A February 2020 Blue Peace Bulletin from Indian think-tank Strategic Foresight Group examines tension between Pakistan and India over the Indus River, assesses the current situation and makes recommendations on how to build cooperation.
The Indus River System contributes 4 per cent of India’s water resources whereas it contributes almost 70 per cent of Pakistan’s water resources. The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), which codifies the division and management of the waters of the Indus, is described by the Bulletin as very strong with regards to the allocation of water and the arbitration of disputes. However, when it comes to creating the basis for actual cooperation, the Bulletin describes the treaty as "rather weak".
Rising temperatures in South Asia are predicted, leading to glacier melt and consequent flooding. The temperatures will also impact the monsoon, making them more erratic. The arrival times of the monsoon may change, impacting agricultural production in both India and Pakistan. Flash flooding is expected.
"The Indus Water Treaty scores a low on the scale of the international Water Cooperation Quotient despite being what is often considered a successful example of a functioning water treaty. This is primarily due to the fact that the Treaty only deals with water allocation and has not been used for collaborative endeavours to respond to climate change, joint disaster management, joint planning and exchange of information and expertise. Thus, the IWT is not a treaty of cooperation. It is a treaty about allocation and provisions for arbitration", according to the Blue Peace Bulletin.
"India and Pakistan need to work together to move from contention to cooperation over their joint water resources and build a long-lasting means of active cooperation over water resources. This would pave the way for overall regional stability, security and peace for approximately 1.5 billion, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population".
Specific recommendations include:
- Joint mechanism on climate change
- Joint studies on source glaciers
- Improving data exchanges to include water quality as well as quantity (i.e. flow) for the health of the Indus River System
- Increasing scientific expertise and data exchange between the countries in the water resources development sector, alternative agricultural practices and improving water resources infrastructure for better efficiency
- Joint measures to improve water quality
- Establishing a network of climate experts and joint monitoring stations along source glaciers
- Joint implementation of water conservation techniques in agriculture
- Research into drought, flood and saline resistant crops
- Cooperation on disaster management including on early warning systems, flood data exchange and on central or federal government disaster drills and protocols.