According to India’s three federal and state officials, the hydro-power projects cost $15 billion in India-held Kashmir in recent months have been fast tracked, ignoring warnings from Islamabad that power stations on rivers flowing into Pakistan will disrupt water supplies.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested the swift approval of projects that had weakened for years that sharing the waterways could be conditional on Pakistan clamping down on anti-India militants that New Delhi says it shelters.
Pakistan has opposed some of these projects before, saying they violate a World Bank-mediated treaty on the sharing of the Indus river and its tributaries upon which 80pc of its irrigated agriculture depends.
Pradeep Kumar Pujari, a top ranking official in India’s power ministry said “I say the way you look at these projects, it is not purely a hydro project. Broaden it to a strategic water management, border management problem, and then you put in money.”
While Pakistan refuses any involvement in the 28-year armed insurgency in held Kashmir and has repeatedly urged New Delhi to hold talks to decide the future of the region.
Nafees Zakaria, Foreign ministry spokesman said he would confer with the Ministry of Water and Power on the proposed Indian projects, saying it was a technical matter.
India would be attending a regular meeting of the Indus Commission later this month in Lahore.
“It seems that finally India has realised the importance of this mechanism under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) for resolving water disputes related to the Indus water and its tributaries,” he added.
The senior official at the Indian Water Resources Ministry said “We have developed barely one-sixth of the hydropower capacity potential in the state in the last 50 years.”
Six hydro projects in India-held Kashmir either cleared viability tests or the more advanced environment and forest expert approvals in the last three months, two officials in India’s Water Resources Ministry and the Central Electricity Authority said separately.
A 2011 report by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said New Delhi could use these projects as a way to control Pakistan’s supplies from the Indus, seen as its jugular vein.
“The cumulative effect of these projects could give India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the growing season,” it said.
Modi told a meeting of government officials on the Indus treaty last year that “blood and water cannot flow together”, soon after India blamed Pakistan-based militants for a deadly attack on its troops in held Kashmir.
Modi’s message was two-fold, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said. Terrorism had to stop and India must fully utilise the economic potential available to it within the Indus treaty.
In January, India’s senior federal officials made a presentation on energy security to Modi in which they proposed interest subsidies and long-term loans for hydro projects above 100MW, according to the document seen by Reuters.
But Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of South Asia Network said “It’s on one river, the Chenab, where you are doing so many projects. This is a very vulnerable region. It’s landslide-prone, it’s flash flood-prone, earthquake-prone.”