Four Cardinal Principles for
Pakistan’s water diplomacy
Pakistan’s water diplomacy in the region must be based on four cardinal principles:
- Pakistan’s regional diplomacy should seek to proactively respond to India’s efforts to keep a lid on water as a bilateral matter and deal with each neighbour separately. Pakistan is not the only country with which India has unresolved water issues. In fact, India has such disputes with almost all its neighbours, from Bangladesh to China. Pakistan should, therefore, elevate transboundary waters to bilateral discussions with all of India’s water neighbours, particularly Bangladesh and China, but also with increasingly more assertive Bhutan and Nepal.
- Transboundary water is not only about diplomatic negotiations, but also about an issue of upstream investments for downstream economic needs. Pakistan has not made adequate investments to secure water for its future use. Upstream investments in Bhutan by India have resulted in three hydel power projects of 1,416MW, and three more of 2,129MW are under construction. Afghanistan-Pakistan geography and topography is ideally suited for benefit-sharing from Kabul River. Pakistan needs to consider similar upstream investments in Afghanistan, where the construction of 13 smaller dams is under consideration. Pakistan can fully or partially fund the construction of one or two smaller dams in Afghanistan. In return, Pakistan can secure both energy and water to lift its tribal areas and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa out of water and energy deficits. A clear proposition by Pakistan can help Islamabad forge common ground with Afghanistan and, ideally, with the World Bank. Prolonged inaction by Islamabad will inevitably result in a void that can be too tempting for extra-regional actors.
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