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  Next India-Pakistan War will be over Water Shortage in Pakistan  


By: Hari Sud
June 12, 2006
iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.


Pakistanis will fight between themselves over water resources and then blame India for their problems. An already an impoverished nation by 2020 with no social, rural and urban development, but in possession of first class military will divert national attention from internal water disputes to a fight with India. Four Pakistani provinces are fighting over Kalabagh, Basha and host of other water & power management dams. Slowly the blame is being shifted to India. The political, military and religious leadership has already started to tell the nation that India is interfering with their water resources. They quote Baglihar & Wullar dams to back their claims. These claims are untrue, but who is listening. Local populace is being told that that Pakistan has the military muscles to beat India and grab all the water resources from it. Thirsty people will listen to any propaganda. In fact they are being readied for a war. Its beginning was made a few years back when an ugly fight engulfed the Pakistani provinces over fair share of water in Indus, Jhelum & Kabul rivers. Since then every summer, Province of Sindh and Pakistani Punjab fight over water. Usually Pakistani Punjab with larger resources and control over water flow wins, leaving Sindhis seething with anger. The central military leadership calms people’s nerves by raising issues like Baglihar, Wullar with India. Fortunately India is not interested in their internal fight but watches the fun as it unfolds. India’s interest is not to let Pakistan’s military rulers internationalize their internal disputes with false claims of misuse of provisions of Indus Water Treaty by India. So far the success for India has been mediocre. Baglihar issue is with the World Bank. India has already decided to modify the design of the Wullar dam to make it into a run of the river power generation project. It is all intended to keep the Pakistani disputes spilling over into India.

Why is Pakistan So Thirsty for Water?

Primarily Pakistan is a successful agrarian society. Punjab province of Pakistan has been blessed with 30 feet of topsoil and a host of rivers to irrigate it. Even the Alexander’s historian recorded it 325BC that the land they conquered is lush green and very fertile. Earlier the Greek historian Herodotus in fifth century BC had recorded fine Indian wool, which is grown in the fields. He was referring to cotton. Prior to that the Western world had not known about cotton. Additionally five rivers flowing in Punjab with snow fed sources and monsoon rains kept the agriculture progressive. Kings of yesteryears and all conquers whom came down the Khyber Pass did not interfere with the agriculture. They instead exploited it. British were the last to exploit it further from 1875 onwards. They built water works and irrigated fresh land. They settled ex servicemen (mostly Punjabi Mussalman) in this newly developed lands. Agriculture in and around Chenab and beyond to Indus progressed, making this Doab a very progressive land. Partition in 1947 resulted in all of this land being handed over to Pakistan, with Indian Punjab left as an orphaned child with no resources.

Pakistan wasted all this good fortune on strong military and extra territorial ambitions in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Both of these misadventures are proving costly. With agriculture at stand still and huge drain of resources on military, water management received little or no attention. Not until in last ten years, when Sindh province started to complain about lack of water and blamed it on Pakistani Punjab. Then only a bit of attention was turned towards water resources and their exploitation. New studies have indicated that growing population (300 million by 2020) in Pakistan need water resources to feed them and house them. This will require additional 25 Million-Acre Feet (MAF) of water by 2020. That means, new dam construction has to be initiated on priority. New mega projects like Kalabagh & Basha will partly relieve the shortage. Each of these with 7 MAF capacities on Indus will partly relive the shortage. Other smaller dams will add only 20% additional capacity to the shortage. Hence Pakistan, even after feverish water resources building activity in next 10 years, Pakistan will be 10 MAF water short. If you take into account silting of the dam sites, which is a serious problem in snow fed rivers just emerging out of the mountains, the situation is likely to worsen the situation further. Silting has depleted the storage capacity of Mangla Dam (built in 1967) and Tarbrela Dam (built in 1975) by 20% already. By 2020, additional 30% of the storage capacity will be lost to silting. Taking these factors into account the net shortage in next 15 years will be as much as 15 to 18 MAF even if the forgoing mega dams are built.

How do you make up for the above shortage?

