ISLAMABAD-Many of the wars of the 20th century were about oil but wars of the 21st century will be about water unless we change the way in which we manage it: Ismail Serageldin, former vice president, World Bank.

Water – The life line, not only for survival of people but of states too, is important more than it appears to common men. According to expectations of analysts, the most remarkable yet horrific cause of future wars would be the very basic necessity of life, water. Indus Water Treaty that connected India and Pakistan in 1961 has enabled both the countries to share the water of Indus River basin and its tributaries. Past and recent deadlocks between the neighboring countries, India and Pakistan, prove to be a stamp, validating the apprehensions of the analysts.

History indicates 1948 to be the year of the beginning of Indo-Pakistan water conflict, when India first blocked the river water flow to Pakistan and threatened the agrarian system of the time. The bone of contention between the two important countries of the region is Kashmir. Due mainly to the origin of river waters from this region and other reasons, neither country is willing to renounce its claim on the state.

India has a history of targeting Pakistan with false and baseless allegations. For example, first India leveled childish allegations against Pakistan that it had staged Pulwama attack on Feb 14 in Indian-held Kashmir in which around 40 paramilitary troopers were killed. On the basis of the false accusation, India also claimed a suspected air strike in Pakistani territory near Balakot area but the very next day, Pakistan retaliated and not only shot down 2 Indian MIG-21 fighter jets but also captured one pilot, wing commander Abhinandan, who was later released.

That was not the only allegation India registered with Pakistan but after the Uri attacks on September 18th, 2016, India started leveling allegations of the attack on Pakistan. In the wake of the attack, India also cancelled its participation in 19th SAARC conference. Not long after the attack, on 29th September 2016, India claimed to have conducted surgical strike in Pakistan-administered Kashmir Region. The ISPR spokesman Asim Bajwa termed the ‘surgical strike’ claim an ‘illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects’ and a ‘fabrication of the truth’.

Following the incident and the resulted increasing rivalry, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi commented in his most malicious tone, “Blood and water cannot flow at the same time and India will revise Indus Water Treaty”. The statement might have sounded appropriate to his biased followers but it symbolizes a dramatic use of water as a diplomatic weapon. This was not taken lightly across the border, when Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor, Sartaj Aziz, responded by threatening India to be confronted in United Nations or International Court of Justice on this blatant ‘act of war’. He also hinted that Pakistan might also seek assistance from the United Nations or International Court of Justice.

As per Asian Development Bank report 2013, Pakistan is amongst the most ‘water-scarce’ countries in the world. According to the report, the possibility of Indian territory sucking more water from Pakistan’s sections of the rivers is a serious threat.

As per its clauses, The IWT has turned out to be beneficial more to Pakistan than it is to India. Despite the allocation of 3 rivers each to Pakistan and India, Pakistan is given control of the Indus Basin’s 3 large western rivers i.e. The Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab. These three main rivers account for 80 percent of the water in the entire basin. Since water from the Indus Basin flows downstream from India to Pakistan, revoking the IWT would allow India to take control of and (if it created enough storage space through construction of large dams) stop altogether the flow of those 3 rivers into Pakistan.

India would undeniably need several years to build the requisite reservoirs and other infrastructure to generate enough storage to prevent water from flowing downstream to Pakistan. But pulling out of the IWT is the first step in giving India carte blanche to start pursuing that objective.

Pakistan is dependent on the three mentioned western rivers, particularly the Indus River. Indus serves as the sole source and provides water for irrigation in some areas of the country, particularly in the province of Sindh. The country would face catastrophic implications if its access to water from the Indus Basin were cut off or even reduced.

– The writer is a MPhil scholar.


For this reason, using water as a weapon could inflict more damage on Pakistan than some other means of warfare.

Despite holding the legitimate permit to use up to 33 million acre feet of Pakistan-held western rivers (Indus, Chenab, Jhelum), India has been incapable of even using its own share of the mentioned rivers. India has failed to build a reasonable number of larger dams. This, combined with other geographical reasons, validate incapability of India to control water entering Pakistan. However, any attempt at making it happen from Indian side, despite its incapability, could most definitely stir war, a possibility of nuclear war between the two countries.