Comprehension exercise for South Asian students 2

Read the following write-up ad answer the questions that follow. ….

Write-up

 Across the world, climate change is sparking conflict as people struggle over dwindling resources. The fight over water could quickly escalate between India and Pakistan — and both have nuclear arms.

Yemen, Somalia and Syria are just some of the places where climate change is increasingly regarded as a root cause of violent conflict. But while much of the focus on climate change-attributed conflict has predominantly been on Africa and the Middle East, a potentially even deadlier clash over resources may be looming on the horizon in Asia.

That’s because India and Pakistan — bitter rivals over water — both have nuclear weapons in their arsenal.

The two countries have a long but strained agreement over sharing water from the Indus River and its tributaries. Waters from the Indus, which flow from India and the disputed Kashmir region into Pakistan, were carved up between India and Pakistan under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

The IWT divides the six major rivers of the Indus basin between Pakistan and India. Pakistan was granted rights to most of the water in the region’s western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — which flow through Indian-administered Kashmir.

The dispute over the Kashmir region — a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than six decades — is hugely intertwined with water security. Both countries claim the whole region, but each only controls a part of it.

While the IWT has managed to survive the wars and other hostilities, it is increasingly being strained to its limit. Pakistan has accused India of throttling its water supply and violating the IWT by constructing dams over the rivers flowing into Pakistan from Kashmir.

“Any country with nuclear weapons, if they’re backed into a corner because they have no water — that’s really dangerous,” said Jeff Nesbit, author and executive director of non-profit climate communication organization Climate Nexus. 

‘A matter of survival’

For Sherry Rehman, Parliamentary Leader of the left-wing opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the Senate, water security, especially in South Asia, “has become a regional security threat.”

“We are now facing challenges brought about by climate change which were not a primary focus during the negotiations for the Indus Water Treaty,” she told DW.

“It has become a matter of survival,” she continued. “Aside from the lack of formal dialogue, the rhetoric floating around suggesting a possible water war is particularly alarming.”

A treaty under threat

For Pakistan, the Indus waters are a lifeline: most of the country depends on it as the primary source of freshwater and it upports 90 percent of the country’s agricultural industry.

And while Pakistan was considered relatively plentiful with water, a mixture of mismanaged irrigation, water-intensive agriculture and climate change has reduced the Indus to a trickle in parts.

A 2018 report from the International Monetary Fund ranked Pakistan third among countries facing severe water shortages.

When the rapidly-melting glaciers in the Himalayas, which feed the Indus waters, eventually disappear as predicted, the dwindling rivers will be slashed even further.

Holding water to ransom

In 2016, India came close to tearing up the IWT. It blamed Pakistani militants for an attack on Indian army personnel in Indian-administered Kashmir in September of that year.

Nesbit of Climate Nexus told DW he sees India’s threat to terminate the IWT as a bigger problem than the warning of military reprisals.

“Had they done that, it would have triggered a water war, it would have triggered an actual war,” Nesbit told DW.

“Never mind a nuclear strike or a military strike, if they were to actually terminate the Indus Water Treaty, that’s much more dangerous to Pakistan’s survival, because they would have no way to grow food. And then they would be relying on food imports at a time when their population is exploding. So that particular incident was really dangerous.”

Nesbit, whose 2018 book ‘This is the Way the World Ends’ deals in part with the Pakistan-India water disputes, said it has the potential to become the most deadly climate change-attributed conflict in the world.

“It’s one thing for a country to run out of water, as Yemen has,” he told DW, explaining how it triggered water riots that led to the government’s collapse and military intervention by Saudi Arabia.

“But the difference is, Yemen is quite poor. And when the same thing happened in Somalia, Somalia is quite poor, so it breeds domestic terrorism, it breeds the collapse of civil government, but it doesn’t trigger the kind of regional nuclear confrontation that an India-Pakistan war would.” [Source DW]

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Questions …

  1. Apart from the territorial dispute over Kashmir, what is the other reason for which the two countries can go to war? Why such a war could be very perilous?
  2. Which are the other regions of the world where such conflicts over water sharing could erupt?
  3. Why and when was the Indus Water Treaty signed? What the treaty stipulated?
  4. With regard to the IWT (Indus Water Treaty), why is Pakistan upset with India?
  5. Why, according to Sherry Rehman, the IWT needs to be revisited?
  6. How is the water of the Indus rivers so critical for Pakistan’s existence?
  7. How, according to Nesbit of Climate Nexus India’s threat to withdraw from the IWT could put the whole South Asia in jeopardy?

Answers …

  1. Apart from the territorial dispute over Kashmir, what is the other reason for which the two countries can go to war? Why such a war could be very perilous?      Answer .. The Indus river network that originates from Kashmir in India and flows down to Pakistan is a vital source of fresh water. Farmers in both sides need the water for their fields. The rivers are also a vital source of drinking water for the population in both sides. If the free flow of water is choked due to any reason, it will imperil the life of people who look upon the rivers as their lifeline. If India restricts or totally stops the flow of water, Pakistan will face unimaginable distress that could prompt it to wage a war on India. 

The fact that both countries have large armies, and have nuclear bombs, a war will surely ravage the whole                    subcontinent. Its horrors will be humongous.

2. Which are the other regions of the world where such conflicts over water sharing could erupt?   Answer .. Sudan, Somalia and Yemen are the three other regions that are water-starved, and rife for conflicts over water sharing.

3. Why and when was the Indus Water Treaty signed? What the treaty stipulated?   Answer .. The Indus Water Treaty was signed in 1960 between Prim minister Nehru, and President Ayub Khan. The treaty had a water-sharing formula about the use of Indus waters by both sides.

4. With regard to the IWT (Indus Water Treaty), why is Pakistan upset with India?  .. Answer ..  The two countries have never had a cordial relationship. Some elements in Pakistan allege that India flouts the terms of the treaty surreptitiously, as a result of which Pakistani farmers suffer. Apart from this, during periods of heightened tension between the two countries, India threatens to cut off the flow of water. Such threats annoy the Pakistani establishment.

5. Why, according to Sherry Rehman, the IWT needs to be revisited?   Ans .. Sherry Rahman thinks that due to global warming, water flow pattern in the Indus water network has changed. So, she feels. the IWT needs to be renegotiated.

6. How is the water of the Indus rivers so critical for Pakistan’s existence?  Ans ..  Pakistani farmers in the prosperous Punjab region use the rivers’ waters for irrigation. The population in communities along the banks use the water for drinking purposes too. So, the rivers are so important for Punjab.

7. How, according to Nesbit of Climate Nexus India’s threat to withdraw from the IWT could put the whole South Asia in jeopardy?   Ans .. If India withdraws from the IWT, and curtails the amount of water flowing into Pakistan, the tension in the latter country might become explosive. It can lead to a war that could be extremely destructive given the fact that both sides have nuclear weapons.

 

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