Contested Sovereignty: Territoriality and Natural Resources in the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty and the Kashmir Conflict

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:50 AM
Columbia Hall 9 (Washington Hilton)
Daniel Haines, Royal Holloway, University of London
The Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 left many matters of conflict between the new countries. Two of the most dangerous were the disputes over the water resources of the Indus Basin, and the territory of Kashmir. Moreover, the disputes were linked: several Indus tributaries flow through Kashmir before entering the plains. In 1960 the Indus Waters Treaty apparently resolved the water dispute by assigning the waters of the eastern rivers to India, and the western to Pakistan. While this act was widely seen as completing unfinished business by re-inscribing the territorial Partition on the river system, this paper argues that India and Pakistan’s hydraulic relationship remained implicated in the territorial disputes between the two.

The Treaty’s sponsors in Washington and London hoped that the Treaty would reduce tensions over Kashmir. But hostility in the disputed territory spilled into open war by 1965. This paper demonstrates that India and Pakistan’s aggressive assertions of territorial sovereignty over Kashmir, and resource sovereignty over the Indus Basin rivers, during the 1950s remained intertwined even after the Treaty’s signing. Deploying archival material from India, Pakistan, the United States, and the United Kingdom, it argues that Treaty’s apparent separation of the eastern and western rivers masked the continued importance of water in the Indian and Pakistani governments’ framing of their territorial sovereignty. Using critical frameworks on sovereignty and territoriality from human geography, as well as political and international history, the paper explores what it meant for India and Pakistan to be separate nation-states in the wake of decolonization.