Calcutta Notebook


India has imposed 200 percent import duty on goods imported from Pakistan in retaliation to the Pulwama attack. This is not likely to go very far though. Pakistan's exports to India are barely 1.4 percent of her total exports. Cutting off these imports are not likely to make a major dent on the Pakistan economy.

India's efforts to push Pakistan into a financial corner is also not working. Pakistan has been able to raise funds from China and Saudi Arabia to tide over her economic problems. The Saudi Crown Prince gave lip service to the need to counter terrorism during his recent visit to India. He did not mention Pakistan's role in the same which shows his leanings. Even the International Monetary Fund has agreed to consider lending money to help Pakistan tide over her economic difficulties. India's efforts to isolate Pakistan on the economic front will, therefore, come to a naught. Then India's military options are also limited given that Pakistan too is a nuclear power. This is amply demonstrated by the escalation of cross-border firing from Pakistan after Pulwama. Pakistan knows that India cannot launch a conventional war hence has no hesitation in making provocation.

In this situation one should consider using water as an instrument of war. The total river water available in Pakistan is 145 million acre feet (MAF). Of this the Indus river system provides 113 MAF.India allocated the water of three of these rivers-namely, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum-totaling 80 MAFto Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty. The balance 33 MAF from Beas, Ravi and Satlej was allocated to India. India, however, was not able to use all of this water allocated to it and was allowing some of it to flow to Pakistan. Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari has announced that India is taking steps to stop the flow of her share of waters to Pakistan.

Eighty MAF water flows from India to Pakistan. This is more than one-half of the 145 MAF river water available to Pakistan. This water sustains the agriculture, industries and cities during the eight lean months from November to June.Cutting off this supply of water will create unsurmountable difficulties for Pakistan.

India will have to circumvent the Indus Water Treaty to implement this strategy. The Treaty provides that any change will be made only by mutual agreement; and in the event of a dispute, it will be referred to the World Bank for mediation. Thus one cannot withdraw from the Treaty unilaterally.

There is a way out. One can scrap the Treaty altogether. The Preamble of the Treaty says that India and Pakistan have entered into the Treaty "in a spirit of goodwill and friendship…" This friendship has been shattered by Pulwama. Thus the very basis of the Treaty has been eroded.

As said above, the Treaty provides that any modification will be done only by mutual agreement. However, since the very basis of the Treaty has been removed, India would be justified in abrogating the Treaty unilaterally.It is a well-established principle that a law must be interpreted in the light of the Preamble. The Treaty falls if Pakistan works contrary to the principles of goodwill and friendship.

There is no International law that binds India to honour the Treaty. The United Nations has passed a non-binding resolution that an upstream country will take into account the interests of the downstream country in managing its international rivers. But "taking into account" does not mean giving away all the waters of certain rivers to the downstream country. The role of the World Bank is only of mediation. The Bank can make the two parties sit across the table and discuss. The Bank cannot impose its decision on the two countries. The Treaty is silent on the course of action that a country may take if the mediation fails. One can abrogate the mediation clause along with the Treaty as a whole.

There is a deeper question that one must face. How is it that a handful of jihadists are able to keep the whole world on ransom? The strength of the jihadists lies in they being able to combine inner strength and outer action. The Hindu religion has two paths-external (pravritti) and internal (nivratti). The Buddhist religion similarly has Mahayana and Hinayana. These paths are generally considered mutually exclusive. A person following the external path does not make much effort to connect with the Divine within. His external works are, in the main, driven by human energy only. On the other hand, a person following the internal path disconnects with the external world. He taps into divine energy but is not able to channelise the energy for the betterment of the world. He is like a supercharged battery without a cable to take the energy to the light bulb.

The Jihadists are able to connect the internal divine energy with the external works. The New World Encyclopedia defines Jihad as follows: Jihad refers "to the religious duty of Muslims to strive… both for the sake of internal, spiritual growth, and for the defense and expansion of Islam in the world…" The Encyclopedia quotes the Dictionary of Islam as "jihad as having two meanings: an inner spiritual struggle (the 'greater jihad'), and an outer physical struggle against the enemies of Islam (the 'lesser jihad')." Thus when the terrorists flew the airplanes into the World Trade Tower or staged Pulwama, they simultaneously were promised the internal Jannat and external expansion of Islam. The Hindu and Buddhist religions are not able to match this power of Jihad because they defend themselves with external works disconnected with the divine power. The army man sacrifices his life for the "country"—which is, of course, highly laudable, but it is still short of sacrificing for the Divine. He draws energy from the 135 crore people of the country, but not from the Divine. This is the reason that Hindu youth are not entering into Pakistan as jihadists. Dying for the country would provide them with external glory but not internal Moksha. Thus, while the youth of Pakistan challenge the Indian army as individuals, the youth of India ask the army to combat them. Why Hindu youth are not entering as "terrorists" into Pakistan? Indeed, the Gita can be interpreted to indicate the combination of the internal and the external: "By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, man can, in the performance of his own duty, attain perfection" (18:46). However, the main thrust of both the theory and practice of Hinduism is a separation of the internal and external paths. Hinduism, Buddhism and even Christianity have to learn from the jihadists and connect the internal and the external worlds. Only then they can reform themselves to be able to combat global terror.

[Formerly Professor of Economics at IIM Bengaluru]

Vol. 51, No.36, Mar 10 - 16, 2019