The answer for Pakistan is to pick-up a fight with India, its immediate neighbor to the east. Also internationalize the issue where world gets scared of a nuclear war and advises caution to India (India being the big economy by then would be advised to accommodate Pakistan). This scenario is a distinct possibility. It is happening in Siachin & Sir Creek today. Very cleverly manipulated Western media propaganda is advising India to vacate Siachin and Sir Creek. They call them wastelands. Their argument is that fight over these two is meaningless. Advice to India is that in both these disputes India should accommodate Pakistan. This pressure is likely to increase. A lot of future FDI to India and other aid will be tied to the so-called “South Asian Stability”. It is clever way of putting pressure on India.

How Much River Water Pakistan has?

Pakistan has unlimited amount of river & rainwater, except that they do not know how to exploit it. Yearly water flow in Indus alone is about 170 MAF. Rivers Jhelum & Chenab carry about a quarter of that amount. Hence Pakistan has about 300 MAF of water flowing down the rivers. This does not include tremendous amount of water, which comes down with Monsoon downpour. Indus has about ten times more water than Colorado River in US and three times more water than Nile in Egypt. Anybody with that amount of water in the rivers should be awash with water. What is missing is will to do anything worthwhile to manage water resources. Successive military governments are to be blamed. Most monies are appropriated to build up the military. Monies for economic projects are always in short supply. Hence these projects are lower on priority. For example, with looming water shortage, the Kalabagh Dam is still stuck in a controversy. The missing element is the unfair water distribution policy. Leaders favor Pakistani Punjab as it has more muscle in the military and at the central government. This leaves other provinces angry, annoyed and ready to revolt. For the military rulers it is easy to raise the bogey of India stealing water to incense the public. India’s plan to build hydroelectric projects on rivers allocated to Pakistan in Kashmir is big news in Pakistan. The leaders know fully well that the Indus Water Treaty clearly gives India right to use the Rivers Indus, Jhelum & Chenab to generate electricity and draw water for personal use. They ignore that part. They also know that every electricity generation project requires significant water storage so that electricity generation could continue uninterrupted during the lean months. The same right is given to Pakistan. It is that right that has become of dispute.

The Unfolding War Like Scenario in 2020

In the years 2018 to 2020, there is a complete failure of Monsoons. India is parched and so is Pakistan. Indian economy for the past 40 years had been built to be independent of Monsoon vagaries of centuries. On the other hand Pakistani economy is still agrarian. Disputes, which India had settled 15 years back (World Bank in 2006 - Baglihar & Wullar) are blamed for failure of the Rabi crop in Pakistani Punjab. People are inflamed by the official propaganda which links crop failure to Baglihar and Wullar. Although according to their own admission, drop in flow in Chenab & Jhelum with these projects is minuscule, yet it is enough to set events in motion which in next three weeks become uncontrollable. In Pakistan there is a demand that Natural Gas flow to India from both Iran-India and Turkmenistan-India pipeline be shutdown. Which the military government in 2020 duly complies? Hence an act of war against India has been committed. Already parched India, suffers more with this unnecessary shutdown. No amount of persuasion by India or the international community is able to change Pakistan’s mind. Pakistan sticks to its policies, because they have nuclear bombs and missiles to deliver them. The international community is double minded. They neither wish to alienate Pakistan completely nor they want a nuclear war hence take a middle of the road approach. They advise India to stop power generation activities in all rivers passing through Kashmir. This advice, in fact if heeded, will be a complete surrender. International community lead by US & UK wants India to avoid a nuclear war. Additional economic pressure is put on India with the flight of money from the Indian stock market. This results in a stock market crash in Mumbai. Millions loose their life savings. Now people in India demand action to open the gas flow and also prevent flight of the capital. India decides to temporarily ban remittance abroad. This alienates the international community. India assures them that it is temporary measure. In a series of very clever moves, Indian Army moves closer to the border undetected. Indians over two-dozen years have developed techniques and methods to beat the US surveillance system. Pakistani army knows the moves well in advance but these moves are so confusing to their analysts that they are unable to figure out their objective. In short duration, Indian Army is posed to strike at a two hours notice and cut Pakistan into two halves. India also orders arming of their nuclear warheads and moves these missiles closer to their position of launch. Pakistan has already taken those steps. Not only Indian missiles are ready to go for the retaliatory strike, India has ordered two its nuclear submarines armed with nuclear missiles to the Arabian Sea. Indian Naval Fleet waits patiently for Pakistanis to make a move. Pakistanis have long planned and practiced operations to destroy Indian refinery complexes in Jamnangar and Mumbai. At the on set of hostilities these will be Pakistan’s primary objectives. Indian naval fleet and the Air Force are there to frustrate these attempts. Two of Pakistani submarines are lurking near Bombay High Oil & Gas Structure. They have been spotted and are being followed. The military rulers in Pakistan realizing that how quickly India could blockade Karachi and Gawadar ports have ordered all their merchant shipping to wait being escorted by the Pakistani Navy. This action depletes Pakistani naval punch and offers India a chance to deal a deadly blow to Pakistan at sea.

