Indus Water Treaty: Next Victim of Water Wars? Part - II

Continued from part - 1
This article is the final article in a 2 Part series covering the historic Indus Water Treaty (IWT). In the previous part, we have explored the dynamics of India and Pakistan with reference to IWT.  We will continue and appraise the IWT with norms of international laws and conventions on sharing of international river basins. There are a total of 261 river basins in the world which are shared by co-riparians. Due to the lack of a universal agency to enforce the water sharing mechanism between states, international and conventions on water sharing are difficult to implement. 

Generally, the upper riparian states claim absolute territorial sovereignty, with the right to use and exploit the waters in their own territory without any consideration of the effect of such use and exploitation on the lower riparians. Lower riparians claim the absolute integrity of the river, claiming that upper riparians have no right to take any action that alters the quality/quantity of water in the basin. The contradiction of these two stands results in inordinate delays in resolution of disputes related to sharing of water between co-riparians.

IWT vs. International Laws and Conventions

The Rule of Equitable Utilization was codified by the UNGA in May 1997 as the first principle of water sharing in Article 5. This rule enjoins the co-riparian states to utilize and international water course in an equitable and reasonable manner. It gives the right to each co-riparian to participate in protections, use and development of all international water basins in an equitable manner.

Besides the Principle of Equitable Distribution, the UN Convention also accepted the second principle of water sharing called the ‘No-Harm Rule’ in Article 7. This rule seeks to protect the existing uses of water. Though it may appear contradictory to the first rule of equitable utilization, the UN Convention has clarified that the Law of Equitable Utilization takes precedence over the No-Harm Rule.

Equitable sharing of waters of an international river basin is not easy to define. However, certain guidelines have been laid down in Article 6 of the UN Convention as under:
  1. Natural character to include geography, hydrography, hydrology, ecology, climate etc.
  2. Economic and social status and needs of the co-riparians.
  3. Implications and effects of use(s) of water basin by one co-riparian on other(s).
  4. Present and future potential uses of the water basin.
  5. Protection, conservation and development of water resources in a cost effective and economic manner.
  6. Whether alternatives to a particular type of water use are available.

All disputes are to be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and all parties must agree to doing so as also accept the court’s verdict. Since every country treats water as a strategic resource there is always reluctance in referring it to the ICJ. The IWT was the first international water sharing treaty negotiated with the help of a neutral third party and at the time of signing, the UN Convention of 1997 was not in vogue. Thus the application and implementation of international water sharing laws always remains a question mark with the UN.

Comparison of IWT with other Water Sharing Treaties

Treaties on sharing of international river basins vary based on the following parameters-The no. of parties to the agreement (Bilateral/Multilateral), territorial extent (Entire basin or part of it),subject matter of cooperation (data collection, allocation, planning, construction works etc.) and intensity of cooperation, ranging from sharing of information to joint planning and implementation of common developmental projects and programs. Based on the above mentioned parameters, the major water sharing treaties can be classified into following categories:
  1. The Most Committed and More Cooperative Basins- this includes basins like Niger (nine members) and Rio Grande / Colorado (two members). The Niger River Commission is a multipurpose institution with broad authority over the entire basin for areas of data collection, navigation, irrigation, development, hydropower and environmental monitoring. In the case of Rio Grande / Colorado, the International Boundary and Water Commission manage the two basins as well as the border between the USA and Mexico. The commission has developed a unique and equitable approach and deals with all aspects governing water quality and sanitation, flood control and water allocation. Over the years, it has expanded its jurisdiction due to the high level of cooperation between the two states.
  2. River Basins with Medium Levels of Cooperation- in this category, the co-riparian states cooperate only in certain specific areas, e.g. Elbe River Basin. The International Commission for the Protection of River Elbe has the narrow mandate of ensuring water quality for drinking water supply and irrigation.
  3. River Basins with Least Cooperative Regimes- the Indus and Ganges-Brahmaputra river basins have cooperation regimes restricted to very narrowly defined areas. In the case of the 1996 treaty on sharing of Ganges waters between India and Bangladesh at Farakka. The treaty refers to a single use i.e. how much Ganges water will be used by India and Bangladesh in various seasons in order to ensure that India has enough water to flush the port of Kolkata. In case of the IWT, the jurisdiction of the Indus commission is restricted only to inspection and monitoring as India and Pakistan utilize their water resources individually and there is no joint management of the basin.

Thus, it can be seen that an elaborate framework of cooperation without mutual trust and willingness to cooperate doesn’t guarantee the success of water sharing treaties. On the other hand, the Elbe basin is a successful model of cooperation despite a narrower mandate of cooperation due to willingness and trust between the co-riparians. However, the IWT is considered a successful treaty as Indian and Pakistan, with their bitter history of conflict and mistrust, needed to maintain low levels of commitment and cooperation. Though the IWT called for cooperation in joint planning and development of the Indus Basin by India and Pakistan, no matter requiring joint planning has been proposed by either side thus far. The IWT has, therefore, been a ‘conflict resolution’ rather than a ‘basin management’ treaty.

We will now offer a few suggestions to ensure this iconic treaty that has stood the test of time, 3 wars and constant strife remains a model of India-Pakistan cooperation, more so at a time when water scarcity is a harsh reality and given the history of these warring nations, it could turn a historic treaty into the next victim of Water Wars.

In the specific case of Pakistan which depends on the Indus river basin for most of its water requirement, the World Bank’s Strategic Country Environment Assessment Report, 2007 mentioned that the per capita availability of water in Pakistan had declined from about 5000 cubic meters in 1951 to about 1100 in 2007, just above the internationally recognized scarcity rate. It further estimated that this would drop below 700 cubic meters per person by 2025. 

Even if Indian dams on the Western rivers are destroyed, it would make no fundamental change to the availability of water in Pakistan for three reasons. One, the Indian infrastructure on these rivers is mostly run-of-the-water, with no additional storage after the initial filling is done. Two, India has still not fully utilized the amount of storage authorized to it by the treaty. Lastly, Pakistan is struggling with storage of even the present amount of water resources, with no new major dams since the Tarbela Dam, which is also under stress due to silting. Its storage capacity as decreased from an initial 9.6 million acres foot (MAF) to about 6.6 MAF due to lack of maintenance over the years. To rectify this problem now will need monetary and engineering resources that may exceed the current capability of the Pakistan economy.

Despite its generous hydro diplomacy, India has not been able to exploit its own water resources or earn some goodwill from its co-riparian neighbours. Similarly, Pakistan also faces acute domestic pressure over the inter province rivalry over the distribution of Indus waters. The idea of ‘Water Rationality’ proposes that countries act to safeguard their long term supply of fresh water. Towards this end, cooperation rather than conflict appears to be a more probable and beneficial option between the two co-riparian nations. Pakistan has been following the legalistic approach in dealing with the water sharing issues with India because of which it ends up blocking and delaying most of the Indian projects. As most of the Indian projects on the Western rivers are meant for development of the region of J&K, Pakistan’s approach should be based on ‘human security approach’. This would be mutually beneficial to both sides as India can ensure development of the state of J&K and Pakistan will benefit from the regulation of supplies which fluctuate between floods during monsoon to no supply during the dry months. Water needs to be treated as an apolitical resource. The IWT had to be negotiated for over 12 years due to the politicization of the technical and engineering issues related to the sharing of the waters. The World Bank was forced to modify its proposal of joint management of the Indus Basin to division of rivers between the two states. The current day objections being raised by Pakistan are more political in nature rather than being objective and related to the provisions of the IWT. It is in the interest of both the countries to strengthen the bilateral mechanism of the Permanent Indus Commission and resolve issues on a technical basis rather than getting into time consuming and seemingly never ending international arbitration.


