Once again Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti termed the Indus Water Treaty as detrimental to India. Her comment comes at a time when India desires to tap the allocated share of water from the rivers to the maximum. Under the treaty, which was signed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan President Ayub Khan in 1960, control of three rivers flowing through Jammu and Kashmir – Jhelum, Indus and Chenab – was given to Pakistan while India was given control over Beas, Ravi and Sutlej, all passing through Punjab. Because of the treaty, no big dams or power projects could be built by India on Jhelum, Indus or Chenab. The treaty practically gives away the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab flowing through Jammu and Kashmir for Pakistan’s exclusive use, while India could utilise waters from the Beas, Sutlej and Ravi running through Punjab. Besides its one-sided nature it has done no good for the country and India must announce its exit from the treaty. The goodwill that prompted Nehru to sign it is conspicuous by its absence now. China has stealthily built a dam on the Indus at Demchok in Ladakh. An alleged treaty between two countries over a river loses all relevance and meaning if a third country builds a dam as it wishes. If India goes back on the Indus Treaty now, the country isn’t starting a water war against Pakistan. It would only be responding to a war which Pakistan has already launched in a not too subtle a fashion. Respond India must. But it’s preposterous to even imagine that India can stop water from flowing into Pakistan overnight. That kind of a move is the stuff science fiction and mythology are made of. Reducing the water flow into Pakistan, leave alone stopping it, would mean that India must build dams on the Indus and its tributaries, and store water. And dams that are inimical to Pakistan’s interests can become easy terror targets, and India must go ahead with them with abundant caution. On its part, Pakistan has been going ahead with impunity with much bigger projects in its part of the Indus basin, some of them with Chinese help.
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