US and Europe is watching these moves impatiently. They are having high-level conferences internally and are in constant communication with both India and Pakistan. Finally Chief of the US Central Command arrives in Rawalpindi and Chief of the US Pacific Command arrives in New Delhi. Both have orders to coolly let each of the hosts know, the cost of war, if it outbreaks.

Each of these two US generals briefs the respective host government on what US thinks level of destruction the adversary will impose upon them. Each told his host what is likely to happen in first 15 days of war:

• Cost of Hostilities to India

1. Pakistan with ease will knock out Jamnagar refinery complex and Bomb Mumbai and possibly, Tromway nuclear research station.

2. Bombay High Oil & Gas Platform could be damaged beyond repairs.

3. 20% of Indian Air Force planes could be knocked out of the sky.

4. Pakistanis could achieve a breakthrough to reach Akhnoor to cut off Kashmir from Rest of India. After all they have been practicing it for the last 30 years.

5. Pakistan could try and sneak into India via Khemkaran depression to reach Jullundhar Bridge. They failed in 1965 and this time they will give it another try.

6. All economic and military installation within the Chinese made bomber’s range along the India-Pakistan could be subjected to precision bombing.

7. Terror strikes on economic and religious institutions in India is a big possibility.

In short a tremendous damage within first 4 days of the start of hostilities will be inflicted on India, because Pakistanis have the initiative.

• Cost of Hostilities to Pakistan

1. Overconfident Pakistanis were told that their nuclear facility at Chasma & Kahuta could be precision bombed into Stone Age. This is in return for bombing of Tromway by them.

2. Karachi port could suffer the repeat destruction similar to 1971. This time every possible site within port trust will be bombed to render it useless for a long time.

3. Two of Pakistani Submarines and a host of naval vessels defending Karachi could be sunk in naval engagements on high seas.

4. Indian AWACS aided Air Force will cut a swath of destruction for the Pakistani Air Force. Pakistani best jet fighters and senior pilots could be dead within first four days of start of hostilities. Remaining lower end Pakistani planes dare not engage the marauding Indian Air Force. Need to bomb, hardened silos at Sargodha & Rawalpindi airports by India was found unnecessary as Pakistani Air Force is no longer flying combat missions.

5. A heavy concentration of Pakistani troops opposite Indian Amritsar in Lahore area is cut to pieces to eliminate any possible threat to the Indian holy city. India also threatens similar action on Pakistani column in Akhnoor. This stops them dead in their tracks. They do not wish to be annihilated. Again lack of air support hampered Pakistani operation.

6. The most humiliating part of Pakistani defeat lay in the Rajasthan desert. Indian Army in quick moves could reach Pakistani city of Multan on the10th day of war and cut Pakistan into two halves. This they had practiced for the last 20 years. This time they could successfully accomplished it.

7. With Pakistani military in disarray, rebels in Balochistan, Waziristan, Gilgit & Hunza could raise the flag of independence.

