Acts and Orders issued by the Government of Pakistan including Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018, 2019 and Election Act 2017 are unconstitutional and illegal. Neither the President of Pakistan nor any other institution has the constitutional authority to make administrative and constitutional decisions for Gilgit Baltistan.

The fact is that Pakistan Supreme Court under the pressure from Pakistan Army has ordered the Imran Khan-led federal government to conduct elections in G-B. Because they want to get rid of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government and replace it with the PTI government to have control over Gilgit Baltistan.

A senior political leader from Gilgit who wanted to remain anonymous told this journalist “ a lot of debate has started in social media and unfortunately most of people are tight lipped due to draconian law Shedule-4 (it is anti terrorist act , a person arrested under this act cannot visit or travel any other place without reporting to police, bank accounts and passport seized, can not apply for jobs etc ) many activists have been placed arrested under shedule-4 to keep their mouth shut. “ He admitted that Shias are at receiving end and under constant stress from their religious leaders who have been always playing as pawns and touts of Islamabad.

Under possibility and probabilities, elections would be postponed under the pretext of epidemic virus and care taker government at Paksitan;s choice will be formed. If all goes well then elections will be in March -April 2021.

In the late 1990s, the President of Al-Jihad Trust filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to determine the legal status of Gilgit-Baltistan. In its judgement of 28 May 1999, the Court directed the Government of Pakistan to ensure the provision of equal rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, and gave it six months to do so. Following the Supreme Court decision, the government took several steps to devolve power to the local level. However, in several policy circles, the point was raised that the Pakistani government was helpless to comply with the court verdict because of the strong political and sectarian divisions in Gilgit-Baltistan and also because of the territory's historical connection with the still disputed Kashmir region and this prevented the determination of Gilgit-Baltistan's real status.


More by :  R C Ganjoo

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