As public discourse on the water component of India-Pakistan relations takes on a shrill note with charges like “stealing water” and “water wars” being levelled against India, High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal on Saturday said India had never hindered water flows into Pakistan even during the 1965 and 1971 wars.
Describing the allegations as “preposterous,” Mr. Sabharwal used the platform provided by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations and Pakistan-India Citizens Forum to counter the “apprehensions, misconceptions, misinformation and allegations pertaining to India that characterise the debate on water scarcity in Pakistan.”
Of the view that the Indus Waters Treaty had served the two countries well, the High Commissioner said those who questioned its fairness should note that it assigned 80 per cent share of water of the Indus system of rivers to Pakistan. Pointing out that the Treaty permitted the limited use of water from the Western rivers of the Indus system by India, he added that this entitlement had not been fully used till date.
As against the storage entitlement of 3.6 MAF, India has built no storage so far. Of the 1.34 million acres permitted for irrigation, only 0.792 million acres is being irrigated, he said. “We have exploited only a fraction of the hydroelectric potential available to us on these rivers.”
Out of a total potential of 18,653 MW, projects worth 2,324 MW have been commissioned and those for 659 MW are under construction. “In any case, even after India starts using its full entitlement of water from the Western Rivers under the Treaty, it will amount to no more than 3 per cent of the mean flow in these rivers.”
Referring to the charge that India was acquiring the capacity to withhold Pakistan's share of water, Mr. Sabharwal said those who made these allegations completely ignored the fact that this would require a storage and diversion canals network on a large scale. “Such a network simply does not exist and figures nowhere in our plans.”
As for the reduced flows into Pakistan, he said it was dictated by the melting of snow and quantum of rainfall, not violation of the Treaty by India. Stating that it was natural for questions to arise on the implementation of any treaty, he said India believed that the Permanent Indus Commission was the best forum to resolve all such matters.