The Indus Basin: The Potential for Basin-Wide Management Between India and Pakistan

  • Douglas HillEmail author
Part of the Water Security in a New World book series (WSEC)


This chapter is concerned with how water can be sustainably managed across the Indus basin, focusing specifically on the challenges of surface water management in India and Pakistan. Governments in both countries have laid emphasis on the expansion of hydropower for storage, irrigation, and energy trading, and consequently the politics of water is increasingly implicated in the geopolitics of the Indus basin. Within each country, the control of water varies across time and space and reflects the dynamics of broader power structures such as those related to the relationship of the state to different social groups. The supply-side hydraulic paradigm that has historically predominated in both countries engenders a technocratic institutional culture and securitized discursive environment that is resistant to the voices of nonelite actors. As the private sector has assumed a greater role in hydropower construction, particularly in the Indian Himalayas, there has not been a concomitant shift in the transparency or accountability of water governance institutions, as advocates of economic liberalization suggest there should be.

Clearly, then, accommodating the needs of different stakeholders beyond the status quo requires a challenge to prevailing state-society relations within both India and Pakistan at a variety of scales. In turn, effective basin-wide management will require a transformed institutional culture that is more open to polycentric formations. In arguing that such a change in institutional culture is both desirable and possible, the latter part of the paper highlights the role that multitrack dialogues, education, and media can all play as part of the promotion of a de-securitized basin where peaceful and sustainable relations replace long-standing conflict.


Indus basin Multitrack dialogues Transboundary Chenab Hydropower India Pakistan Jammu and Kashmir Himachal Pradesh 


