India has agreed to participate in an annual meeting of the permanent Indus Waters Commission scheduled to be held in Pakistan this month, a step forward from the impasse of six months ago when the Indian government refused to attend the meeting over the diplomatic fallout of the Uri attack. While this is a positive step that will benefit both countries, it should not be mistaken for resumption in bilateral talks between the two neighbours. In fact India was quick to disabuse the notion that this meeting was a softening of its stance on Pakistan.

Regardless of the general air of acrimony between the two states – this was never likely to go away so easily in the first place – the meeting of the Indus commission is vital. The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) has been hailed as an example of bilateral dispute resolution, having survived two full-fledged wars and several crises, and the meeting of the commission despite bad relations is a testament to that.

However the meeting needs to be more than a hollow testament – it needs to genuinely try to address the conflict regarding the treaty. While one hopes this is the intention with which the two delegations meet India’s statements on the matter leave a lot to be desired. Choosing to attend the meeting simply to not fall foul of the requirements in the treaty doesn’t seem to be an encouraging position to take before the meeting. Considering Narendra Modi’s threats to “cut of Pakistan’s water supply” – a gross violation of the treaty and an international crime – it is imperative that the Indian government displays an air of conciliation and reasonableness.

While the major sticking points, Ratle and Kishanganga dams, remain off the table – as Pakistan has already approached the World Bank on the matter – several other issues still remain unresolved. It is hoped that the meeting can set aside the political machismo projected by both governments and work for the benefit of the people of the Sub-Continent.

Because whether Pakistan and India choose to acknowledge it or not, water scarcity is the biggest threat the Sub-Continent faces, bigger than an outbreak of a bilateral war. What is more, a serious dispute over water sharing is more likely to result in such a conflict than problems over terrorism and Kashmir ever could. Political tussles aside, the IWT should remain sacred, as a matter of humanity, as it provides life giving water to millions either side of the border, and must be treated as such.