Pakistan asks India to stop work on Baglihar

…and promptly links the Indus Waters issue to the peace process

Pakistan has asked India to stop work on the Baglihar hydro-electric project if bilateral water talks are to proceed. And there is more: it contends that the additional ‘trust-deficit’ created by the impasse on the water issue will have an ‘indirect’ impact on the peace process. Diplospeak, that is, for linking the water talks too to Kashmir.

Irrigation works were held up for a decade in the 1950s because India and Pakistan could not agree on a deal. That’s a whole decade of lost development. And finally, the Indus Waters treaty was successfully concluded only because water-sharing was isolated from other problems that vexed bilateral relations, yes, including that one on Kashmir.

Pakistan’s response is incoherent — if it intends to seek recourse in the arbitration mechanism provided by the treaty, it must delinks the issue from the confidence-building measures that are on the agenda of bilateral peace talks.

Gen Musharraf will make a final call on this soon. How he chooses will suggest his general approach to relations with India: will it be a rational process of narrowing important differences one by one, or the good old habit of linking everything back to Kashmir.

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