Both Pakistan and India need water, but there is a colossal amount of wastage of ground water due to inefficient irrigation and on other accounts of mismanagement of water. While farming takes only 3 percent of water withdrawals in the UK and 41 percent in the USA, the percentage is as high as 90 percent in India and Pakistan. Water management can be improved by undertaking actions under the three basic categories i.e. increase supply, decrease demand and improve quality. No new water sources are likely to be developed in the near future. On the contrary, existing water supply is likely to be depleted in due course of time due to global warming and silting of rivers and dams. In order to improve the supply of water, focus has to shift on better water management practices, some of which include wastewater reclamation, water harvesting and desalination. This would also include improvement of the irrigation canal network in Pakistan Punjab, which has seriously degraded over the years due to neglect. 

Demand can be decreased/ rationalized by improvement in irrigation techniques. Both India and Pakistan use flood irrigation technique which not only leads to large amount of wastage of water, but also causes degradation of the quality of soil due to salivation and silting. Alternative water efficient techniques like drip irrigation need to be developed. Public awareness for water conservation, rationing and management of urban and industrial demand should be inculcated and underground water should be avoided for irrigation purposes as the same will severely reduce the availability of drinking water in the medium to long term.

Lastly, emphasis should be put on improving the quality of water. At present, the entire debate and dispute over sharing of Indus waters is centered around the quantity of water with little concern on the need to maintain the quality of water in the basin. Quality of water can be improved by treatment of drinking water at appropriate levels and ensuring sanitation in and around river bodies. This would further help in controlling water borne diseases.


There is universal acknowledgement of the IWT being a model treaty that has stood even through three wars in the area in question. However, one possible reason for this could be that the upper riparian i.e. India, for a long time, lacked the economic means to exploit the resources allocated to it by the treaty. It was only after the economic liberalization in the 90s that India started to develop works and projects on the Western rivers to exploit the share of water legally allocated to it by the IWT, and it was only since then that major differences on the interpretation of the treaty arose between India and Pakistan. This narrative is yet to play out fully in the future as India moves towards realizing its full share of the waters of the Western rivers over the coming years. 

The role of the World Bank as a third party was pivotal in creating the negotiating space required by the two countries. The World Bank also leveraged its financial muscle to remove the deadlocks created during the negotiations. The process of the two adversaries reaching an agreement over the sharing of the waters is also an act of water rationality and reinforces the belief that co-riparians must cooperate to achieve water security as conflicts and wars over water have no scope of improving the water availability and quality. 

The IWT is also a unique treaty as it focused on equitable division rather than the sharing of the Indus Rivers. This very feature of the treaty is also a technical restriction in ensuring optimum utilization of the river basin. With a growing requirement of water on both sides and the dwindling supply in the rivers, the IWT, like some other treaties, has come under stress and is likely to remain so in future also. The treaty may be sub-optimal on the utilization and development of the Indus Basin, but it is the best the two countries could agree upon after long lasting negotiations spread over 12 years. India and Pakistan need to ensure that the water sharing issues are discussed and resolved at appropriate levels rather than being made a political and leveraging issue. The level of cooperation on water sharing issues between India and Pakistan is far below the ideal, but he same is not a restriction imposed by the provisions of the IWT, but by the complex political environment of rivalry and mistrust which has mired the Indo-Pak relations ever since Partition.

The IWT has stood the test of extreme provocations and three all out wars in the last 50 years, coupled with a long standing insurgency abetted by Pakistan. This, in itself, is sufficient to call it a successful treaty beyond all doubt.

Indus Water Treaty: Next Victim of Water Wars? Part - I

This article is Part 1 in a 2 Part series covering the historic Indus Water Treaty (IWT). With the world facing an acute water shortage and water crisis being inevitable in the future, this treaty is cited as a model of cooperation between two sworn enemies that has even stood through three wars and a prolonged low intensity conflict. Will this continue to be the same in the future or will it become a victim of Water Wars? This gets more alarming in the India-Pakistan context when one adds the issue of dispute over Indus waters to the historical Kashmir dispute between the two nuclear armed countries which may become a potential trigger for a future war in the subcontinent. 

In the first decade since Partition of India in194, one of the most intractable issues left over was the sharing of river and canal waters. What was developed as a single irrigation system over millennia had to be divided between two Sovereign States and to make matters worse, the waters in question flowed through Kashmir, a region that had led to armed conflict soon in the formative years of the two states and repeatedly after. It took the good offices of the World Bank to negotiate a fair and acceptable treaty for the sharing of the waters of the Indus River System between India and Pakistan.

The Indus river system consists of the Indus River and its major tributaries that include Kabul, Kurram, Swat, Jhelum and Chenab rivers in the West and Ravi, Beas and Sutlej in the East. The Indus originates near the Mansarovar Lake and travels through Tibet before entering India in the South-Eastern part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Thereafter, it passes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and then Pakistan before finally draining into the Arabian Sea near Karachi.

However, lately there have been a lot of stresses and strains on the treaty that may make water sharing a politically charged issue between India and Pakistan, possibly even overtaking the issue of Kashmir as the primary source of conflict. Though there is a lack of mutual trust and accommodative spirit between India and Pakistan on most bilateral issues including sharing of water, it is in the interest of both countries to resolve all issues of water sharing on a technical basis within the consultative and reconciliatory framework provided in the IWT rather than letting these be taken over by political or emotional narratives.

Before Partition, The British developed an elaborate system of irrigation canals in the Indus basin in the 19th century. Most of the canals were constructed in the provinces of Punjab and Sind. However, each province built its own works independently due to lack of an integrated approach. Due to a lack of storage facilities, competition for the run-of-river flow increased and led to a dispute between Sind and Punjab in the 1930s. Events leading to the Partition obstructed any final settlement of the dispute. Upon Partition, India became the upper riparian in all five rivers of the Indus Water Basin in Punjab due to the location of headworks on the Indian side of the international boundary. The standstill agreement lapsed on 31 March 1948 and India stopped the water supply to Pakistan on 01 Apr 1948 due to nonpayment of revenue. This is considered to be the start point of the escalation of the dispute as it created a fear psychosis in the minds of Pakistan that India could hold Pakistan to ransom on the issue of water. The two countries signed a temporary Inter Dominion Agreement (also called the Delhi Agreement) in May 1948 to maintain the pre-partition status quo n water sharing till resolution of the dispute over revenue payment. However, India and Pakistan failed to resolve the dispute at a bilateral level due to lack of trust and political will on account of hardened domestic opinions. Pakistan wanted to escalate the dispute by referring it to the International Court of Justice which was rejected by India. On 01 Nov 1949, Pakistan declared the Delhi Agreement to be null and void and stopped making revenue payments with effect from July 1950. However, India continued to supply water to Pakistan without any disruption.

The World Bank’s Involvement
India and Pakistan had both applied for loans from the World Bank for development of works on the disputed waters of Sutlej, which were initially rejected. Later, the World Bank President, Eugene R. Black visited India and Pakistan and proposed the formation of a joint working group of engineers from India, Pakistan and the World Bank. He was of the view that the issue of sharing / division of water should be treated from a ‘functional’, rather than a political perspective. India wanted to use the eater flowing through its territory to develop its own irrigation network. Pakistan was concerned about the resultant damage to its existing usage and the need to ensure uninterrupted supply of water for agriculture. As the negotiations were not making any headway, the World Bank put forward its own settlement proposals in Feb 1954, offering the three Eastern Rivers to India and the three Western Rivers to Pakistan. Under the proposed plan, Pakistan had to construct replacement works to channelize the waters of the western rivers to compensate for the loss of waters of the eastern rivers. The World Bank proposed that India should bear the cost of replacement works in Pakistan. While Pakistan wanted the Indian financial liability to cover the cost of all transfer works as well as developmental works, the huge financial liability of USD 1.2Billion was not acceptable to India. The World Bank President then proposed a solution as per which, India was required to pay a fixed sum of £62.060Million in ten equal yearly installments while the Bank would raise additional funds for Pakistan with the help of Western donor countries. The donors pledged an additional $900Million, clearing the way for the conclusion of the treaty.