• Nuclear Scenario

Internal discussions began in Pakistani Capital of Rawalpindi for a befitting response to all Indian actions. Pakistan has lost half of its military punch and big loss of face in front of its people. Now nuclear remained the last option. Orders to ready this option were given. Chinese friends tried hard to persuade the Pakistanis to relent. Even the peacemakers in UK and US told the Pakistanis not to pursue nuclear option. They told them that if they unleashed the nuclear weapons, international community will be forced to intervene on behalf of rest of the humanity to prevent the nuclear holocaust and its after affects. They also told them that the Indian Anti Missile shield could block off half of their missiles. Remaining half will fall on unimportant targets, where damage will be great but no strategic defeat on India will be forced. In return the sea born India’s nuclear weapons would kill almost everything in southern Pakistan. Overland Indian missiles would obliterate every possible military, economic and civil target in Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan as a state may cease to exist. They also told the Pakistanis that they (Pakistanis) will have no second strike option, because Indians with their retaliatory first strike will obliterate every possible Pakistani nuclear site, rendering left over nuclear weapons either unserviceable or completely destroyed. Also, immediate assistance from the rest of the world would be impossible, as nuclear fallout will scare away anybody who may wish to help. The Muslim nations all over the world could find themselves unable to help as the fast pace of events took them by a surprise. Also India is a friend and did not initiate this conflict. They could only offer moral support and prayers. Chinese with massive economic relations with India could offer only lip service and minor military support to Pakistan. Indian decision not to attack Gawadar port and Karokaram Highway prevented direct Chinese intervention.

This frank advice from two very senior US generals to India & Pakistan knocked sense into both. The latter relented immediately by opening the Gas flow to India. Suddenly the martial music both on Pakistani & Indian airwaves ceased. Armies on both sides heaved a sigh a relief. So did the rest of the world. There was a talk of meeting between Indian Prime Minister & Pakistani military ruler. The net achievement of this crisis was zero. Public in Pakistan wished for a change of government. They felt being betrayed by the leaders. They had assumed that they had to go next door and grab all the water they wished. Suddenly they found themselves as parched as before and with a loss of face. On top of that there was a huge expenditure on troop movements, which they could hardly afford.

From Indian point of view Pakistanis were lucky again. US intervened to save them from a certain defeat and destruction. Again for India, economic damage by ruthless Pakistani bombing was saved. Stock market restored itself to pre-war position.

The above Scenario, although Imaginary is a Distinct Possibility

The above scenario is completely imaginary but is a possibility. The irony is that minor disputes during economic hardship lead to war. Water disputes are not uncommon. Europe had it for the last 500 years. US overcame them by fairly distributing the benefits of water and power projects. India & Pakistan can also distribute the benefits of Himalayan water drainage system very fairly. This is possible, if Pakistan dumps its military-mullah leadership and becomes a good neighbor. With reduced military expenditure pressure in Pakistan, monies could be transferred to economic management of the country. Managing water resources should be of utmost importance to them. Major dams like Kalabagh & Basha could be completed in next 10 years. That will relive half of the shortage of water. Other half is to be met with local storage of surplus Monsoon rainwater. All these schemes are not new to the Pakistani engineers but these have not been implemented because funds do not exist. Financial institutions like World Bank, Asia Bank, IDA are ready to help. For that to happen, Pakistan has to change its mindset. In addition small water disputes, which are not material (like Baglihar or Wullar), are not to be internationalized. Nor these disputes are to be used as political tool to gain popularity.


A war over water rights between India and Pakistan is a distinct possibility in next 15 to 20 years. To this extent Pakistan is already pumping up its propaganda machinery to blame legal Indian hydroelectric projects upstream on rivers in Kashmir. It is true that water flows from India to Pakistan. But India has declared that they will not draw any water out of these rivers but only generate electricity and let it go “as is” to Pakistan. One fails to see the Pakistani point in opposing India’s economic moves. They have to learn from Europe and US, where water rights are amicably managed and benefits shared.

Alternative scenario of war is bad for Pakistan. It will loose all its cards if it fights India, which by then is a major economic power. Pakistanis cannot depend upon UK and US to save them, if going gets tough. Because privately they have been mad at them for harboring terrorists. Chinese are less likely to help in a crisis, because they are better businessmen than warmongers. They do not wish to jeopardize $200 Billion trade between India & China, which is likely the case in next 15 years.

Hari Sud

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