Saturday, June 25, 2011

‘Water issues could sweep away Indo-Pak peace process’ (Pakistan) pores through a recent Wikileaks release: American diplomats were not very hopeful about the long-term prospects of Pakistan and India easily resolving their disagreements about the “emotional issue” of water, especially given “Pakistani anxiety over access to water”, according to a number of previously unpublished secret US diplomatic cables accessed by Dawn through WikiLeaks. They feared the water-related disputes would cast a long shadow over the ‘Composite Dialogue’ process, the latest round of which begins in Islamabad on Thursday.

“Even if India and Pakistan could resolve the Baglihar and Kishanganga projects,” wrote US Ambassador to New Delhi David Mulford in a confidential cable dated February 25, 2005, “there are several more hydroelectric dams planned for Indian Kashmir that might be questioned under the IWT (Indus Water Treaty).” Both Baglihar and Kishanganga projects are on the Chenab River, one of the three ‘western rivers’ to whose waters Pakistan has exclusive ‘consumptive’ rights under the IWT and which have been the source of long festering disagreement between the two neighbours.

The American ambassador also expressed guarded optimism that matters in “this politically charged impasse” would not spiral into “Islamabad’s worst case scenario, that India’s dams in J&K (Jammu and Kashmir) have the potential to destroy the peace process or even to lead to war”.

Mr Mulford wrote his cable at the height of the Baglihar Dam construction controversy and was quoting the opinion of an unnamed World Bank “contact” with regard to the upcoming dams. The bank official in particular referenced the (then under-construction, now completed, 450 MW) Dul Hasti Dam and the proposed Burser, Pakul Dul and Sawalkote projects on the Indian side which were “all on the order of 1000 MW” and which were “significant undertakings in varying stages of planning that might be questioned as to their IWT compliance”…

The Swat River in Pakistan, shot by Alakazou1978, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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