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Re-Imagining The Indus | A project of LUMS Pakistan and ORF India

Re-Imagining The Indus | A project of LUMS Pakistan and ORF India

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Published by Tarek Fatah
The project 'Re-Imagining the Indus' was carried out jointly by the Observer Research Foundation, India and the Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan is an inquiry into this issue.
The objective of the joint study was not to merely document the differences but to go beyond the shrill and clichéd stances that restrict innovative thought processes and provide fresh approaches for dealing with the real challenge that India and Pakistan face with regard to their shared water resources.
[…]
The rhetoric of an 'existential threat' posed by India with regard to water is perpetually repeated in academic as well as popular media circles in Pakistan quoting the political, military and bureaucratic elites to convince the public that the threat is real, thus legitimizing the use of exceptional measures to combat or prevent this threat
The project 'Re-Imagining the Indus' was carried out jointly by the Observer Research Foundation, India and the Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan is an inquiry into this issue.
The objective of the joint study was not to merely document the differences but to go beyond the shrill and clichéd stances that restrict innovative thought processes and provide fresh approaches for dealing with the real challenge that India and Pakistan face with regard to their shared water resources.
[…]
The rhetoric of an 'existential threat' posed by India with regard to water is perpetually repeated in academic as well as popular media circles in Pakistan quoting the political, military and bureaucratic elites to convince the public that the threat is real, thus legitimizing the use of exceptional measures to combat or prevent this threat

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Published by: Tarek Fatah on Aug 26, 2013
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03/04/2014

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Asalreadydiscussed, MCAisnotan appropriatetoolto determinethecausesor
motivation of howissuesarereported and framed and howtheyarereceived and
understoodbythereader or audience. To determinethesewewould need to augmentthe
finding of theMCAwith surveysand interviewsattheproduction and reception end of
themediachain. However, theresultsfrom theMCAdo provideuswith an overviewof
thecurrentdiscourseon water in Pakistan andIndia. Thefindingshelp usacquirean
insightinto thedistribution of focusin thedebateandthusgivean indication of the
areasthatarefrequentlyagitated, aspectsthatmightbeabsentand thebalanceamongst
thenarratives.

Re-Imagining the Indus

65

TheMCArevealed certain basicstatisticswhich helpedin identifying thekeythemesin
thewater debatein both thecountriesover thetwo seasons. Thecomponents
constituting thesethemesdo characterizethewayIndiaandPakistan look atthewaters
of the'Indus'. Itisfairlyevidentthatagriculture, India, internaldisputes, IWTand
environmentconstitutetheimagination of water bythePakistaniMedia. On theother
hand, governance, groundwater situation, domesticconsumption, agricultureand
domesticwater sharing constitutetheIndian media'sreportageon water. Surprisingly,
thereislack of significantpresenceof theIWTin thesamplesexamined. Theparadox
of thewater discourseisthatwhileitcoversallthemicro-narrativesthatareimportant
thelevelof debateor thesophistication of reporting on theseislacking. Thelevelof
debatecan betermed aslowbutunambiguous. Itislowasitskimsover issuessuch as
agriculturepractices, environment, awarenessand capacitybuilding butunambiguousas
thereisadeterministicpronouncementon issuesthattheydo agitatein their reportage.
Thisisestablished bythefactthatin thefindingsthe"NotMentioned"column isthe
winner, implying thatexpertopinionsand concernsareyetto findspacein themedia
discourse.

Media Content Analysis

PAKISTAN- MCA

Key themes

PAKISTAN

58

38

38

26

11

6

0

20

40

60

80

100

Agriculture

Indian

Trans Ressiogn

Governance

Inter Provincial

Indus Waters

Treaty

Environmental

Degradation

Number of sample sets

166

Figure 4.1: Pakistan– Imaginingthe Indus

166. The valuespresented in the graph isthe totalnumber of articlesmentioning the respective topicover the two seasons, out of a totalof
100 sample setsanalyzed.

66

Theabovefindingsalso showcertain criticaldifferencein themediadebatesof thetwo
countrieson water. Whilefor Pakistan, Indusissynonymouswith itsruralneedsand its
relationship with Indiato alargeextent, both theseelementsaresubdued in theIndian
debateswherewater isnowmoreof an urban themewith increased focuson issuesof
consumption, infrastructure and governance. This difference in our very
comprehension of thewatersof theshared river maylend itsown dynamicsto the
debate. Letusbrieflyexaminesomeof thesedistincttrendswhich mayotherwisebe
overlooked when discussing thelarger water narrativewith itspoliticalimplications.