  1. Action Aid International Asia (2011) Natural resource management in South Asia: imagine a New South Asia. Pearson Education, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahmad S (2012) Water insecurity: a threat for Pakistan and India. Atlantic Council of the United States, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  3. Ali SH (2008) The Siachen Peace Park proposal: moving from concept to reality. Environment 50(3):43–43Google Scholar
  4. Ali I (2004) Historical impact on political economy of Pakistan. Asian J Manag Cases 1(2):129–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Asian Development Bank Institute and Asian Development Bank (2013) Connecting South Asia and Southeast Asia: interim report. Asian Development Institute, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  6. Baghel R, Nüsser M (2015) Securing the heights: the vertical dimension of the Siachen conflict between India and Pakistan in the Eastern Karakoram. Polit Geogr 48:24–36Google Scholar
  7. Bakshi, G. and S. Trivedi (2011) The Indus equation. Strategic Foresight Group, MumbaiGoogle Scholar
  8. Briscoe J (2010) Troubled waters: can a bridge be built over the Indus? Economic and Political Weekly, pp 11–17Google Scholar
  9. Briscoe J, Qamar U (2006) Pakistan’s water economy: running dry – background papers. The World Bank, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  10. Chellaney B (2011) Water: Asia’s new battleground. Georgetown University Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  11. Committee on Foreign Relations (2011) Avoiding water wars: water scarcity and central Asia’s growing importance for stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A majority staff report one hundred twelfth congress, first session 2011. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  12. D’Souza R (2008) Framing India’s hydraulic crisis: the politics of the modern large dam. Mon Rev 60(3):112–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. D’Souza R (2014) Peace is not possible and war is not an option! Should we still be ‘talking up’ nontraditional security? Strateg Anal 38(5):741–748CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dore J (2007) Multi-stakeholder platforms: unfulfilled potential. In: Lebel L, Daniel R, Koma YS (eds) Democratising water governance in the Mekong region. Mekong Press, Thailand, pp 197–226Google Scholar
  15. Faiz A-u-H (2007) India-Pakistan dialogue: bringing the society in. Regional Center for Strategic Studies, ColomboGoogle Scholar
  16. FAO (2008) Evaluation of FAO cooperation in India: Andhra Pradesh farmer managed groundwater systems evaluation report. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, RomeGoogle Scholar
  17. Gazdar H (2005) Baglihar and politics of water: a historical perspective from Pakistan. Econ Polit Wkly 40(9):813–817Google Scholar
  18. Glassman J (2010) Bounding the Mekong: the Asian development bank. University of Hawai’I Press, HonululuGoogle Scholar
  19. Gyawali D (1995) Flood of hope; a review of the output of the techno-exuberant school of thought. Himal Association, LalitpurGoogle Scholar
  20. Hill D (2003) Food security, governance and rural development in India under the BJP. South Asia J South Asian Stud 25(3):147–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hill DP (2008) The regional politics of water sharing: contemporary issues in South Asia. In: Lahiri-Dutt K, Wasson R (eds) Water first: issues and challenges for nations and communities. Sage, New Delhi, pp 59–80Google Scholar
  22. Hill DP (2009) Boundaries, scale and power in South Asia. In: Devleena G, Heather G, Stephanie D (eds) Water, sovereignty, and borders in Asia and Oceania. Routledge, New York, pp 87–103Google Scholar
  23. Hill DP (2013a) Trans-boundary water resources, crisis and uneven development in South Asia. South Asia J South Asian Stud 36(2):243–257Google Scholar
  24. Hill DP (2013b) Water-sharing in the Indus basin: a peaceful, sustainable future is possible. Glob Dialogue 15(2).
  25. Hill DP (2015) Where hawks dwell on water and bankers build power poles: transboundary waters, environmental security and the frontiers of neo-liberalism. Strateg Anal 39(6):729–743CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Homer-Dixon TF (1994) Environmental scarcities and violent conflict: evidence from cases. Int Secur 1(5):5–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Homer-Dixon TF (1999) Environment scarcity and violence. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  28. Indus Basin Working Group (2013) Connecting the drops: an Indus basin roadmap for cross-border water research, data sharing and policy coordination. Stimson, ORF and SDPI, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  29. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2013) South Asia water initiative 2009–2013 final report. World Bank, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  30. Jaitly A (2009) South Asian perspectives on climate change and water policy. In: Michael D, Pandya A (eds) Troubled waters: climate change, hydropolitics, and transboundary resources. The Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC, pp 17–31Google Scholar
  31. Lahiri-Dutt K (2000) Imagining rivers. Econ Polit Wkly 35(27):2395–2397, 2399–2400Google Scholar
  32. Lahiri-Dutt K, Wasson RJ (eds) (2008) Water first: issues and challenges for nations and communities in South Asia. Sage, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  33. Lieven A (2012) Pakistan: a hard country. Penguin, LondonGoogle Scholar
  34. Mazoomdar J (2014) Invisible strings- the IB’s report on NGOs’. Tehelka 26 (11), 28th June 2014Google Scholar
  35. McCartney MP, Sullivan C, Acreman MC (2001) Ecosystem impacts of large dams’ background paper No. 2 prepared for IUCN/UNEP/WCD (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the United Nations Environmental Programme)Google Scholar
  36. Molden DJ, Vaidya RA, Shrestha AB, Rasul G, Shrestha MS (2014) Water infrastructure for the Hindu Kush Himalayas. Int J Water Resour Dev 30(1):60–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mollinga PP (2008) Water, politics and development: framing a political sociology of water resources management. Water Altern 1(1):7–23Google Scholar
  38. Mustafa D (2010) Hydropolitics in Pakistan’s Indus basin. U S Inst Peace. Special Report No. 261Google Scholar
  39. Mustafa D, Akhter M, Nasralla N (2013) Understanding Pakistan’s water-security nexus. United States Institute of Peace, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  40. Pohl B et al (2014) The rise of hydro-diplomacy. Adelphi, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  41. Pomeranz K (2009) The great Himalayan watershed: agrarian crisis, mega-dams and the environment. New Left Rev 58:5–39Google Scholar
  42. Pradhan NS, Khadgi VR, Schipper L, Kaur N, Geoghegan T (2012) Role of policy and institutions in local adaptation to climate change – case studies on responses to too much and too little water in the Hindu Kush Himalayas Kathmandu: ICIMODGoogle Scholar
  43. Rasul G (2010) The role of the Himalayan mountain systems in food security and agricultural sustainability in south Asia. Int J Rural Manag 6(1):95–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rasul G (2014) Food, water and energy security in South Asia: a nexus perspective from the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. Environ Sci Pol 39:35–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Read L, Kuhl L (2015) Bringing the elephant into the room: integrating risk into interdisciplinary water programmes. J Contemp Water Res Educ 155:19–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rodell M, Velicogna I, Famiglietti JS (2009) Satellite-based estimates of groundwater depletion in India. Nature 460:999–1002CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Roy A (1999) The Cost of Living. Flamingo [imprint HarperCollins], LondonGoogle Scholar
  48. Salman MAS, Uprety K (2002) Conflicts and cooperation on South Asia’s international rivers; a legal perspective. The World Bank, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  49. Sarwar B (2014) Pakistan’s media wars. Himal South Asia, July. The South Asian Trust, LalitpurGoogle Scholar
  50. Shaukat S (2014) The myth of ‘Aman Ki Asha’ South Asia
  51. Sherndurnikar N (n.d) Content analysis of ‘Aman Ki Asha’ a peace journalism campaign by the times of India and Jang Group Pakistan’. Available at
  52. Wilson JS, Otsuki T (2007) Regional integration in South Asia: what role for trade facilitation? vol 4423, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper. World Bank, Washington, DC,  10.1596/1813-9450-4423 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. World Bank (2014) Regional integration in South Asia March 24th, 2014 Accessed 24th Aug 2015

Newspaper Articles

  1. ‘India for resolving Ratle hydro plant issue with Pakistan through talks’ Economic Times 23 Aug 2015. Accessed 30 Aug 2015
  2. India not causing water shortage in Pakistan: Irsa’, The News International July 12, 2015. [last accessed 16th June, 2016]
  3. Alam I (2015) Pakistan to move ICJ over India’s water aggression. The Nation, 9 Feb 2015Google Scholar
  4. ‘PDP Perturbed over Power minister’s rejection of NHPC projects’, Early Times Report 5/22/2016. [last accessed 16th June, 2016]
  5. Shah U (2015) Time to call return of power projects from NHPC. Kashmir Monitor, 4 Mar 2015Google Scholar
  6. Water treaty with Pakistan not profitable, says Omar Abdullah’. The Asian Age, 24 Aug 2014Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations