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Kashmiris do not believe Mumbai attacks will lead to war

Dispute over water seems a more likely cause for conflict.

Srinagar, India // India's relationship with Pakistan is once again under strain in the aftermath of the terrorist strikes in Mumbai. In his TV address to the nation after the attacks last week, Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, came close to threatening retaliation against Pakistan if its involvement can be proved.

Thousands of miles away from the scene of the attack, the thought that it may push the two South Asian neighbours into an eyeball-to-eyeball situation along their frontiers has chilled the people of Kashmir, the site of two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since their independence from Britain in 1947. Yet while the average citizen is keeping his fingers crossed, Kashmir analysts have refused to fall for any knee-jerk analysis. They see the possibility of a fourth war breaking out between the two countries in the immediate future as improbable.

"The Mumbai incidents may well prove to be a watershed in their relations - bad or good - but I don't think war or air strikes on Pakistan, as some right-wing Hindu political groups are asking for, is an option," said Mohammed Aslam, a law professor at the University of Kashmir. "No wonder, if they rise to the occasion and agree to become allies in the war on terror. After all, both are victims of this menace."

Violence in Indian-administered Kashmir has been on the decline, and India and Pakistan have been trying to overcome difficulties, particularly on the issue of Kashmir. In spite of recent incidents of firing along their borders, the two countries have displayed self-restraint as they abide by a Nov 2003 ceasefire. Both sides openly promise to do all they can to ensure no confrontations occur. But in contrast to the perceptible bonhomie, all does not seem well between the two neighbours as far as the use of river waters goes. In fact, South Asian watchers believe, the two are more likely to go to war over the waters of this scenic, disputed Himalayan region.

Pakistan's Indus water commissioner, Jamaat Ali Shah, said last week that India would turn Pakistan into a barren country by 2014 by blocking its waters. Islamabad claims that New Delhi recently stopped the flow of water into Pakistan from rivers from Indian Kashmir on which it has constructed dams. It also claimed that Pakistan had, because of the water storage in the Baglihar dam on Chenab River, faced water losses of more than 0.2 million cusecs, which is a violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960. (A cusec is the flow of water equal to one cubic foot per second.)

New Delhi denies the charge and insists that it was a temporary occurrence that lasted for only 10 days in August this year to fill the dam of the recently constructed Baglihar hydroelectric project. The IWT divides control between India and Pakistan of several rivers draining into the Indus River basin and was signed by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian prime minister, and the Pakistani president, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, on Sept 19 1960 in Karachi. It awarded the three eastern rivers - Ravi, Sutlej and Beas - exclusively to India and the three western rivers - Indus, Jhelum and Chenab - exclusively to Pakistan except for limited uses by India in upstream areas in Indian-administered Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. As per the treaty, the construction of storage dams in upstream Jhelum within the Kashmir Valley is not allowed. That is why the hydroelectric projects on the Jhelum have to be run-of-the-river schemes.

Islamabad has accused New Delhi of often violating the treaty. Mr Singh, however, has assured that the treaty will be implemented in letter and spirit while sharing the river waters. "Pakistan's genuine concerns will be taken care of," he said while inaugurating the 450-megawatt Baglihar hydropower project recently. * The National

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