168

Rural-Urban Imagination of Water

Re-Imagining the Indus

INDIA- MCA

Key themes

INDIA

45

35

30

27

11

3

0

20

40

60

80

100

Agriculture

Water Pollution

Governance

Interprovincial

Distribution Water

Indus Waters

Treaty

Domestic

Consumption

167

Figure 4.2: India– Imaginingthe Indus

Number of sample sets

Total Number of sample sets

INDIA- MCA

Rural Urban Bias

0

100

90

80

70

60

50

40

30

20

10

Governance

Agriculture

Domestic
Consumption

INDIA

PAKISTAN

Figure 4.3: Rural – UrbanBiasinIndiaandPakistan

167. Ibid.
168. Ibid.

67

Thewater oriented discussionsin Indiahaveastrong elementof urban concernsand
urban centricapprehensionsandinterventions. Theseareapparentwhen youseethe
emphasison domesticconsumption issues, urban groundwater issues(Seefig 1.5)and
on mattersof governance. Itisthemiddle–classand elitein urban centresthatisfar more
sensitiveto mattersof water management, infrastructureand governancein general. In
both theseaspectsthecoverageismoreslightlymorepronounced acrossseasonsin
India. On theother hand, thePakistanimediatreatstheruralissueswith greater
sensitivity, which couldbeattributed to itspoliticaleconomythatstillensuresgreater say
of theagriculturesector in itspolicy-making mechanisms. Thesescalar dichotomies
between thecountriesmayform thebasisof their uniqueapproach, policiesand
practicesaroundwater. Thisdifferencepresentsthedebateon water sharing anuance
thatwould entailcreating acommon vocabularyto achieveefficiencyin acooperative
arrangement. Needs, localpoliticaleconomies, lifestylesandaspirationswould need to
bereconciled, understood and managed.

Temporal Bias

In Pakistan during winterswhen theavailabilityof water islow, Indiaand Indian action
comeunder scrutinyandtheintensityof negativitytowardsIndiareducesconsiderably
asthewater flowimprovesin thesummer months. Whilethereasonsfor thiscould be
many, itwouldbenaïveto assumethatpoliticalopportunism (byasection)and an
attemptto deflectattention from poor governanceandinfrastructuredo notplaya

Media Content Analysis

Total Number of sample sets

Tempral Bias

0

50

45

40

35

30

25

20

15

10

5

Spring

Winter

169

Figure 4.4: Temporal biasinIndianandPakistanimediareportage onwater issues

INDIANMEDIA
MENTIONING PAKISTANI

PAKISTANI MEDIA
MENTIONING INDIA

169. The valuespresented in the graph have been calculated based on the number of articlesmentioning the respective topicin the two seasons,
out of a totalof 50 sample setsanalyzed for each.

68

significantrolein thevariability. Similarlyin India, whilethehyphenation of Pakistan and
Water ismutedin thewinter months, theawarenessof thecriticism from Pakistan
increasesin thesummer month. Thereisaseasonalphaselag on when each of the
countryissensitiveto theactionsand criticismsof theother. Isthiswitnessed dueto the
increased demand of electricityin theindustriesand homesin Indiathatnecessitates
Hydro Power generation?Do our specificwater requirementsshapethemediadiscourse
on issuesof sectoralandgeographiccontests?Areexpediencyand politicsshaping the
narrativesin thetwo countries?Thechallengefor thetwo countriesisclearlyto focuson
issuesof governancewithoutdeflecting blameon thepolitics; water shouldbede-
securitised and de-politicised so thatitremainsan organicdiscourseaboutpeopleand
resourcesand managing needswith capabilities.

Focuson environment

Thethirddistincttrend istheapparentlack of sensitivityto changing climate,
environmentaldegradation and agriculturepractices. Whilein India, itmayappear there
isafair degreeof concern on ground water availability, thedebateisstillrestrictedto one
on resourcescarcityrather than on theecologicalimpactof unsustainablewithdrawal.

