By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar–Jammu and Kashmir politicians are seeking compensation for losses caused by the India-Pakistan Indus Waters Treaty that has robbed the state of its huge hydro-power potential, estimated to be over 25,000 MW.
They say the 1960 river water-sharing agreement had given a raw deal to the impoverished and industrially-backward state and needed a review keeping Jammu and Kashmir’s economic interests in mind.
The two countries should have taken care of the interests of the state, Education Minister and government spokesperson Naeem Akhtar told IANS.
“It has always been our stand that the state has to be compensated because of the limits imposed on power generation by the treaty,” said the senior leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which governs the state in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“It is our party’s stand that India and Pakistan need to work out a mechanism to protect the interests of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh,” Akhtar said.
The bilateral agreement arbitrated by the World Bank gives control over three eastern rivers — the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — to India. It guarantees an unrestricted control to Pakistan of three western rivers — Chenab, Jhelum and the Indus, which flow through Jammu and Kashmir.
The pact has been in focus amid heightened India-Pakistan tensions after the September 18 Uri terror attack, blamed on militants who came from across the de facto border from Pakistan.
India has indicated it would re-look at the pact as a response to the attack, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating: “Blood and water cannot flow together.”
India cannot construct any dams on the three western rivers as per the agreement but some storage facility is allowed. Resultantly, all power projects in Jammu and Kashmir have to be run-of-the-river, depriving the state of a huge hydro-electric potential of up to 25,000 MW.
The opposition National Conference, meanwhile, questioned the timing of a possible review of the pact by India.
“For 56 years, no fingers were raised against the treaty by New Delhi. But, right now its scrapping is being advocated to settle diplomatic scores and not for protecting the rights of interests of Jammu and Kashmir,” NC spokesperson Junaid Mattu told IANS.
“If they (the BJP) want to fire the gun, they must place it on their own shoulders and not on ours. It has always been the stand of the NC that the treaty gives a raw deal to the state for which adequate compensation must be provided.”
State Congress president Ghulam Ahmed Mir agreed. He recalled that in 2003, when the Congress ruled the state in coalition with the PDP, a resolution was brought in the assembly seeking compensation in lieu of the pact.
“We told the central government that despite our immense hydro-power potential, the state is holding a begging bowl in its hand.”
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader M.Y. Tarigami said scrapping the deal that has “stood the test of time” was not possible.
“Yes, I feel the people of the state, whose largest natural resource is hydro-power, need to be compensated. But that cannot be done only by scrapping the treaty.
“At the height of tensions during the wars of 1965 and 1971 the treaty was not scrapped. Now why are some forces talking of scrapping it and deprive the poor farmers of water to their fields on the two sides of the border?”
Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the treaty overlooks the interests of the people of the state and therefore “all hydro-power projects run and illegally owned by the (central government-run) NHPC should immediately be transferred to the state”.
State BJP leaders, however, were cautiously tight-lipped over the issue. “Whatever the central government decides would always be in the larger interest of the country and that includes Jammu and Kashmir,” said a senior BJP leader.
No separatist leader was available for comments because most of them are under detention in their houses or lodged in jails.