ISLAMABAD: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who arrived in Islamabad on Sunday morning on a four-day visit, said that the waters shared by Pakistan and India “must be a tool for peace and not war.”
His comments were part of an address on climate change in the capital.
Last year, when tensions between the two countries reached a tipping point, the UN chief was told by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that India had hinted at abandoning the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty — an agreement brokered by the World Bank — which could potentially start a water war.
“Water must be an instrument of peace and not an instrument of conflict,” Guterres said, referring to heightened security issues between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
“I would ask the two countries to have clear cooperation in relation to water. And I have some moral authority,” the UN chief said, adding that as prime minister of Portugal he had spearheaded a water-sharing agreement with neighboring Spain.
“If one country thinks (it can) solve the problem by letting others in a bad situation ... in the end things turn against everybody.”
On Sunday, Guterres said that 80 percent of the water used for agriculture by Pakistan — an agriculture-based economy — was at risk because of climate change.
He said that it was unfair that Pakistan was at the front line of climate change’s negative impacts while contributing little to global environmental damage.
“SDGs must be fulfilled by 2030. The world needs to reduce carbon emission levels. Our planet is burning and too many politicians continue to fiddle. We have to move from a grey to a green economy,” Guterres said, referring to a “climate emergency.”
Following a keynote speech by the minister for climate change, the adviser to the PM on the topic, Amin Aslam, highlighted the dangers that Pakistan faces — and the government’s five-point agenda to address the core issues of climate change.
Pakistan has a 2030 goal to achieve 30 percent clean energy through renewable projects and 30 percent through hydro projects.
During his visit, Guterres will also attend an international conference on Afghan refugees that is being hosted by Pakistan.
The two-day event, from Feb. 17-18, will mark four decades since refugees first moved to Pakistan to escape a decades-long conflict plaguing neighboring Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion of 1979.
He is expected to hold talks with Pakistan President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, in addition to other senior officials.
PM Khan will inaugurate the Afghan refugees’ conference, which is expected to host the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, and ministers and senior officials from about 20 countries “who have been supporting the Afghan refugees across the globe and in Pakistan,” the FO said in a statement last week.
Pakistan is host to nearly 1.4 million registered refugees, as corroborated by the UNHCR.