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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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REMOVE THE RIPARIAN IRON CURTAIN

ItwasunderstandablethattheIWTtook theshapeof a'riparian iron curtain'asitwas
partof the'divorcesettlement'between Indiaand Pakistan in 1947. Maximising the'use'
of water to enableIndiaand Pakistan to build their nationswasthedriving themewhile
ecologicalandsocialconsequenceswereoverlooked. Cooperation wasmentioned in
Section VIIof theTreatybutitwasmerelyan afterthoughtasitprovided no firm
guidelines. Itistimeto removetheriparian iron curtain in thecontextof theIndusWater
Treatyandincorporatesophisticated jointwater managementframeworksthatinvolve
activeparticipation from allstakeholdersfrom both sidesof theborder and takeinto
accountecologicalandsocialsustainability, climateimpacts, water and environmental
quality.

DE-SECURITISE THE DISCOURSE

If mutualself interestisthekeydriver of cooperation, then de-securitisation isthekeyto
theestablishmentof positivepeace. For thisthecoreproblem mustbeframed asoneof
relativewater scarcitywhich can beaddressed byrecourseto awiderangeof coping
strategiessuch astheextensiveuseof water managementtechniques, diversification of
crop patterns, shiftawayfrom water intensivecropsetcrather than asaproblem of
absolutescarcityandthusalimitation to economicgrowth. Asafirststep thede-
securitisation processwouldinvolveextensiveandsustained interaction between
stakeholderssuch asfarmers, policymakersand mediapersonnelin which therealnature
of thewater crisisin thebasin isbroughtout. Interactionsmustbefacilitated between

Re-Imagining the Indus

9. D'Souza, R. 2011. Hydro-Politics, the IndusWater Treatyand Climate Change: Writing a New Script for the IndusRivers

journalistsfrom both countries, especiallythosefrom thenon-English mediato produce
counter-narrativescentred on water managementto takeon thesecuritycentred
narratives. To bring counter narrativesemerging from non governmentalorganisations
from themarginsto themain-stream officialendorsementand supportisrequired.

DEMOCRATISE PEACE MAKING

Peacemaking neednotbetheprerogativeof theFederalGovernment. Keyde-
securitising actorssuch asfarmers, academics, non governmentalorganisationsand
common peoplecan contributetremendouslyto peaceinitiatives. Such initiativeshave
demonstrated concretepositiveresultsin theJordan River basin and also in theCauvery
river basin in South India. In theCauveryriver basin, farmersfrom Karnatakaand Tamil
Naduwho had historicallyengaged in an acrimoniousdisputeover water empathised
with each other'sproblemswhen theywerebroughttogether and contributed to
diffusing thetension astheyrealised thatwerepartof theCauveryriver family. Asimilar
approach can beadopted between farmersfrom Indiaand Pakistan to createasenseof
jointownership andmanagementwith alonger term vision to createan 'Indusfamily'
approach.

Closer collaboration between Punjab AgriculturalUniversity, LudhianaandFaisalabad
Universitywillfoster enduring partnershipsin generating uncontestedknowledge.
Agriculturalscientistsfrom both sidescould meetperiodicallyto sharefindingswhich
can bemutuallybeneficialfor both sides. Afirststep would beto design and implementa
sustained interaction with thePunjab Water Council, aforum of farmersin Pakistan that
hasemphasisedtheneed to talk to Indiaon theissueof water.

AVOIDTHE 'WATER SECURITY'TRAP

When theworldisbecoming moreglobalised and integrated, attaching theword
'security'to everything from energyto water andfood doesnotmakesense. Theideaof
'water security'leadsto theideaof 'water nationalism'which essentiallymeansthatIndia

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and Pakistan mustcontrolwater resourcesno matter whatthecost.Under this
paradigm, both countrieswillfightover water andcontinueto growwater-hungrygrain
and sugar-canein thewater scarceIndusbasin towardstheir questfor 'food security'.
'Water nationalism'willnotonlyincreasewater insecurityfor both countriesbutalso

11

contributeto broader insecurityin theSouth Asian region.

7

10. Turton, A.R, Ashton, P& Cloete, E (eds). 2003 TransboundaryRivers, Sovereigntyand Development: HydropoliticalDriversin the Okavango
River Basin, African Water IssuesResearch Unit (AWIRU) and Green CrossInternational(GCI)
11. Rajan, R. 2010. 'The Resource SecurityTrap', The Mint, 9 August 2010.

