Troubled waters? India fast-tracks hydro projects in disputed Kashmir
India has fast-tracked hydropower projects worth $15 billion in Kashmir in recent months, three federal and state officials said, ignoring warnings from Islamabad that power stations on rivers flowing into Pakistan will disrupt water supplies.
The swift approval of projects that had languished for years came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested last year 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 80 percent of its irrigated agriculture depends.
The schemes, the largest of which is the 1,856 MW Sawalkote plant, will take years to complete, but their approval could prove a flashpoint between the nuclear-armed neighbours at a time when relations are at a low ebb.
“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,” said Pradeep Kumar Pujari, the top ranking official in the power ministry.
Pakistan denies any involvement in the 28-year armed insurgency in Indian Kashmir and has repeatedly urged New Delhi to hold talks to decide the future of the region.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Nafees Zakaria, said he would confer with the Ministry of Water and Power on the proposed Indian projects, saying it was a technical matter.