In another setback that is set to chisel away at the recently thawed Pak-India relationship, the Kishanganga dam will be inaugurated before being assessed by the World Bank, disavowing any chances of its intervention. It speaks to the failure of our faltering policy and cavalier attitude adopted by the fumbling establishment that was unable to mitigate the terms of the project through the World Bank or through bilateral dialogue in the earlier phases of the proposal.
The Kishanganga and Ratle projects stand to change the course of the river and deplete the water level, both points which deem India in violation of the treaty. Yet the dithering by the establishment in maintaining lines of communication open with India to discuss parameters of the project, as well as its belatedness in bringing the issue to the notice of the World Bank adds to a litany of political and foreign policy gaffes that the establishment has exhibited it its reign.
The test of time should have been enough incentive for the establishment to have not left the technical details unheeded. Where Pakistan’s Neelum Valley will become susceptible to drought and desertification, the dam and the ensuing water depletion also takes away from Pakistan’s own power generation capacity.
With the currently dire nature of both countries’ energy needs and their ever-increasing irrigation water demand both sides need to come up with a peaceable solution with an eye to maintaining the recent overtures at reconciliation.
With the sensitive issue of sharing river waters, under the overarching conflict of the Kashmir dispute, the situation has the potential of becoming increasingly contentious.
Pakistan on its end should have surveyed the project and its technical ambivalence and called for arbitration earlier on. While the state is unwilling to formulate effect water management policies at home to improve conservation, both sides should make immediate and active attempts at a holding bilateral mediation of the issue. It is important to move towards a resolution of the issue through any forum at any level instead of repeatedly engaging in a who-blinks-first stand-off.