Given the inimical and belligerent attitude of India and Pakistan, the mediation by the World Bank acted as a facilitator for continued engagement and negotiations. The World Bank was able to leverage its position as the principal financer to both nations in taking the negotiations ahead. In addition, mid-course correction by the World Bank proposing division of rivers rather than joint development was able to break the deadlock created due to differing positions of India and Pakistan on the sharing of the waters. Intervention by the USA and other developed countries by the way of supporting the World Bank efforts for settlement of the dispute gave the necessary impetus to the negotiation process. In addition, financial contributions by international donors to the Indus Basin Development Fund was an important pre-requisite for the treaty as India and Pakistan were not in a position to bear the huge cost of replacement and development works involved.

The treaty was signed in Karachi between the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the Pakistani President Field Marshal Ayub Khan, along with the World Bank President W.A.B Illif, in September 1960. It was deemed effective from 01 Apr 1960 but was only ratified by the two governments later in January 1961.

When analyzing any treaty, it is imperative that both sides must be given equal weightage along with a similar cost-benefit ratio in order to have a balanced perspective. Policy making is relatively easy but history is witness that when the vision has been myopic, it has only led to long term strife rather than a clear acceptable long term solution. After all, Geopolitics is very dynamic and balances of power can drastically change by the turn of the decade. However, mutual acrimony aside, it’s important to separate facts from paranoia.

An Uneasy Partnership

The Partition of India left Pakistan as the lower riparian with most of the headworks on the Indian side. The experience of India shutting off water in 1948 led to the issue of water security and availability, assuming great importance for Pakistan since its inception making it both an emotive and a political issue during an already sensitive time.

Indus basin accounts for nearly 65% of water available in Pakistan. As an agrarian economy which follows ‘flood irrigation’ techniques, Pakistan relies heavily on the Indus waters for sustaining its population and irrigation needs. A bulk of Pakistan’s settled population depends upon the Indus and its tributaries for sustenance. The lower riparian states of Sindh and Balochistan have been accusing the Punjab province of Pakistan of gross misappropriation and over utilization of the river waters, leading to inter province rivalry within Pakistan and consequent water politics. The dams on the Indus Rivers have been conspicuous sources of conflict amongst the states in mainland Pakistan and a source of discontent amongst the people of PoK.

The political hierarchy of the country leaves no opportunity in linking the shortage of water to the alleged violations of the IWT by India. In addition, terrorist organizations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba have also found a scapegoat in India for the growing water scarcity in Pakistan. Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba has warned that “Muslims dying of thirst would drink the blood of India.”

Pakistan’s fears that India may dry out the rivers before reaching Pakistan by manipulating the storage facilities in various projects are unrealistic as all major Indian projects including the Baglihar Dam are located well inside the Indian Territory and any attempts to dry out the rivers or tributaries will first affect the Indian downstream projects. Moreover, the treaty specifies the maximum and minimum daily/weekly releases from the projects. This has never been violated by India even during wars. In fact, Indus has shown a markedly increased flow over the last decade which belies Pakistani claim of shortages.

Pakistan also fears that India may flood areas in Pakistan by opening gates of Pondage Facility; however due to the physical location of major India projects; the devastation due to flooding will primarily affect areas on the Indian side with minimal damage on the Pakistani side. Releases from run-of-the-river projects cannot cause major floods downstream. It also states that India is violating the IWT by undertaking too many Hydroelectric and Water Storage Projects on the Western Rivers. The IWT permits India to create capacity to store up to 3.6MAF water, number of projects being immaterial. Detailed specifications of hydropower projects by India on Western Rivers as laid down in the IWT have been strictly adhered to. Thus, the Pakistani claim is more political than technical. Its other bizarre claim that India is stealing the Indus Waters, leading to water crisis in Pakistan has been negated by former Pakistani Foreign Minister SM Qureshi, who has said in a TV interview on a Pakistani channel that Pakistan’s water problems are a result of inefficient irrigation and water management, not because of India.

Pakistan’s basic premise since the commencement of negotiations has been that the distribution of Indus waters between India and Pakistan should be based on the theory of ‘Historical Use’ as it sought to gain from the extensive development of canal system in areas of West Pakistan during British rule. However, as a result of the IWT, Pakistan had to let go of its rights over the three Eastern Rivers. So far, Pakistan has attempted to disrupt all such Indian projects by raising unqualified objections. The narrative of the water dispute has been hijacked by politicians. Sardar Asaf Ali, former advisor to the Pakistani Prime Minister has said, “The impending issues over sharing river water between India and Pakistan could trigger a war. Pakistan could pull out of IWT if India does not stop violating the treaty by construction of new dams on Indus River”. Most of the Indus Rivers receive 70-80 percent of water during the monsoon months which requires dams and storage works to achieve optimum utilization. As Pakistan is not in a position to build storage dams on the Western rivers due to geographical challenges, a huge amount of water goes waste into the Arabian Sea. In addition, the monsoons are generally accompanied by huge floods which cause loss of crops and infrastructure in rural Pakistan. As per Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, approximately 21 percent of arable land in Pakistan suffers from salinity and water logging due to excess waters in the Indus basin and the practice of flood irrigation techniques.

India has maintained a position of absolute sovereignty over all Indus waters in its own territory as per the ‘Harmon Doctrine’ and thus stopped the release of Indus waters to Pakistan over nonpayment of revenue once the Standstill Agreement lapsed. The primary Indian concern soon after independence was to exploit the potential of its river basins for development of agriculture and it has always stood by the provisions of the IWT in letter and spirit and continues to do so. India also believes that the Permanent Indus Commission is the best forum to resolve all bilateral disputes related to sharing of Indus waters. There is however there is a serious debate amongst the strategic thinkers and experts in India on the need to abrogate or modify the IWT for better exploitation of the common water resources.

Modification of IWT

Some analysts in India opine that India should leverage its position as the upper riparian to get Pakistan to act on other contentious issues. They argue that Pakistan has not violated the IWT like it did to the treaties of Shimla and Lahore only because of its disadvantageous position of being the lower riparian. The abrogation of the ABM Treaty by the USA and Panchsheel by China are quoted as precedents. India has been forced to function within the restrictive provisions of the IWT and has failed to exploit the hydroelectric opportunities over Jhelum and Chenab Rivers over Pakistani objections to every single project planned by India. Some argue that the signing of the IWT by Mr. Nehru had as an unstated quid pro quo, the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. As the upper riparian, India enjoys a substantial leverage which it has never exploited or even threatened to exploit despite grave provocations from Pakistan. Mr. MS Menon, an Indian security expert says that the IWT is more favourable to Pakistan since it got 80% of Indus waters even though the Indus Rivers chart a large part of their course in India. According to him, India should have got more than 40% of the total waters of the Indus basin and that India should move the World Bank for an overall review of the IWT.

