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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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Media Content Analysis

·Agriculturalconcernsand interprovincialdisputesdominatemediareportagein

Pakistan.

·Indian medialaysgreater emphasison urban-centricwater concernsand
interventionsincluding thosearound groundwater and domesticconsumption.
·Thereisaseasonallag between when Indian and Pakistanimediaissensitiveto
theactionsand criticismsof each other.
·Indiafigureshigh in Pakistanipressreportsin thewinter monthswhilePakistan
onlyappear in Indian reportsin thespring months.
·Levelof hostilitytowardsIndiaremainsrelativelylowand reducessignificantly
over thetwo seasonsin themediareportagein Pakistan.
·Thecriticism of theIndusWatersTreaty(IWT)hasbeen relativelymoderateand
sober in themediaspace.
·Lack of sensitivityto changing climate, environmentaldegradation and
agriculturepracticesisapparentin both Indian and Pakistanimedia.
·Thereisequalemphasisin both thecountrieson theaspectsof water governance
and infrastructure.
·Mediareportsin both thecountries, Pakistan morethan India, recognizesthe
needfor thetwo countriesto co-operateon water issues.

4.2Introduction

Water willarguablybeoneof themostcriticalthemesin South Asian politicaldebatesin
theyearsto come. Although thewater debate, especiallybetween Indiaand her
neighbouring countrieshasbeen oneof thekeyissuesin theregion sinceindependence,

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severalrecentdevelopmentsindicatethattheemerging scarcityaccompanied bya
growing demand for water willplacethisresourceatthecentreof regionalpolitics. While
thisisnotnecessarilyaworrisomedevelopmentand anyheightened awarenessof
managing andsharing thispreciousresourceisbeneficial, thereisafear, thatin the
emergentpoliticalnarrative, theimportanceand relevanceof somecoreaspectsmaybe
neglected. Someof theseincludetheinterrelationshipsbetween: changing weather
patternsand water availability; agriculture, irrigation and electricity; electricity, energy
policyand water; andmostsignificantlytherelationship between communities, water
bodies, developmentpoliciesand lifestyles. Thediscussionsaround thepoliticsof water
mustbeableto accommodatesomeof thesecrucialmicro-narrativesif theyareto
benefittheconstituenciesthediscourseprofessesto serve.

Theengagementon water between Indiaand Pakistan wasnaturallyundefined at
Partition butwassubsequentlyformalizedbytheIndusWatersTreaty, 1960. TheTreaty
hasmanaged to survivepoliticaltensionsand conflictsbetween thetwo countriesbut, as
theper capitawater availabilitycontinuesto decline, thedebateislikelyto intensifyand
theTreatyisexpectedto faceintensepressuresin thedaysahead. Theper capitawater
availabilityin Indiahasfallen from 1800 cubicmeters(cum)in 2005 to 1731 cum in
2010. In Pakistan theper capitawater availabilityfellfrom 1200 cubicmetresper annum

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in 2005 to 1038 cubicmetresper annum in 2010. Thesenumbersarealreadyaround a
third of whatwasavailableatthetimeof partition. Thedeclinein water availabilityhas
and willleadthecountriesinto further water stressesin thenear future. Thereisareason
to arguethatthedeclining water availabilityitself mayserveasthebasisfor newsecurity
apprehensionson both sidesand thecurrentframework of managing theresourcemay
haveitslimitations.

Thescarcityof such acriticalresourcecan lead peopleand policymakersto choose
irrationalresponsesthatmaylead to deepening of contestsandconflicts. Water isa
flammableissuethatcan easilybeused byrogueorganizations, terror groupsandstate
actorsaswellfor purposesof politicalpositioning, to fuelhatred and conflict,
phenomenawitnessedaround theworld and in theregion. Theobjectiveof thispaper is
to contributean articulate, sensitiveandcooperativeframework to thepresentand
futuredebatesover water and to addauniqueperspectiveto thegrowing narratives
around water in general.

Re-Imagining the Indus

124. People'sDailyonline, Population growth willreduce water availabilityin Pakistan, June 28, 2010; Available at: http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/
90001/90777/90851/7042509.html

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In an attemptto map thedebateon water within and between Pakistan and India, this
paper haschosen to analyzethenewsreportsin thetwo countriesduring thespring and
winter monthsof 2010 bydeploying MediaContentAnalysis(MCA). Mapping and
measuring theintensityandcharacteristicsof thedebatewillhopefullyhelp politicians,
policymakersandscholarsto identifythepressurepointsin thedebate, and potentially
help focustheir responseaswell. Another objectiveof theresearch isto relocatethe
water debatefrom thearenaof mythsand perceptions, into aconversation based on
existing facts. Whatisactuallydriving thedebateon water?Howisthediscussion on
water framedin themediaand, which of thecausesandconsequencesof water scarcity
receivethemostattention and in whattimeperiods?Mediaisavitalcomponentof
publicopinion formation andstudying mediacoverageon thisvitalissuewillbe
beneficialin understanding howweimagine'water'and itsnuancesaspeople, policy-
makersand nations.

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