KeyMessage &Recommendations

8

Importof foodgrain, though highlycontroversialin relativelypoor countrieslike
Pakistan and India, isaviableback-up strategywhich couldenableboth countriesto
adaptto water stressover theshortterm during periodsof drought. When Pakistan (or
India)importsonetonneof grain italso imports1000 cubicmetersof water becauseit

12

takesthatmuch water to produceatonneof grain. Byimporting food staples, Indiaand
Pakistan can allocatemoreof their scarcewater to industriesandcitieswhich generate
far moreeconomicvalueper litrethan agriculturedoes. Thisnecessarilymeansthatboth
countriesareeconomicallystrong with sufficientforeign exchangeto buyfood grain
from theglobalmarket. In theeventualityof food imports, asafetynetisabsolutely
essentialfor thepoor in both countriesastheentryof largecountriessuch asIndiainto
theglobalgrain marketcan sendgrain pricesspiralling upwardsthusconsigning agreater
number to hunger andstarvation.

In themean time, efficientwater usemustbeexplored. Effortsmustbein placeto
increasetheproductivityof water usein both Pakistan and Indian without
compromising on ecologicalsustainability. Measuressuch asdrip irrigation and shiftsin
cropping patternsmustbeintroduced. Thisrequiresinvestmentand investmentis
unlikelyto materialiseif theIndusdiscoursecontinuesto beframed asan existential
threatin Pakistan.

RE-IMAGINE THE BORDERS

Theconventionalviewof nationalterritorialboundariesasstrong and durablefences,
safeguarding thecountryfrom hostileexternalforcesisan outdated notion.In thewords

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of Shyam Saran, India'sformer Foregin SecretaryAdvisor, bordersmustserveas
'connectors'or 'transmission belts', which bring uscloser to our neighboursin amutually
beneficialembracerather than asimpenetrablewallsbehind which weinsulateourselves.
Border-statesbecomeimportantplatformsfor mutualinteraction asthecan serveas
bridgeslinking Indiawith itsneighbours.

In thislight, interactionsatthegovernmentaland peoplelevel, between thetwo Punjabs
with closehistoricalandculturaltiescouldbecomethecatalystfor adoption of better
water managementpracticesand economicdevelopmentin Punjab on both sidesof the
border thusturning the'border'into a'bridge'. In Shayan Saran'swords'itistimewere-
imagined our country'sbordersand madeour border regionsfullstakeholdersin India's
development'. Therecannotbeabetter placethan theIndusBasin to begin 're-
imagining'our borders.

Re-Imagining the Indus

12. Postel, L. & Wolf, A.T. 'Dehydrating Conflict' Foreign Policy, No 126 (Sep-Oct 2001), pp. 60-67
13. Saran, S. 2011. 'Re-Imagining India'sBorders'. BusinessStandard, 24 June 2011

Thereisacomplex interaction between water issuesand politicalrelationsasfar as
Pakistan andIndiaareconcerned. Itisnotalwaysthecaseof conflictsover water
resourcesleading to worsening of politicalrelations; itismoreoften thecaseof a

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difficultpoliticalrelationship rendering thewater issuemoreintractable. Theissuehas
layered complexityasthreeof theriversthatflowinto Pakistan through theIndian
portion of J &K, theterritoryover which thetwo countrieshavewagedmultiplewars.

Thecurrentposition of Pakistan and Indiawith regard to theIndusBasin reflectspath
dependence; their respectivepositionsarederived from their respectivepositionsatthe
timeof signing theIndusWater Treaty. Thesepositionswerein turn derived from their
respectivepositionsatthetimeof partition in 1947. Atthetimeof partition, both
countriesstarted with anationalisticapproach to using thewatersof theInduswith a
strong emphasison 'water independence'which continuesin moremutedformstoday.
India'sposition, traditionallybased on thetheoryof exclusiveappropriation of water by
oneriparian state, commonlyknown asthe'Harmon doctrine'andthatof Pakistan
based on theideaof 'historicuse'persistin currentdebates. Thecontestbetween these
positionsisthecontextfor theanalysisthatfollows.

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