The IWT needs to be renegotiated in order to optimize water utilization by both countries. Optimal utilization of Indus waters can only be done by ‘Integrated Basin Management’ by both countries. Though the initial World Bank proposal envisaged this, but it had to be dropped due to lack of mutual trust as also the politicization of the issue. Through Article VII of IWT that deals with future cooperation, India and Pakistan recognized their common stake in development of Indus river basin in the most optimal manner and committed themselves to cooperate in all fields, including engineering works. However, no action towards joint development has occurred. The essence of the proposed IWT-II centers on joint management of future schemes and optimization of basin plans in Western rivers. Due to geographical constraints, Pakistan cannot build dams on Western rivers while India isn’t allowed to do so by the IWT, resulting in under-utilization of Indus waters. The proposal envisages India being allowed to build storage dams on the upper Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to utilize the waters jointly.

There is a growing demand from the Indian state of J&K to annul the IWT since it prohibits them from exploiting the potential of water resources for irrigation, energy and transport. The state of J&K has a hydroelectric power potential of 20,000 MW.  However, due to restrictions on storage of water of the Western Rivers, the state imports 80% of its power requirement from neighbouring states. The Indian attempts of sharing Ravi River’s water with J&K too have been unsuccessful. It is estimated that more than 200,000 hectares of agricultural land in J&K has remained un-irrigated despite the technical feasibility of utilizing water from Jhelum River on the Indian side. The J&K State Legislative Assembly adopted a resolution in 2002 calling for the abrogation of IWT. Sections of state media also reported that the state is suffering a loss of approximately Rs80 billion per annum on account of import of electricity. Mr. BG Verghese, a prominent water expert has opined that one of the main reasons for Pakistan to seek the state of J&K is that the headworks of the major Indus Rivers are located in J&K and POK. By abrogating the treaty, India may end up strengthening the Pakistani claims on J&K.

Some strategists have proposed certain formulae based on exchange of territory in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure long term water security. One such formula is the ‘Chenab Formula. This was proposed by Sir Owen Dixon, a UN representative for India and Pakistan in 1950. It assigned Ladakh to India, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) TO Pakistan, split Jammu between the two countries and proposed a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley. Contrary to the ‘visible’ demand for Kashmir Valley, parts of Jammu in the Chenab formula explain Pakistan’s compulsion to secure the control over the Indus Rivers. Similarly, the ‘Vale as the Base Formula’ envisages control of the vale of Kashmir by Pakistan by waging proxy war, to secure the Indus waters.

The potential advantages of an IWT-II cannot be denied; the lack of trust between India and Pakistan may not let it come into existence in the foreseeable future since the basic proposal of dam construction by India would mean a loss of control by Pakistan over Western rivers. This may not be politically acceptable in Pakistan. This is further underlined by the fact that India and Pakistan have not taken any steps towards joint development of the Indus river basin despite such provisions existing in the IWT. The IWT is an international agreement signed after prolonged negotiations. It will be detrimental to its international credibility if India were to walk out, especially since the treaty has stood the test of time for over 5 decades. Additionally, mere abrogation without any follow up agreement on water sharing will be counter-productive since the genuine requirements of the lower riparian cannot be wished away. Hence, abrogation is not a viable option.

To be continued in Part - 2...

The Return of the Militias

The chaos in the Middle East we are witnessing is more complex than a simple foreign conspiracy to destabilize the Middle East. We have already discussed in the Greater Middle East Project and the Genesis of ISIS as to how the current conflicts in Middle East Region have emanated. While there have been ample write ups on the Wahhabi Sponsored Ultra Jihadists like Jabhat Ul Nusra and ISIS in Syria/Iraq, the writers have tended to ignore the other side of conflict, which is the Shia Militias fighting from Lebanon to Syria to Iraq and Yemen. The covert backing of Shia Armed Militias by the Religious Theocracy in Iran is the other side of conflict, which is an equal participant in the present conflict in Middle East if not less than the Wahhabi Terror Machine. The Conflict in Syria-Iraq and the wider region in Middle East have more of sectarian undertone of a Shia-Sunni conflict than just the foreign participation in the conflicts. While the Sunni Arab States primarily GCC (Saudis, Qatar etc.), Turkey are covertly backing Syrian Rebels, ISIS and Nusra; Shia Iran is backing Militant Groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria; Shia Militias in Syria and Iraq and Houthis Rebels in Yemen.  

The Shia-Sunni Faultlines

The Shia-Sunni conflict that we see in Middle East today is not current but one that has lasted for centuries from the Epic Battle of Karbala in then Mesopotamia or currently Iraq. The roots of current conflict also lie in Post WW1 Era where imperial powers like the British Empire fused the regions of Mosul and Baghdad as Sunni Dominated Areas to balance out the Shia Dominated area of Najaf, Karbala and Basra in Southern Iraq. The Fusion of 2 Sectarian Groups in one state has time and again lead to conflicts. Shia mobilisation and activism in Iraq intensified with the Baathist coup in 1968 and the regime's collective suppression of the community, although some Shias were co-opted. After the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Shia actors, like the Islamic Dawa Party (of Iraq's former Prime Minister Maliki), mobilised the Shia community to try to overthrow the Baath regime but the attempt failed. 

The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war then saw various Shia groups take up arms against Saddam Hussein, with patronage from Iran, but this was to no avail as neither side was able to defeat the other during the costly war of attrition. Another rebellion was launched in 1991, following the first Gulf War. Looking to capitalise on a weakened Iraqi army, as well as an apparent endorsement from then US President George HW Bush, Iraqi Shias launched an uprising in mainly Shia provinces of the south. But no US support materialised and the regime's indiscriminate crackdown on the population saw tens of thousands killed. Shia shrines, centres of learning and communities were also destroyed. The scene in Syria was no different with a 70% Sunni Dominated Syria being ruled a Dynasty from the Minority Sect of Alawite (Shia). The Syrian city of Hama was the scene of a massacre in 1982 when President Hafez al-Assad, father of the current president Bashar al-Assad, razed the city to crush a Sunni rebellion lead by Muslim Brotherhood, slaughtering an estimated 20,000 of his own people. The 1982 massacre is regarded as the single bloodiest assault by an Arab ruler against his own people in modern times and remains a pivotal event in Syrian history. There was also a series of car bomb attacks in Damascus culminating in an attack on a shopping centre in which more than 100 people died. Post the quelling of 1982 Revolt Bashar’s father banned Muslim Brotherhood whom ironically Bashar Released post 2011 uprising that contributed to the escalating violence thereafter. Assad regime’s brutal crackdown unlike his father’s time has resulted in a Civil War where nearly 1, 70,000 Syrian have been killed owing to indiscriminate regime bombings of rebel areas.

After the American Troops left in 2011, thousands of Iraqis, nearly all of them members of the Sunni Arab minority, had been gathering to rail against Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government for almost a year. Although the protests were mostly peaceful, security forces responded harshly, detaining thousands of Sunni men without charges and, in one encampment, setting off a spasm of violence that left hundreds of civilians dead. Across the Sunni heartland, north and west of Baghdad, the town squares filled with angry crowds and the rhetoric grew more extreme. A wave of car bombers and suicide bombers struck Baghdad; in January 2014, more than a thousand Iraqi civilians died, the overwhelming majority of them Shiites, making it one of the bloodiest months since the height of the American war. In the effort to put down the upheaval, Maliki ringed the province’s two largest cities, Falluja and Ramadi, with artillery and began shelling. Forty-four Sunni members of parliament resigned. In Falluja and Ramadi, Sunni police abandoned their posts. Maliki, apparently realizing that he had miscalculated, ordered the Army to leave both cities. The Iraqi PM Maliki was not only a Shia, but also served on the committee charged with purging the Iraqi government of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Maliki had fled Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war and, except for forays into areas held by Kurdish rebels, he did not return until the Americans invaded, in 2003. The years of his exile were difficult for Shiites in Iraq. Later Maliki moved to Iran, from where he commanded a camp, in a border town called Ahvaz, to train Iraqi fighters for missions against Saddam’s invading Army and stayed in Iran for 7 years. 

