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August 20, 2019

Water as a weapon

Editorial

 
August 20, 2019

Pakistan continues to express strong concern that India has suspended the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 and stopped sharing information between the two countries as agreed under that treaty. This has led to a very real fear of floods in Pakistan, with India releasing up to 0.2 million cusecs of water into River Sutlej without notification. This water is expected to flow down from the Indian state of Punjab and spill into Ganda Singh Wala, a village near Kasur not far from the border during the next two days. A warning has been issued by the National Disaster Management Authority.

This is not the only risk. India has also opened three spillways of the Ladakh dam, which could lead to flooding in nearby areas. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has reviewed the situation and discussed rescue and relief operations that may be required. Camps are already being set up to ensure people can be evacuated in affected areas. Such actions by India essentially amount to an act of aggression, which adds to the lower-level war already on, with round after round of firing along the LoC. Three Pakistani soldiers have been martyred alongside several civilians.

The control India holds over water flowing into Pakistan down major rivers including the Indus and its tributaries is a dangerous one. Without agreement and cooperation, this situation places Pakistan in a position of almost constant peril. Water could be cut off at a chosen moment in order to create hardship, and as is the case now, released to unleash terrible flooding. A heavy monsoon this year has already been forecast, with flooding expected in parts of the country including Punjab. Civilised behaviour by nations demands that agreements meant to protect humans, their land, their crops and their properties be respected. This is the manner in which things operate across the world. Pakistan has also pointed out through the Punjab PDMA that the release of water into the Sutlej was not prescheduled and has therefore caught Pakistan by surprise. This was obviously India’s intention. There was also the possibility that outlets from other dams upstream of rivers entering Pakistan could be opened to maximise the danger. Relevant agencies have been warned but there are obviously limits to what they can achieve in a situation where heavy rainfall is also expected. Senior members of the Punjab government, the federal government, irrigation officials and officials from relief organisations are to discuss the situation and we can only hope the latest threat will be snuffed out before waves of water are sent across the border to act as a weapon which directly threatens people.

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