Transboundary Basin Management under conditions of Latent Conflict: A Multi-Sectoral and Multi-Disciplinary Approach towards the Kabul River Basin
Kabul River Basin, a highly significant geographical and thematic area of concern, requires immediate attention of authorities from both sides of the Durand Line keeping in view the long-time security centred nature of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. However, the issue remains virtually absent from the script of inter-state relations and diplomacy. Attempts made by both the states to forge a water treaty have not succeeded so far and experts believe that neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan is serious about addressing the issue. Given the lives and livelihoods now at stake (elaborated in subsequent sections), it is reckless on the part of authorities not to adopt alternative approaches towards the shared management of the Kabul River Basin, especially when water stress is increasingly being linked to heightened diplomatic tension and possible violent conflict. In this situation, we suggest an alternative approach that expands the concept of water sharing to the sharing of cross-sectoral benefits of water utilization and that challenges the presumed need for a state-brokered treaty before some meaningful basin cooperation may take place. This approach is contextualized within a hybrid framework that draws from both ‘conflict resolution’ and ‘conflict transformation’ frameworks, and reserves a significant role for non-state, sub-state, and civil society stakeholders in peace-building. The key proposition in this study is that if the transboundary basin management discourse about the Kabul River Basin can be changed from water-sharing to benefit-sharing across the water, food, and energy sectors, the social conditions and political will needed for long-term state-to-state engagement can be created without jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of basin-dependent communities during the intervening period.