Post 2010 Elections, Maliki met Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force, the Iranian paramilitary corps. Suleimani’s conditions for help in forming the new government were sweeping. Maliki agreed to make Jalal Talabani, the pro-Iranian Kurdish leader, the new President, and to neutralize the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, which was backed by the C.I.A. Most dramatically, he agreed to expel all American forces from the country by the end of 2011. What followed post 2011 American Withdrawal was a series of massacres of Sunnis across Anbar and Northern Iraq which contributed to rise of ISIS and Qaeda in response to Shia Govt and Militias backed by Iran. He also forced out a number of senior officials, notably Sinan al-Shabibi (a Sunni), the governor of the Central Bank of Iraq. Then Iraqi PM Maliki also allowed airlift of guns and fighters unchecked through Iraqi airspace.

Rise of Shia Militias in Iraq

Badr, founded in the 1980s in Iran,( its continued supporter) is not only the most important of the various armed groups composing of the Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd). Badr’s military commander, Ameri who tried and failed to get an appointment as minister of defence or interior, in part due to U.S. opposition has been transportation minister since Maliki’s second cabinet and is now a parliamentarian. Ameri’s military pre-eminence continued in March with the launch of the operation to liberate Tikrit and northern Salahuddin. Iran, through Badr, initially played more of a role in the offensive than Iraqi leaders did, and photos of the infamous Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani sometimes appeared alongside Ameri himself, dominating media coverage. Badrists carried the Iraqi flag and their own militia’s flag, a yellow-and-green design of a rifle overlaying a picture of Iraq, reminiscent of Lebanese Hezbollah.  Former Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki also belonged to Badr leadership. Badr and other militias sustained criticism that they were engaging in retribution attacks and attempting to cleanse the Sunni population from these areas. Local Sunni families and survivors claimed that members of four prominent Iraqi Shiite militias - Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Brigades, the Mahdi Army, and Kata’ib Hezbollah were behind many abductions and killings of Sunnis in the country while in the battle against ISIS in Northern Iraq.

Shia Militias in Syria

It is known that the Syrian Armed Forces or Assad’s Army has lost its military capabilities in the last two years and most of the military bases and airports have been captured by Syrian rebel forces, many of their tanks, armoured vehicles and aircraft are either destroyed or captured by Syrian rebel fighters which is a big loss to the Syrian Armed Forces. Most of his sectarian elite forces like 4th Armoured Division, Republican Guard, Intelligence security forces are among the heavy casualties of the Army that are dead, wounded, captured or have escaped. To recover his military loses Assad needed to recruit Shia fighters from abroad to cover up the losses of his army and to have a strong assistance to his troops. 

Some reports suggest that the numbers of foreign Shia fighters are around 40,000. They came from around the world, and are mostly recruited from Lebanon and Iraq with others from Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. They are being motivated religiously and politically to come to Syria to defend the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad and the Shia holy sites in Syria; all of the Shia foreign fighters are supported by Iran and Iranian Revolutionary Guards who pay and trains them regularly in Syria. 

Iran has being supportive of the Syrian Regime military by sending weapons and Shia fighters where Iranian Revolutionary Guards have formed and trained 42 Brigades and 138 Battalions to face the “enemies” in Syria and to defend the Assad Regime. Many Shia fighters use religious slogans such as Ya li Tharati Hussein which means “revenge for Hussein,” and Zaynab la Tusba Marratayn which means “Zaynab, you will not be held captive twice,” showing the belief that the current conflict is simultaneously a defence of Shiite holy sites and an attempt at taking revenge on the Syrians and the Sunnis for their role in the massacre at Karbala, which took place around 1,400 years ago.

Iran has completed the sectarian recruitment for the Shiites around the world to fight in Syria for the Assad Regime, the new recruited militia fighters underwent a fast and intensive military training course, confined to the weapons that have been supplied in the training camps under supervision of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard and with the participation of Syrian officers from the Syrian elite forces. Sometimes those fighters are needed to go to Iran where they will have to enrol on a 45 day training course in order to specialize in using weapons like AK-47, RPG-7, Dragunov Snipers and RPK machineguns and after the completion of the course they will be sent to join a brigade in Syria. 

The training camps are many and are located in different countries. In Syria, they have the Yarfour training camps in Rural Damascus, Sayyidah Zaynab training camp in Damascus and Zahra training camp in Aleppo. In Lebanon they train inside Hezbollah training camps in southern Lebanon and in Iraq they train in Iraqi military training camps in Baghdad in addition to Iranian revolutionary guard training camps in Iran; all of these training camps are being used to prepare the Shiite fighters militarily before sending them to Syria. Assad regime ensures the providing of supplies to its soldiers and foreign fighters, including paying the salaries for most of them and the rest of them are being paid by Iranian and Iraqi Government. The salary range is between $500 - $2,500 depending on the front they are fighting in and the power of the militia they belong to. Major General Qassem Suleimani leads the operations on the ground.

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard or sometimes called as Iranian Hezbollah was formed in 1979 when Khomeini established the Islamic republic of Iran. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is the Founder of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps which was used to protect the Revolution, defend the Islamic republic of Iran and to assist the ruling clerics in the daily enforcement of the new government's Islamic codes and morality in the Iranian society. 

The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard participated alongside the Syrian Assad regime in the suppression of the Syrian Revolution in 2011 from the start by sending its military commanders and did not delay sending its members to fight alongside the ranks of the Syrian Assad regime apart from providing training and forming brigades made up of foreign Shia fighters to help the Syrian Armed Forces fighting the rebels across Syria. There are around 1,500-3,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Offices active in all across Syria, their primary duty is to gather intelligence and manage the logistics for the Syrian regime and assisting training of local soldiers and managing supply routes of arms and money to neighbouring Lebanon.

Iranian Quds Force: Quds Force “Jerusalem Force” is a Special Forces unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard; this well trained and equipped Iranian force is led by Major General Qassem Suleimani personally. The responsibility of this force is to ensure the safety of Bashar Assad and his family and it accompanies him wherever he stays and goes, they wear civilian clothes and are equipped with small firearms and there are around 1,200 soldiers of this unit in Syria.

Hezbollah: Hezbollah “Party of God” is a Shia militant group and political party in Lebanon and it was formed when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. Now Hezbollah is led by Hassan Nasrallah who has sent more than 8,000 fighters to Syria to defend Assad regime and to combat the rebel fighters there, most of Hezbollah fighters are Lebanese Shiites from the south of Lebanon.

Liwa Abu Fadl Al Abbas: Liwa Abu Fadl Al Abbas “Abu Fadl Al Abbas Brigade” is a Syrian Shia militant group that was formed in 2012 to protect the shrine of Sayyidah Zaynab, which is located in Damascus. The Brigade consists of 10,000 fighters (7,000 Iraqis) and is led by the Iraqi Abu Hajer and the Syrian Abu Ajeeb.

Liwa Fatemiyoun: Liwa Fatemiyoun [Fatemiyoun Brigade] is an Afghan Shiite militia that was formed in 2014 by Iranian IRGC to fight against the Syrian revolutionaries. They have participated in many battles in Daraa, Idlib and Aleppo provinces alongside Syrian Arab Army and other pro-Syrian regime militia against Syrian revolutionaries. Liwa Fatemiyoun has around 3,500 fighters and they are led by Alireza Tavassoli (also been observed and commanded by Iranian Officers). The Afghan Shiite fighters are Persian speaking from Iran; it’s the Hazara refugee population.