Thefindingsshowthatthesearethethreeareaswhich receivelittleattention in the
reportage, even though theyarevitalto thelife, livelihood and socio-economic
developmentof thecommunityand region. Theneglectof moreefficientagricultural

Re-Imagining the Indus

FOCUSONENVIRONMENT

0

100

90

80

70

60

50

40

30

20

10

Crop
Diversification

Underground Water
Issues

Environmental
Degradation

INDIA

PAKISTAN

170

Figure 4.5: FocusonenvironmentinIndiaandPakistan

170. The valuespresented in the graph have been calculated based on the number of articlesmentioning the respective topicover the two seasons,
out of a totalof 100 sample setsanalyzed.

69

practiceslikecrop diversification andtraining and capacitybuilding for thesameisa
symptom of thelowlevelof debateon substantiveissues. With their hugepopulations
stillgrowing andglobalwarming affecting water availabilityand quality, Indiaand
Pakistan should begin to revisittheir individualand collectivediscourseon thissubject
and thismayaid in shaping amoreconsidered collectiveaction.

Theabsenceof thesekeythemesin thedebatewhiledisappointing also do present
opportunitiesfor cooperation between thetwo countries. JointDataCentreson water
and RegionalEnvironmentMonitoring Station maybetheappropriatenextsteps.
Sharing of individualexperienceswith technologiesandpoliciesmayalso bepossibleby
instituting aJointWorking Group on thisresource.

On apositivenotetheMCAshowsthatthelevelof hostilitytowardsIndiaremains
relativelylowand reducessignificantlyover thetwo seasons. Theperiodichostility
between thetwo countriesmighthaveled usto expectamoreaggressivediscoursethan
whattheMCAdemonstrates. Itisalso apparentthatthedebatehasnotyetbeen
subverted byeither terror groupsor bythepoliticalrightin thetwo countries. Whilethis
isan aspectthatshould causeconcern to both governments, dialogueand realtime
cooperation on managing theriver maybetheonlywayto preventthisfrom happening.

Lastly, thereportageon IndusWatersTreaty(IWT), another perceived areaof friction
and dispute, hasbeen relativelymoderateand sober and thereseemsto belittledebateor
substantivedisagreementon thetreatyin themediaspace. Whilewecan safelyinfer that
theprovisionsof theIWTarenotdescribed asunfair bythereportage, Indian action and
perceived transgression isclearlyamajor narrativein mediareportsin Pakistan.

Thisreportagesuggestsalevelof sophistication wherethereseemsto beadistinction
between thetwo and thisneedsto bepreserved. Poor implementation of thetreatyby
thetwo sidesmustnotunderminethestrength of thescheme. On theother hand, amore
robustengagementmechanism around thetreatymaynotonlystrengthen itbutalso
improvetheimplementation of theprovisionsin letter and spirit.

Thechallengeisto raisethelevelof thedebatewithoutraising thepitch. Thewater
narrativeneedsto bemoreinformed and sensitiveto someof themicro-issuesthatare
vital. Issuesof climate, crop patterns, agriculturepractices, water infrastructureand use,
water policymustallfigureincreasinglyin water reportage. Atthesametimeto create

Media Content Analysis

70

such awarenesswemustnotgeneratehysteriaand paranoiaover climate, pollution or
scarcitylestthesearesubverted byvested interestsandthenarrativeredeployed for
politicalpurposes.

Re-Imagining the Indus

Theriver Indusriseson theTibetan Plateauand in itspassagethrough Pakistan and India
itdrainsthrough thehighestmountain rangesof theworld. Thebasin issometimes
referred to asthe'Third Pole'asitcontainsthegreatestareaof perennialiceoutsidethe

171

Polar Regions. TheHimalayan glaciersand snowsustain water flowin theIndusand
rich mineralsedimentsfrom themountainscontributeto thefertilityof thealluvial

172

plains.Acombined annualaveragevolumeof about175 billion cubicmetres(175
cubickilometresor about140 million acrefeet)including allmajor tributariesis

173

discharged into theIndusplains. Thebasin extendsover 1 million squarekilo-meters
with roughly59 percentin Pakistan, 28 percentin Indiaand therestin Afghanistan, Tibet

174

and China.

TheIndusbasin isknown to beoneof theoldestareasof agriculturalproduction.
Though thereisalack of continuousrecord on agriculturalpracticesin theIndusBasin
in thepre-colonialera, availablerecordsshowthattheannualfloodsof theIndusand its
tributariesshapedthedevelopmentof agriculturein theregion and water availabilityand

175

reliabilityweredetermining constraintsof agriculturein thebasin.Thissection of the

5

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