Bruised by the Uri attack, Prime minister Modi has been mulling over possible non-military options to convey to Pakistan India’s extreme anger over the incursion. MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status for Pakistan is almost going to be withdrawn. Sharing river waters with Pakistan as per the Indus Water Treaty is no longer a pleasant idea. PM Modi has been holding confabulations to see if the treaty can be abrogated, and water flow be stemmed to hurt Pakistan. His intentions are writ large on his remarks that “Blood and Water cannot flow together.” However, it seems certain that India will honour the IWT for now. Instead, the Centre intends to make full and optimal use of India’s share of waters as per the Treaty. Curiously, India has not been doing so, till now. Abrogating the IWT is a fraught and pungent option that would have serious ramifications. Holding of the inter-ministerial meeting on IWT options at this point was, therefore, not going to be useful. In his Kozikode message, Modi had given a statesman type call to the Pakistanis to jointly fight poverty, with India. It was a positive message, but talking loudly about cancellation of the IWT was not. It has to be borne in mind that the World Bank had midwife the IWT of 1960. The treaty that outlines the way the water of the five rivers are to be shared by India and Pakistan has stood firm, despite the wars the two nations fought in 1965 and 1971, and the continual flare-ups along the LOC. India would find itself in the wrong side of law if it reneges on the treaty. Global condemnation would follow. In what way India can make use of its balance share of the water of the five rivers is not clear. Only some parts of Jammu and Kashmir can be irrigated better with the water. For holding back the excess unused water now flowing into Pakistan, dams would have to be built. It could take years. Most international funding institutions and banks will frown upon such a plan that would surely impact environment. Now it appears that the frenzied media coverage of the Prime minister’s ‘review’ of the IWT was anything but a damp squib. Such an ill-co0nceived move and the hype created about it later have damaged the credibility of the PM. Regrettably, the media storm continues apace, and do not show sign of slowing down. The pros and cons of going back on the Treaty are not seeing the much-needed dispassionate analysis. Instead, we hear a lot of irrational but potentially dangerous jingoism. The need of the hour is a cool head and a cool nerve. Revoking the MFN status will hardly ruffle Pakistan, given the low volume of bilateral trade.
Pre-empting Uri and Pathankot style attacks needs a whole gamut of strategies – strategic, intelligence and political. Discussing these matters in public reduces their efficacy. India’s strategic restraint in the past against cross-border terrorism has helped the country build its image as a dependable, stable and responsible country. This approach must not be abandoned. After all, India and Pakistan will have to return to peace, one day. ————————end———————–