In addition to the above main groups there are other Shia militias in the region like Kata'ib Hezbollah (Harakat Nujabaa), Haidar al-Karar Brigades (Asa'ib Ahl Al Haq), Liwa Saada, Badr Organization, Sarriya Al Talia Al Khurasani, Faylak Wa’ad Al Sadiq and Liwa Assadu Allahi Ghaleb. 

Rise of Hezbollah

Hezbollah was created by Iran in 1982 as an offensive to aggressively export the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s “Islamic Revolution” among Shiites in Lebanon, Arab countries and throughout the Muslim immigrant communities in Europe. Hezbollah made its mark carrying out its earliest terrorist acts by attacking Westerners and Israelis in Lebanon. Since the mid-1990s Hezbollah has focused increasingly on Europe as a convenient launching pad for terrorist attacks within Israel. Hezbollah has used Europe-based nonprofit front organizations to funnel money from Hezbollah supporters in Europe to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Europe is also a transit point for Hezbollah money derived from drug trafficking and money laundering. 

Hezbollah Operatives have targeted Israeli, U.S. and UK diplomatic installations for surveillance in preparation for planning attacks. In a number of cases, advanced plans for imminent attacks were thwarted by local police in cooperation with international intelligence agencies. Most recently, one such attack was barely averted in Cyprus, but another, a suicide bombing in Bulgaria, killed Israeli tourists. Highlights of Hezbollah's record of terror attacks include suicide truck bombings targeting US and French forces in Beirut (in 1983 and 1984) and U.S. forces again in Saudi Arabia (in 1996). It has a record of suicide bombing attacks targeting Jewish and Israeli interests such as those in Argentina (1992 and 1994) and in Thailand (attempted in 1994), and a host of other plots targeting American, French, German, British, Kuwaiti, Bahraini and other interests in plots from Europe to Southeast Asia to the Middle East.

Iran is believed to fund Hezbollah to the tune of at least $100 million per year. Recently, Western diplomats and analysts in Lebanon estimated Hezbollah receives closer to $200 million a year from Iran. Hezbollah has also employed Narco terrorism by using the proceeds of drug money for a significant part of its funding in Lebanon since the 1980s. Hezbollah’s main narcotics trafficking route until the late 1990s was focused on the Mediterranean. Delivery of heroin from Lebanon and Syria was made to European mafia groups, which would distribute it throughout Western Europe, with the proceeds funnelled back to Hezbollah in Lebanon. In recent years, Hezbollah has increasingly used Europe as a delivery point for cocaine from South America, brought to Europe via Caribbean and Libyan routes. Funds from the sale of cocaine have similarly been transferred via Europe to Lebanon to fund Hezbollah. 

In 2008, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that German police discovered 8.7 million euros in the luggage of four Lebanese men at Frankfurt airport. An additional 500,000 euros were found in their apartment in Speyer. The money contained traces of cocaine. A year later, German police arrested two Lebanese men who had transferred large sums of money to Lebanese relatives connected to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah leadership. In December 2011, the U.S. indicted Ayman Joumaa, a Hezbollah financier and Lebanese drug trafficker, with heading a money-laundering and narcotics smuggling network that transported tons of cocaine from South America to the U.S., Africa and Europe. 

Shia-Sunni - The Spinning Vortex

The Rise of Shia Crescent in form of Iran, Shia Govt in Iraq post 2003, Syria (Assad) and Lebanon have opened the Faultlines of the centuries old sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunnis once again. The Rise of ISIS and Nusra cannot simply be attributed to Gulf Arab States but also the Persecution of Sunnis at the hands of the governments in Shia Crescent and their sponsored Shia Militias. This very fact was corroborated when Al Qaeda was pushed into Iraq by Assad in 2006-07 the American Troops along with Sunni Tribes successfully leading the surge and pushing Al Qaeda back but post the American Withdrawal in 2011, the Maliki Government acting in cahoots with Iran targeted Sunni’s in Northern Iraq which precipitated the crisis in 2013-14 leading to rise of ISIS in Iraq.

The Shia-Sunni conflict is not only limited to Syria-Iraq but has also spread over to Yemen where Houthis (another armed Militias backed by Iran) are fighting the Saudi backed Yemenis’ Government. Even other Sunni players in the region like GCC, Egypt, Sudan and Cameroon have joined the Saudi coalition in Yemen which also has the tacit backing of western powers. It’s become a self-sustaining spinning vortex.

Ali Younesi who was Chief of Intelligence for former Iranian president Khatami has recently stated that Iran is back to empire building with Baghdad as its capital. He defined the territory of the Iranian empire, which he called “Greater Iran,” as reaching the borders of China and including the Indian subcontinent, the north and south Caucasus and the Persian Gulf. He said Iraq is the capital of the Iranian Empire a reference to the ancient city of Babylon, in present-day Iraq, which was the center of Persian life for centuries. 

The ancient battle of Karbala and the killing of Ali's sons could become very real and very powerful in the modern setting, especially when both sides are game for the fight. The World Powers, be it United States backing the Sunnis or Russians backing the Shias in Middle East are only adding fuel to fire. The rhetoric on both sides is extremely inflammatory, extremely sectarian, and the atrocities that are happening every day are just furthering this agenda. In all this conflict while humanity pays the price, it is no surprise that once again, the Military Industrial complex of West and Russia is ringing in big bucks by supplying arms to its respective players and sometimes even to both the sides. 

The CIA and Narco Terrorism

One of the primary sources of Funding of Terror in the world is the Global Drug Trade or Narco Terrorism whose proceeds in billions are channeled and used in Funding and Fuelling Conflicts across the world. The World is witnessing Narco Terrorism since centuries and drugs are one of the primary sources of income for terrorist organizations in the world.

The World Drug Trade that fuels Narco Terrorism originates from 3 Regions in the world i.e. South East Asia (Burma-Thailand-Laos-Vietnam) also known as “Golden Triangle”; Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan also known as ‘Golden Crescent’ and Mexico and Colombian Drug Cartels. The use of Drugs as Narco Terror or a strategic power to target countries is not a recent practice but has been going on since centuries prevalent from the days of Opium Trade and wars by the British in China. To understand Narco Terrorism, it is imperative to understand these 3 Drug Safe Havens in the world.

The Golden Triangle

Opium was introduced to China by Arab traders during the reign of Kublai Khan (1279-94). The drug was highly valued for its medicinal qualities and was grown by some ethnic minorities in South China to raise money to pay tributes to the Chinese Emperors. Opium as a major cash crop was introduced in the Golden Triangle by the British in the colonial period. It was grown as a cash crop for the French as well as the British. But it was the Chinese who once fought for the Kuomintang troops with Chiang Kai-shek against Chairman Mao's Red Army that introduced big time production and smuggling. The British aggressively marketed opium in China. The result: lots of addicts. Some smoked the drug in opium dens. Others took opium pills. Cheap pills known as pen yen gave rise to the expression have a "yen" for something. Chinese who came to the United States in the 19th century to work as laborers brought opium smoking with them. Opium dens opened in San Francisco and towns where Chinese railroad workers stayed. By 1890, there were a number of "smoke houses" in the basements in back-alley buildings in New York. The customers included prostitutes, showgirls, businessmen and tourist as well as Chinamen.

