After getting a diplomatic edge in the current India-Pakistan stand-off after the terrorist attack on Uri Army Base Camp claiming 18 Indian soldiers’ lives, India must be contemplating alternative to keep the pressure on Pakistan. With the government not willing to jump into any rash, poorly thought out move to please the warmongers, the desperation among them is understandable. Water diplomacy can play a major role in settling the score but it has its own limitations. India’s battle is supposed to be with the political and military establishments of Pakistan and the network of terror operatives they back, not against the people of the country in general. A measure like stopping water for agriculture and other uses will hit ordinary people the most and trigger a humanitarian crisis. It might work as a strategy to bring Pakistan on its knees but it would take the moral sheen off India, particularly in the eyes of the international community which the government has managed to wean in its favour after the Uri attack. Such a measure would amount to directly escalating tension between the countries and precipitate a full-fledged war. The trigger for war, from Pakistan’s perspective, would shift to water, an issue everyone would view with some sympathy unlike Kashmir. Currently, India is in the process of building a number of dams on Jhelum and Chenab Rivers (both of which originate in Kashmir), such as the Kishenganga, Dulhusti, Sawalkot etc. The Indus Water Treaty allows India to harness the hydropower potential of the Jhelum and Chenab Rivers, as long as it does not reduce or delay the supply to Pakistan. India therefore maintains that its projects are in compliance with the treaty and sees no conflict with Pakistan on these issues. It’s not easy to break the natural flow of rivers. Any effort towards this will also have consequences for India. India has enough experience of the disaster that playing with the natural course of rivers can invite. India will have to think of a strategy to subdue the enemy without firing a bullet from its side so that the edge it has gained in the diplomatic arena continues.
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