Himalayan rivers have become the new flash point in the bitter India-Pakistan conflict, providing the latest diplomatic weapon in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to isolate Islamabad.
With India still reeling from an attack in Kashmir that killed 19 soldiers, New Delhi is looking to dams and hydro-electric projects as diplomatic alternatives to military action in retaliation for what it views as Pakistan’s support for terrorists striking in India’s part of divided Kashmir. Saying "blood and water cannot flow together," Modi has settled on water, which flows from India into Pakistan, as a powerful new instrument of foreign policy.
India’s plans to review the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty -- an agreement that has survived three wars without modification -- could change the equation with not only Pakistan but also with China, a powerful upstream neighbor that controls Tibet where the Indus, Sutlej and Brahmaputra rivers originate.
China and India have no water sharing treaty and India relies on China to share data on trans-border rivers under a pact signed in 2013. On October 1, China said it had blocked flows of an upstream tributary of the Brahmaputra to complete work on a hydropower project, one among many planned. The Chinese foreign ministry didn’t respond to a fax seeking comment on the issue.
Officials in New Delhi, who have suspended an annual dialogue meeting with Islamabad, say they are reviewing the treaty and examining whether India can further dam and exploit the Indus and five other rivers that flow from India into Pakistan. New Delhi could renegotiate or even tear up the treaty, they say.