In 1949, the remnant's of Chiang Kai-shek's defeated Kuomingtan (Chinese nationalists) army retreated to the mountain of Burma along the Chinese border and tried to organize attacks against the Red Army. To raise money the Kuomintan encouraged peasant farmers to raise opium, which the Chinese nationalists sold for huge profits. Later the Beijing backed Communist Party of Burma financed their operation with money from the opium and heroin trade. Bert Lintner wrote on Asia Online: “Following Mao Zedong's victory in China in 1949, thousands of Kuomintang soldiers came streaming south, and, supported by the surviving Republic of China government in Taiwan and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) they tried in vain to "liberate" the mainland from their new sanctuaries in Myanmar, then known as Burma. The Kuomintang invasion resulted in a reign of terror for the ordinary people who lived in the areas, as the nationalist Chinese collected taxes, forcibly enlisted recruits and encouraged poppy cultivation in the area to finance their "secret" army. At the age of 16, Khun Sa formed his own armed band to fight the intruders. In the early 1960s, his small private army was even recognized officially as the "Loi Maw Ka Kwe Ye", a home guard unit under the Myanmar army.

"Ka Kwe Ye" (KKY), which literally means "defense" in the Myanmar language, was Yangon's idea of a local militia to fight the Kuomintang as well as local, separatist Shan rebels. The plan was to rally as many local warlords as possible, mostly non-political brigands and private army commanders, behind the Myanmar army in exchange for the right to use all government-controlled roads and towns in Shan state for opium trafficking. By trading in opium, the Myanmar government hoped that the KKY militias would be self-supporting. The warlords, who were supposed to fight the insurgents, strengthened their private armies and purchased with opium money, military equipment available on the black market in Thailand and Laos. Some of them, Khun Sa included, were soon better equipped than the Myanmar military itself.

French administration of Indochina had financed its covert operations with the drug trade, and the CIA had simply replaced the French, to finance similar operations. The French paratroopers fighting with hill tribes collected the opium and French aircraft would fly the opium down to Saigon and the Sino-Vietnamese mafia that was the instrument of French intelligence would then distribute the opium. The central bank accounts, the sharing of the profits, were all controlled by French military intelligence. CIA had taken over the French assets and was pursuing something of the same policy. The bloody Saigon Street fighting of April May 1955 marked the end of French colonial rule and the beginning of direct American intervention in Vietnam. When the First Indochina war came to an end, the French government had planned to withdraw its forces gradually over a two- or three-year period in order to protect its substantial political and economic interests in southern Vietnam.

The Vietnam War was a boon for the opium and heroin business. Americans in Southeast Asia not only provided a fairly well paid source of buyers but they also provided ways for Asian drug producers to export their products around the world. Before that time Turkey and the Middle East were the primary source of opium. As time went on demand increased and to meet demand production increased, as more drugs flooded the market more people had access to drugs. As part of their effort to combat Communism, the CIA allegedly helped expand the opium trade in Southeast Asia first in Laos, then in Burma and finally in Vietnam to help groups fighting Communism raise money and sew instability.

From 1960 to 1973, the C.I.A. allegedly trained Hmong tribesmen to fight against Communist in Laos and the Hmong in turn financed some of their efforts by selling opium. During the 40 years of the cold war, from the late 1940s to this year, the CIA pursued a policy where their mission was to stop communism and in pursuit of that mission they would ally with anyone and do anything to fight communism. During the long years of the cold war the CIA mounted major covert guerilla operations along the Soviet-Chinese border. The CIA recruited as allies people we now call drug lords for their operation against communist China in northeastern Burma in 1950, then from 1965 to 1975 [during the Vietnam war] their operation in northern Laos and throughout the decade of the 1980s, the Afghan operation against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Powerful, upland political figures control the societies and economies in these regions and part of that panoply of power is the opium trade. The CIA extended the mantle of their alliance to these drug lords and in every case the drug lords used it to expand a small local trade in opium into a major source of supply for the world markets and the United States. While they were allied with the United States these drug lords were absolutely immune to any kind of investigation. If you're involved in any kind of illicit commodity trade, organized crime activity like drug trafficking, there is only one requisite for success, immunity, and the CIA gave them that. The CIA set up an airline called Air America that was involved in various activities associated with the war: moving fighters, flying reconnaissance missions, dropping and picking up spies and searching for downed aircraft. The CIA's private airline, Air America, became notorious for its dope shuttle flights in and out of Southeast Asia's "Golden Triangle" opium region.

A 2013 United Nations report said that just over 9 metric tons of heroin was seized in East and Southeast Asia in 2012, compared to 6.5 metric tons in 2010, while 2.7 metric tons of opium was seized in 2012 compared to 2 metric tons in 2010. Much of the opium grown in the Golden Triangle in the 1970s, 80s and 90s was refined into a super-pure form of heroin known as China White (also known Heroin no. 4). Favored by intravenous drug users in the United States, it was stronger and cheaper than heroin from Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan that circulated during the 1960s. Golden Triangle opium was also made into Heroin No. 3 smoking heroin, favored by addicts in Southeast Asia. 

After the crackdown on opium and heroin production in Thailand in the 1980s most of production was done by opium farmers in Myanmar and heroin labs in Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. Thailand remained a key link in the smuggling. There was a steady increase of opium production in the Golden Triangle in the 1980s and 1990s. About 4,000 tons of opium was produced in the Golden Triangle in 1995, most of it from northeast Myanmar. At that time it was estimated that two tons of heroin was smuggled through Thailand. At one time about 70 percent of the heroin on the streets in the United States originated in the Golden Triangle. The region produced 3,000 tons of opium in 1996, 60 percent of the global supply.

In the late 1990s, the Golden Crescent in Pakistan, Iran and particularly Afghanistan surpassed the Golden Triangle as the world's largest opium-growing area. Myanmar produces 90 percent of the heroin and opium produced in the Golden Triangle. Laos produces some but much less than Myanmar. Thailand used to produce quite a lot but it doesn’t anymore. Many of the former opium growing areas in Thailand are now popular trekking areas.

The Golden Crescent

Over the next decade, the Golden Crescent region, encompassing the mountain valleys of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, emerged as one of the world's two biggest sources of opium, for several years even surpassing the contiguous Golden Triangle. While some of the opium producing areas of Afghanistan were unquestionably under the control of the Red Army, the majority of poppy fields were in areas like the Helmand Valley in southern Afghanistan that were in the hands of the Mujahideen, especially the Hezb-i-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which also controlled a string of heroin laboratories just across the Pakistani border at Koh-i-Soltan.

By the late 1980s, it was reported that Pakistan's annual revenue from heroin sales was $8-10 billion, one-fourth of the country's Gross Domestic Product. Most of the raw opium processed into heroin at the hundreds of clandestine laboratories in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and in the area around the Khyber Pass, came from Afghanistan, which was producing over 1,000 tons per year by the midpoint of the Afghan War. One consequence of this opium boom was an epidemic increase in drug addiction among Pakistanis. Whereas in 1980, the total addict population of Pakistan was under 5,000, by 1988, the country had 1.3 million opium addicts. 

The United States' alliances with opium traffickers in Afghanistan go back to the 1980s, when the CIA waged a dirty war to undermine the Soviet occupation of the country. Though opium had been grown for centuries in Afghanistan's highlands, large-scale cultivation was introduced in Helmand by Mullah Nasim Akhund-zada, a mujahedeen commander who was receiving support from the ISI and the CIA. USAID's irrigated farmlands were perfect for cash-crop production, and as Akhundzada wrested control of territory from the Communist government, he introduced production quotas and offered cash advances to farmers who planted opium. When the Red Army completed its pullout from Afghanistan in February 1989, "opium warfare" erupted among rival Mujahideen groups. Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami attempted to take control over the opium fields in an area of the Helmand Valley controlled by Mullah Nasim Akhundzada. Hekmatyar's forces were defeated, but two years later, Nasim—by then the deputy defense minister of Afghanistan—was assassinated by his opium rival, and fighting broke out again between the Hezb-i-Islami and the Helmand Valley group, now headed byNasim's older brother Mohammed Rasul.

