Crucible for Survival: Environmental Security and Justice in the Indian Ocean Region

By Timothy Doyle; Melissa Risely | Go to book overview

11
Water Resources Development and
Water Conflicts in Two Indian
Ocean States

RADHA D’SOUZA


Introduction

The political relations between India and Pakistan remain consistently adversarial in the Indian Ocean Region. Yet the Indus Treaty signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan has endured despite the unabashedly hostile nature of the political relationship between the two states. There are other paradoxes. The World Bank and the United States played a strong mediatory role in the treaty negotiations and mobilized bilateral and multilateral organizations, and a consortium of Western governments to back its mediation with large infusions of aid to “stabilize” the conflicts over the waters of the Indus.

If the Indus Treaty mediation is a success story, it is significant that the World Bank has not extended that experience to other states and conflicts elsewhere. Finally, for well over a century science and development policy circles have unequivocally advocated that the river basin is the natural unit for water resources development and planning. The Indus Treaty went against the grain of the unity of the river basin thesis, at a time when the prestige of the view was unchallenged. The rivers of the Indus were divided between India and Pakistan, with India getting exclusive rights over the three eastern tributaries on her territory: the Ravi, Beas, and the Sutlej, and Pakistan getting the three western rivers on her territory: the Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab.

Partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in August 1947 and the signing of the Indus Treaty in 1960 represent key moments in the contemporary politics and economics of the subcontinent. In the unfolding of the two events, national/ internal factors played out in response to dramatic changes in the global world order at the end of World War II. It is important to contextualize the conflict and cooperation over Indus waters to understand what drives both processes between two influential states in the region. Analysis of both conflict and cooperation needs to be anchored to wider geo-historical and structural processes of colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism in the region.

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