The Afghan narcotics economy was a carefully designed project of the CIA, supported by US foreign policy. As revealed in the Iran-Contra and Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) scandals, CIA covert operations in support of the Afghan Mujahideen had been funded through the laundering of drug money. "Dirty money" was recycled through a number of banking institutions (in the Middle East) as well as through anonymous CIA shell companies, into ”covert money," used to finance various insurgent groups during the Soviet-Afghan war, and its aftermath:

"Because the US wanted to supply the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. `If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan', said a US intelligence officer. 

Across the Helmand province, hundreds of thousands of people were taking part in the largest opium harvest in Afghanistan's history. With a record 224,000 hectares under cultivation in year 2014, the country produced an estimated 6,400 tons of opium, or around 90 percent of the world's supply. The drug is entwined with the highest levels of the Afghan government and the economy in a way that makes the cocaine business in Escobar-era Colombia look like a sideshow. The share of cocaine trafficking and production in Colombia's GDP peaked at six percent in the late 1980s; in Afghanistan today, according to U.N. estimates, the opium industry accounts for 15 percent of the economy, a figure that is set to rise as the West withdraws. Even more shocking is the fact that the Afghan narcotics trade has gotten undeniably worse since the U.S.-led invasion: The country produces twice as much opium as it did in 2000. Recently evidence has emerged that NATO Troops have been protecting Opium Crops in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is landlocked, and its borders leak opium like sieves into five neighboring countries. In recent years, the northern route to Russia and Europe via Tajikistan has gained importance, but the southern route through Balochistan still accounts for the largest portion of opium that leaves the country. From there, it is smuggled into Iran, and then onward to the Balkans, the Persian Gulf and Africa. Most of it is destined for Western Europe The Balochistan border area between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran is one of the most remote and lawless places on Earth. The ethnic Baluch and Pashtun tribes that control the area are heavily armed and have been involved in various kinds of smuggling for centuries. Some are nominally cooperative with the state, while others are engaged with a bewildering mix of insurgent groups: secular Baluch rebels who seek independence from Pakistan, Sunni anti-Iranian groups and a wide array of Islamist militants, including the Taliban. It's a natural haven for illicit activities.

Central and Latin American Drug Cartels

Drug Cartels are illegal organizations that have spread all over Latin America. These Cartels possess a network of drug traffickers with powerful links and influence. In the 1970’s the most powerful drug Cartels were located in Colombia, and the two most influential were the Cali Cartel and the Medellin Cartel. By then, the increasing demand for cocaine in the United States made both Cartels eager to take over that market. They were able to dominate the American and European market, amassing vast wealth, making at least 60 millions dollars per day. Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellin Cartel, was the perfect example. At the height of his power, Escobar‘s net worth was 30 billion dollars, and he controlled eighty percent of the global cocaine market. With such leverage, Drug Lords were able to buy a lot of political influence and connections. Pablo Escobar even murdered a presidential candidate. The AUC, ELN, FARC (Drug Cartels in Colombia) all benefit and derive some organizational proceeds from the drug trade. The FARC in some instances directly trade cocaine for weapons and funds weapon sales from cocaine proceeds.

Due to Colombian strong anti-narcotic strategies, Colombian Cartels are no longer influential. Nowadays, the most powerful Drug Cartels are located in Mexico. These Mexican Cartels import cocaine from South America and smuggle them to the US. Some of them grow marijuana and produce amphetamines to complement American’s drug demand. They also get their revenue by money laundering and extorting local businesses. The Western territory is controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel, The Jalisco New Generation, the Gulf Cartel and the Knights Templar. The Eastern territory is controlled by the ruthless Zeta and the Beltran Leyva Organization. Since former Mexican president Felipe Calderon launched a war to end Drug Cartels, this conflict has caused an approximately of 85,000 people dead since 2006. 

In 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published Dark Alliance, a series of investigative reports linking CIA missions in Nicaragua with the explosion of crack cocaine consumption in America's ghettos. In order to fund Contra rebels fighting Nicaragua's socialist government, the CIA partnered with Colombian cartels to move drugs into Los Angeles, sending profits back to Central America, the series alleged.  The whole scandal was vividly encapsulated in movie “Kill the Messenger” (2014) which showed the complicity of the CIA in Drug Trade into America to Fund its guerilla wars. The Investigative Journalist was targeted, slandered and later quietly the agency admitted to the whole operations carried out in 1980s. An investigation by El Universal has found that between 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an agreement with Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs into the U.S. in exchange for information on rival cartels. Sinaloa, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, supplies 80% of the drugs flooding Chicago and has a presence in cities across the U.S. This was the very same El Chapo who has recently in 2015 escaped from high security prison in Mexico.  

Narco - Terrorism

Global Drug Trade has been the biggest contributor to Narco Terrorism or Funding of Terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS, Hamas, and Hezbollah and guerilla warfare like the Nicaragua Contras in 80s.  Terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah fund their illegal activities such as the Sale of Contrabands out of Tri-Border area of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina that helps it generate significant revenue to buy arms and the funds are channeled back into Lebanon. Turkish Press has reported that Kurdish Militia group PKK produces 60 Tons of heroin per year and receives 40 million dollars for drug trafficking proceeds. Similar was the case with LTTE in Sri Lanka and Abu Sayaff Group in Philippines. Such Groups including the Rebel groups operating from Myanmar like Kachin Rebels, PLA, NSCN, and ULFA use Drug Trafficking proceeds for funding their Terror machine. 

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Marxist rebel group, was the "force behind the agreement with AQIM. FARC saw an opportunity to use the Sahel and North Africa as its new drug route. AQIM is an independent unit of al-Qaeda and does not share the monies with al-Qaeda central but is looking to pull off terror attacks on its own in Europe. Terrorists linked to al-Qaeda in North Africa have made $130m (£84m) from helping drugs gangs and kidnap ransoms since 2007, according to one report citing an investigation by the Algerian government.

Similarly through taxation of Illicit Opium Production in Afghanistan, Taliban were able to fund Extremist Groups like Al Qaeda and these very contrabands made its way to Punjab and Kashmir in India whose proceeds were utilized in unleashing terror in the Region in connivance with Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency ISI. Recently Former CIA and State Department Official stated in his Deposition before US Congress Committee; that before 2003, “India accounted for 1 in every 3 Terror Attacks that happened in the world yet we chose to remain in denial. He further stated that these attacks were carried out by Al Qaeda Groups that were trained and operating from camps in Afghanistan prior to 2001. These groups received direct funding from Pakistan’s ISI. He further stated that more people died in Terror Attacks in India than Israel and he mentions that it not a co-incidence that India is in neighbourhood of 2 of the most Cocaine producing countries in the world i.e. Afghanistan and Burma. The fact that you have the drug trafficking activities both from production and distribution in the same areas of the world where these groups that are either Marxist–Leninist or Islamic is no coincidence.

The Underworld of Drug Syndicates, Terrorist Organisations and  Arms Dealers make up a deadly cocktail which is often exploited by Intelligence Agencies across the world that use these illegal trades to fund their covert operations in various target states. This Deadly Cocktail has for centuries unleashed Narco Terrorism on large swathes of populace across the world; sometimes in the world’s poorest nations. As they say everything is not Black and White, there are shades of grey and it is in this grey area that the underworld functions carrying out most of its illegal trades from Drug Peddling to Illegal Arms Trade with impunity.